Instructor: Susan Curtin
Maximum Enrollment: 6
Class Term: 10/09/2023 - 11/06/2023
SCN Member: $165
Class synopsisIf you are ready to capture your life story for yourself or others, then Guided Autobiography is right for you. Guided Autobiography is a program designed by Dr. James Birren to support reminiscence and memoir writing. In the comfort of your home under the guidance of a Birren Center-trained facilitator, you will: reflect upon your life through writing prompts; reframe your life experiences in a positive way; read aloud weekly writing samples to a supportive small group; listen to the stories of others; and write your own story, two pages at a time.
In this five-week online course, we will use reminiscence and re-framing themes to reflect upon our lives and capture what we learn. During our two-hour Zoom time together, you will participate in the exercises, read your two-page reflection to the group, receive supportive feedback, listen to the stories of the other participants, and provide supportive feedback. At the end of each class, you will be introduced to next week's theme and writing prompts.
The goals of the class are to help you start or continue the process of writing your autobiography for yourself or others., You will also learn more about yourself and may be surprised by the richness of your story.
Class communication methodIntroduction to Guided Autobiography will introduce you to the memoir writing process developed by Dr. James Birren and provide four themes to guide you toward capturing your own life story. We will meet each week for two hours using Zoom during which we will use exercises and discussion to prompt reminiscence related to a theme. Each session will consist of the exercise and the introduction of the new weekly theme for the first half hour followed by participants reading their two-page story aloud to a small, supportive group, receiving feedback, and listening to the stories of other participants. Guidance will be given to encourage supportive feedback on each story, but we will not focus on writing skills or mechanics. You will need access to Zoom for participation, however as the stories are read aloud, you may write in longhand if you prefer. You choose what you read aloud, so you never share beyond your comfort level.
Classes will begin the week of October 9 and end the week of November 6. Specific days/times will be established by the group, but Wednesdays late afternoon seems to work well.
- Introduction to Guided Autobiography
- Establish group norms
- Participate in discussion
- Introduction to the first theme: My Branching Points
- What to keep, what to discard
- Who is your audience?
- Introduce theme 2: My family My self
- Read Branching Points stories
- Discuss the writing process and reaction to your own reminiscence
- Share successes and challenges
- Introduce the next theme: The role of money in my life
- Share family stories
- Discuss our favorite memoirs and examine why they spoke to us
- Reflection and reminiscence–the power of reframing
- Introduce the next theme: Your major life work or career
- Share role of money stories
- Discuss Guided Autobiography Part 2
- Introduce the first theme for GAB 2: My Health and wellbeing
- Share life work/career stories
- Final reflections and closing comments
Class time commitmentYou will devote two hours to our Zoom session each week and 1-4 hours per week to write/revise your stories.
I am a retired professor of education and am deeply committed to fostering high-quality adult learning experiences in the online setting. I taught courses in Adult Education and guided many doctoral students through the process of completing a dissertation. I am very excited to shift my focus to support memoir writing as the Birren process was transformative for me. It is a journey worth sharing. Degrees include EdD in Educational Leadership, MEd in Educational Administration, and BSinEd in Elementary Education. Certifications include Quality Matters and Birren Center.