for writers and readers….

Writing Your Family Biography

write your family biographyI’m running a non fiction course for students in London who want to learn how to use writing techniques to transform the bare bones of family history into a gripping read. Although we will explore ideas and share research and sources, this is primarily a writing course so students need to come armed with family facts. It starts in October at City Lit, an inspiring adult education institute known for the quality of its teaching (naturally!)
I like working there because it is a very student-centred organization (and believe me not every educational establishment is, more’s the pity) and that means they have to be nice to tutors.
I like teaching on this course – think it’s the fifth year I’ve run it – because everyone has a fascinating story to tell and everyone who comes is an expert and far from being threatening to me as as tutor it’s liberating and exciting. Some students are expert  historians, but even if someone is fairly new to the subject they come to class with a detailed knowledge of their own family biography. It’s unique and special and is also – in Blake Morrison’s words, author of When Did You Last See Your Father “the best way of discovering how life used to be” . I always learn from students, but in this class we go to so many fascinating places – Vienna as the Nazis march in, 1920s Hull, Australia in the 1960s, London lodging houses in the 1800s…

My first degree was in history and my Masters in Creative and Life Writing so it brings together many of my interests. I like creative non fiction. I like reading it and supporting others as they write it and I love the stories that emerge.  If you’d like to find out more or are thinking of enrolling check out the City Lit website HERE

photo credit: keithr™ via photopincc

4 comments on “Writing Your Family Biography

  1. ann perrin
    August 24, 2013

    Love City Lit would be worth travelling up from Brighton!

    • bridget whelan
      August 24, 2013

      How nice of you to say so – in the past people have commuted a considerable distance to get to it (including Brighton)!

  2. emmyleigh
    August 26, 2013

    Sounds great, but time and money mean I can’t do something like that right now. I’m working on a similar project, but not about my family – I’m researching some of the families from the local workhouse and looking for how to make it interesting and accessible more generally.

  3. bridget whelan
    August 26, 2013

    What a fascinating project. I learned a lot from workhouse record when working on a dissertation on the Irish and Italian communities in 19c London. For the first time I appreciated the extent of the workhouse’s revolving door. It was a place of refuge when in greatest need, but often people managed to get out within a matter of months, sometimes weeks. Love to hear about your discoveries!

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This entry was posted on August 24, 2013 by in Muse.


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