The London School of Journalism

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Writing a Personal History


Autobiography, memoirs, life writing, rite of passage - all these terms come under the umbrella of ‘Personal History’.

Your assignments will grow like a patchwork quilt. Like many beautiful quilts, the big picture will emerge towards completion, when we'll show you how to create any links and bridges that you need to hold it all together.

If you intend to write about an overland journey on foot from Poland to England or your life as a mortuary beautician or the five years you spent living on Pitcairn Island then you will have a clear idea of the structure of your book from the beginning. Its shape is predetermined by the event. Or you may wish to draw on memories from all of your life. The choice is yours and the course adaptable.

We will spark your imagination, suggest methods of organisation and help you learn lively writing and language skills.


Course Syllabus:

  1. Lesson 1: What's it all about?

    The pleasure of writing a personal history. Why and how do you do it? A whole life or just a remarkable period? Characters. The importance of who, what, how, why, when and where?

  2. Lesson 2: The beginning

    Where your story will begin. The importance of context and opinion. Relating how it was to how it is. Whether to write a plan.

  3. Lesson 3: Those that came before us

    The joys and otherwise of grandparents and parents. Organisation. Vivid verbs. Interviewing. Putting it together.

  4. Lesson 4: Your place in history

    Research - libraries and the Internet, newspapers, statistics, encyclopaedias. Names. The importance of primary sources and what are they?

  5. Lesson 5: Rediscovery

    Creating and organising a memory bank. Creating a family table. Other people's memories. Entertainment.

  6. Lesson 6: Relatives

    Think about extended family, hidden family, the family unit. Characterisation.

  7. Lesson 7: Ships that pass in the night

    We all have turning points. Success and otherwise. The power of language.

  8. Lesson 8: Home

    Or no home. Expanding and organising your thoughts. 'The happiest days of your life' - school friends (and others), to teach is to touch a life.

  9. Lesson 9: Creatures featured

    Stop the sag. Emotions.

  10. Lesson 10: Life partners

    Young love. Courtship and tying the knot. How did it turn out? It takes all sorts.

  11. Lesson 11: Achievements and accomplishments

    Your ideas. Family traditions.

  12. Lesson 12: Children

    Inventions. Digging up your memories.

  13. Lesson 13: Publishing

    Book contract. How? Which? E-publishing, self-publishing, blog or website, desktop publishing. Promotion.

  14. Lesson 14: Completing your book

    Opening - again. Structure. Bridges. Organisation. Style. Reference books. The end. Other suggested headings. What have you done?

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