Life Writing

“I write to define myself—an act of self creation—part of the process of becoming.”
–Susan Sontag

This workshop is designed for people who aren’t professional writers, but who have something meaningful to say about their lives. We will learn how to discover our stories and to focus our material using techniques of creative nonfiction and Life Review, an educational process that enhances our understanding of ourselves and our lives through storytelling. By reading, writing and participating in interactive exercises, we will be guided toward finding new ways to write about our lives, for ourselves and/or for others.

What will we learn? How will we learn?

Participants will be introduced to a variety of creative non-fiction as well as techniques used in Life Review. We will read short non-fiction pieces, talk about them, and use them as examples, along with other writing prompts, to write about our own lives and experiences. By the end of the workshop, we will have a clearer sense of our life stories — what stories we want to tell and how we want to tell them.

Prior to the workshop you’ll be given a maximum of three (3) short readings. During the workshop, you’ll be given a handout with three more readings in it. Readings might include full text or excerpts from:

David Sedaris, Holidays on Ice
Ta-Nahesi Coates, Between the World and Me
Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty
Lydia Davis, The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
Joan Didion, “Self Respect”
Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior
Oliver Sacks, Gratitude
Eula Biss, “Goodbye to All That”
Tom Walmsley, “Maxine”
Stephen Osborne, “Mr. Tube Steak and The Schoolteacher”
Cheryl Strayed, “The Love of My Life”
CD Wright, “By Jude Jean McCramack, Goddmanit to Hell Dog’s Foot”
Tobias Wolff, This Boy’s Life
Jo Ann Beard, The Boys of My Youth
Ryan van Meter, “If You Knew Then What I Know Now”
Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon, Gender Failure
Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love

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UBC Course
ENGL 112: Love in the Time of the Internet: How are digital technologies and their applications changing the ways we make relationships?

“My friend Alice Sebold likes to talk about ‘getting down in the pit and loving somebody.’ She has in mind the dirt that love inevitably splatters on the mirror of our self-regard.”

–Jonathan Franzen, “Liking is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.”

In this class the most important work we have to accomplish is writing. To achieve this, we’re going to think and write about love—a very topical matter for everyone. We’re not only going to think, read and write about love, but we’re going to think, read and write about how love is experienced by Millennials—you and the people of your generation. Three underlying assumptions of our course of study are:

  • that to love and be loved are fundamental human needs;
  • that we experience different kinds of love through out our lifetimes as well as different kinds of relationships with a range of human (and maybe non-human) beings;
  • that personal, cultural, generational and historical conditions influence the ways we experience love.

We’ll read and think about different kinds of love and relationships—with lovers, friends, family, beloved pets, animals, the wilderness—as well as the particular ways we encounter each other given the exigencies of the historical moment. One could argue, for example, given the many 21st century ecological disasters—exploding world population, burning of resources, trashing of the oceans and mountains and forests—that there’s no greater urgency than learning to love the nonhuman among us.  But that urgency doesn’t diminish our desire to make and keep close friends, love family members and fall in love. It’s also true that you and your peers came of age with Facebook, Twitter, Internet porn, on-line dating apps like Tinder, gaming communities and MOOCs, among other kinds of digital technologies. How have these technologies changed your intimate relationships? How do they influence the ways you love?

One common argument is that the need for love is fundamentally the same as it’s always been but the way we practice and pursue it has changed meaningfully due to distinct features of the Millennial generation, those of you born into the age of neoliberal globalization and who have become more adept at using digital technologies than any other generation. But that’s only one position of many in the big, broad and complicated conversation about Millennials in Love.