Turning Memory into Memoir with Jan Cornall

Jan Cornall is my own teacher, and perhaps Australia's greatest teacher of creative writing.


Jan Cornall


She was responsible for helping me to free my own creativity, and I have always appreciated her eccentric, meditative and all-embracing approach to writing.
Jan is a poet, a novelist and a memoirist, and this year she is again offering a memoir writing course at the NSW Writers' Centre in Rozelle.


Jan Cornall at work in Bali


I can't urge you strongly enough to atttend this month long course if you are contemplating writing a  memoir, or have already begun but want to keep yourself enthused. Time spent learning with Jan is always incredible fun, and you will be surprised at the creative interior places she will take you.

Jan visits a Buddhist temple in Cabramatta earlier this year - photo by Walter Mason


And no, I am not being paid to say this by either Jan or the Centre. I simply believe that she is a tremendous teacher and that this will be an amazing course.
Full details:


Turning Memory into Memoir

Who: Jan Cornall
When: 4 x Sunday mornings: 1, 15, 22, 29 June, 10am-1pm
Cost: Full Price: $440; Member: $310; Conc Member: $265

Do you have a lifetime of stories to tell, but don’t know where to start? Learn how to turn memories into memoir by accessing your authentic writer’s voice and bringing to the page the stories and characters you know so well.  Using meditative writing techniques Jan will take you deep into sense memory, where you can discover how to create the descriptive detail needed to bring your stories to life. You need a few other things too, like a strong narrator voice and an ability to turn ‘the ordinary’ into ‘the extraordinary’ – it’s all possible with a little bit of help. Use this opportunity to kickstart your memoir and by the end of the course you can have the tools, confidence and discipline to continue writing a full memoir, collection of stories or memoir based works.

Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course you have ability and confidence in:
– research and information gathering, creative scrap-booking
–  creating evocative descriptive detail
–  expressing a strong narrator voice
– knowledge of the essential elements of storytelling
–  how to structure your memoir
– editing, rewriting, setting goals and daily writing practice.

Course Breakdown
1. Gathering your material, mapping the territory, sensing the memoir.
With butchers paper and coloured pens we map the territory we will be mining for our memoirs. Whether you want to write a travel memoir, a food adventure, a story about pets, relationships or simply reflect on the whole of your life, the map gives a great starting point for sharing your story with others and a list of topic areas, scenes and events to begin writing.

You will also receive an introduction to meditative writing, and learn how to use the senses to evoke the atmosphere and world of your memoir. Drawing on examples of descriptive detail in classic and contemporary literature you will learn how to turn memories into powerful and evocative writing.

 Each week you will be given homework tasks related to these topics. We will also set up our mutual mentoring teams.

2. Finding your narrator voice.
Having a strong narrator voice is the key to memoir writing. This week you will learn how to step into the storyteller’s shoes and write from a place of emotional truth. It doesn’t mean you have to tell all your deepest, darkest secrets, simply create a confident, intimate voice that invites the reader in.

3. Finding the story and structure
What is the story you really want to tell? Here we identify the major players and how they contribute to the story arc; the journey of the protagonist, how other characters aid or obstruct and how the protagonist is changed by the events that unfold in your memoir. We also learn about the building blocks of story – how to structure the sentences, paragraphs and chapters of your memoir. Concentrating on one event/topic you will begin to turn one of your homework exercises into a chapter to be completed and presented the following week.

4. Rewriting, editing and the writing discipline.
In small groups you will learn how to edit one another’s work and offer suggestions for rewrites. We consolidate our mutual mentoring teams and exchange contacts for future support.  Setting goals and writing timetables for completing work, whether drafts, chapters or stories, we discuss how to keep a daily writing practice. For our final session, each person presents a three line synopsis, short excerpt from their memoir and a plan for completion.


About the tutor

Jan Cornall teaches writing part time at University of Western Sydney and leads international writers retreats in Bali, Fiji, Laos, Burma, Morocco. She has written a number of memoir based works for theatre and film and more recently a fictional memoir, Take Me To Paradise, set in Ubud, Bali.  Through her Writers Journey workshops and mentoring programs, a number of Jan’s memoir students have gone on to publish with major publishing companies, including Marguerite Van Geldermalsen, Married To A Bedouin (Virago), Margaret Wilcox, Gone (Penguin), Anne Lovell, Connie’s Secret (Allen &Unwin), Catherine Therese, The Weight Of Silence (Hachette Livre), Walter Mason, Destination Saigon (Allen & Unwin),  Yvonne Louis, Brush with Mondrian (Murdoch), Mary Delahunty Public Life Private Grief, (Hardie Grant), Niromi De Soyza, Tamil Tigress (Allen& Unwin).

This will be a popular course, so I advise you book now

You can read Jan Cornall's extended biography here

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