“Giverny: Artists in the Garden,” painting by Maud Taber-Thomas
I offer private, on-going seminars on the writing of literary nonfiction: personal essay, memoir, travel, literary journalism, literary notebook-keeping, and portraits of people& place. On a periodic basis, I teach courses in creative nonfiction writing at the Writer’s Center, in Bethesda, Maryland; at universities; and in Europe. I teach regularly for New Directions, a program for clinicians, writers, and academics wishing to write from a psychological perspective. I also offer small private classes and tutorials upon request.
“Sara Taber is the writing coach we’d all create if she didn’t already exist. She’s a gifted writer whose continuing success in the publishing world gives authority to her practical advice. A gifted teacher who artfully relates theory to published examples appropriate for each student, she’s generous with her time and praise, but demanding in her expectations.”
“Working with Sara combines rigor with reverie. She nudges us over the hurdles and cheers us on the freeway.”
WRITING WORKSHOPS SUMMER AND FALL 2018:
See full workshop descriptions below.
WORKSHOPS AT SARA’S HOME
Morning Memoir Club:
Thursday mornings (weekly) 10:30-1:00
Afternoon Memoir Club:
Thursday afternoons (weekly) 2:00-4:30
Get your registration in early. Some classes are already full. Contact Sara for registration information.
WORKSHOPS AT THE WRITER’S CENTER
The Writer’s Toolbox
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 1:00 PM – 3:30 PM
Please note: Due to building renovations during the summer, workshops are being relocated to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Ln, Bethesda, MD 20814.
WORKSHOPS AT THE NEW DIRECTIONS PROGRAM
This is a three-year program for writers, clinicians, and academics wishing to develop their skill in writing with a psychoanalytic perspective. The program meets for three theme-based long-weekends per year and also offers winter and summer retreats. People may also attend the program on a one-time basis. I lead both a long-term writing workshop and a workshop for book writers each long weekend.
Up-coming weekend workshops:
Envisioning Life: November 9-11, 2018
Outsiderness: February 1-3, 2019
Writing about Real People: May 3-5
THE MEMOIR CLUB
In the tradition of J.R.R. Tolkein and C.S. Lewis’s Inklings and the Bloomsbury Group’s Memoir Club, this workshop offers participants the opportunity to read their work aloud in the company of other writers. The primary purpose of the workshop is to provide members with a forum for the enjoyment of one another’s writing; to supply encouraging, sensitive responses to the work at hand; to let the writer know how the work plays in others’ minds; and to tender suggestions to help the writer meet his/her purpose. Along the way, the instructor offers tips on the non-fiction writer’s craft, and put forth her thoughts as to enriching each person’s work and helping it fulfill its promise. The Memoir Club is a lovely way to share work, get responses and support, and to have a writing community—such as Virginia Woolf and her friends had in their Memoir Club. Each member is invited to arrive with five double-spaced pages of work to read aloud. About five people’s work are heard each meeting. The Memoir Club is open to writers of all forms of creative nonfiction—memoir, personal essay, travel, literary journalism, and blogs. Tolkein suggested that the Inklings was for “people with vague or half-formed intimations and ideas plus those who dabble in ink.” Come with your dabblings and intimations, and hear how your words sound and resound.
THE MEMOIRIST’S CONUNDRUMS
Why write a memoir? What is the truth? What makes a memoir engaging to read? These are the questions participants will explore during this one-day immersion in the dilemmas that plague the memoirist. Through conversation and writing exercises, participants will come away with greater clarity of mind and be inspired to move onward with their life stories and reflections.
THE WRITER’S NOTEBOOK
Virginia Woolf once said, “Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded.” This is a workshop for all those wishing to keep a lively record of their experiences and reflections–for those with the impulse to set down life. During the workshop participants will study brief excerpts from classic writers and try their hands at the elements of craft that create vivid descriptions of people, places, and life as it is lived. By the end of the workshop, you will have notebooks rich with diverting conversations, delicious pastries, and bustling landscapes and towns. The text for the workshop will be my new book, Chance Particulars: A Writer’s Field Notebook. Bring along a fresh notebook to be filled!
READING AND WRITING WOMEN’S LIVES
In this workshop we will read and discuss memoirs, stories, essays, letters, and poetry written by women about their lives as girls and mature women. Mining these readings for perspectives on what it means to be a woman, we’ll sample a variety of approaches to writing about our lives. Each session will be devoted to conversation, with discussion of craft and a writing prompt included. The short readings will include such authors as Heilbrun, Woolf, Olds, and Walker.
THE WRITER’S TOOLBOX
Writing is “a careful act of construction,” William Zinsser notes. “You must know what the essential tools are and what job they are designed to do.” This is a workshop for those who wish to sharpen the tools in their writer’s toolbox to create lively literary nonfiction: blogs, essays, memoirs, journals, travel stories, and reportage. Participants in this class will examine published works and practice aspects of the writer’s craft such as: concrete detail; use of the senses; figurative language; characterization; dialogue; and scene, summary, and musing. Time for the sharing of work and a free-write are included each session. Required text: Chance Particulars: A Writer’s Field Notebook for Travelers, Bloggers, Essayists, Memoirists, Novelists, Journalists, Adventurers, Naturalists, Sketchers, and Other Note-Takers and Recorders of Life by Sara Taber.
8 ESSAYS/MEMOIRS, 8 WEEKS (also offered in 4 week session)
Sandwiches, Truth, The day you wanted to kick your brother…Come receive stimulating prompts each week—or come with your own idea. Workshop time will be spent writing, sharing work, and discussing craft. By the end of eight weeks, eight pieces on their way to completion!
THE WRITERS WORKSHOP
This workshop is designed to offer support to writers of all kinds of creative nonfiction: memoir, personal essay, commentary, travel, and literary journalism. Set up to address a need among many writers for ongoing support and editorial guidance, the workshop provides writers with regular feedback on their writing by other writers attuned to and familiar with their work. The class has a lovely spirit of encouragement and camaraderie; the main aim is always to help each writer achieve his/her intent, and help each piece of writing fulfill its promise. The class is suitable for both experienced and aspiring writers. In the workshop, each member has the opportunity to present his/her work at least once a month. During each 2 1/2-hour class, the beginning minutes are spent discussing general book-writing conundrums, and elements of craft. An in-class writing exercise is also offered. The remaining bulk of the time is devoted to considering approximately four people’s work. Members may submit up to 20 pages each time for review.
ADVANCED WORKSHOP FOR WRITERS OF BOOKS OF LITERARY NONFICTION: Memoir, Essay Collections, Travel and Literary JournalismThis workshop is designed to address a need among many book writers for support and help, on an ongoing basis, with their long-term book projects. This workshop provides writers regular feedback on their writing by other writers attuned to and familiar with their work. Manuscripts are the main focus, but each session includes some time for free writing and discussion of the various problems and issues that arise for the participant book writers.
OTHER WORKSHOPS SARA OFFERS FROM TIME TO TIME, AND UPON REQUEST
EXPERIENCE AND IMAGINATION: Memoir and Personal Essay
As memoirist Patricia Hampl has written, autobiographical writing is the place “where memory reaches out its arms and embraces imagination.” The purpose of this workshop is to give class members the opportunity to shape memories and personal experience into a variety of forms of creative nonfiction, including personal essay, memoir, and tales of childhood and family. The emphasis of the class is to help writers refine their drafts, attending to all the important elements of the writer’s art.
WHEREABOUTS: The Traveler’s Notebook
This is a workshop for travelers who wish to keep a colorful record of their trips and/or write for publication about their travel experiences. Participants will read excerpts from published work as they hone the skills used in the creation of lively travel pieces. Each session will focus on a particular aspect of travel writing, such as gathering history and facts, recording details of place, chronicling encounters, conducting interviews, creating portraits of people, jotting down personal reflections, identifying the story, and turning notes into finished pieces. Open to all.
THE FOREIGNER’S NOTEBOOK: A Writing Course for Anglophone Residents Abroad
Alastair Reid has written in Whereabouts: Notes on Being a Foreigner, “In a foreign country, the pattern of days is less predictable—each one has its character, and is easier to remember. So, too, the weather; and so, too, the shape and feel of newspapers, the sound of bells, the taste of beer and bread. It is all rather like waking up and not knowing who or where one is…quite ordinary things take on an edge; one keeps discovering oneself miraculously alive.” This is a course for expatriates, for Anglophone residents of foreign countries, who wish to write for publication about their experiences abroad, or who simply want to keep a colorful journal or “notebook” of their travels and experiences. During this workshop, students hone their skills in the elements of the writer’s craft that make for fine memoir, essay, and journal writing, as well as for lively travel pieces and portraits of people & place. This is an opportunity to learn to write as richly as possible about your experiences as a resident in a foreign country. We all know the vitality of life abroad. By learning more about the writer’s craft students may find that their writing about that experience comes “miraculously alive.”
LITERARY JOURNALISM: PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE & PLACE
This is a course for writers who wish to create evocative portraits of individuals or peoples within their cultures or geographies. Here classes focus on the use of a variety of kinds of journalistic or anthropological material (interviews; field notes; descriptions of people and places; anecdotes; historical information; exposition; and personal reflection) along with the skills of a creative writer to write vivid portraits of people in their contexts. Works by literary journalists (ie., McPhee, Kramer, and Kapuscinski), memoirists (ie., Ondaatje and Norris), oral historians (ie., Berger), and nature writers (ie., Lopez) are examined for clues to craft. Writers who have in-depth interview and participant observational, and/or personal experiences that arise from immersion in a particular place may find this course of particular interest.
OF MANY LANDS: Writing the Nomadic Life
This workshop is designed for students and adults who have lived in other countries and feel pulled to write about their culture-traversing lives. Through writing exercises and assignments, participants are given the opportunity to make rich records of their experiences and shape these into personal essays, memoir, travel pieces, and family stories. This workshop draws upon Sara’s workbook, OF MANY LANDS: Journal of a Traveling Childhood. Part of the workshop time is devoted to the examination of lively published works by other global nomads. A workshop especially for those of us at home everywhere and nowhere.
BORN UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME: A Book Discussion Group For those interested in the Cold War & espionage, the global nomad life, the development of girls, and literary memoir
This is a workshop for those who wish to come together with others and the author to discuss Sara’s book, BORN UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME: The Memoir of a Cold War Spy’s Daughter. The memoir brings to light many rich issues for discussion: issues psychological, historical-political, global nomad, and literary. In the psychological arena, the book prompts discussion of such issues as girls’ emotional and social development; introversion and shyness; the father-daughter relationship; and the challenge of mobility for children. In the historical and political realm, the book provokes discussion of the Cold War; of spies’ lives and work; and the ethical issues associated with espionage. The book is replete with material pertaining to the lives of global nomads: identity confusion; love of cultures not one’s own; loss and grief; problems of re-entry into the “home” culture, etc. Finally, the book lends itself to conversation about literary issues associated with the writing of memoir: structure, inclusion of the child and adult points of view, use of dialogue, etc. Note: This discussion group may be one session long, or extend over more than one session. It may also be combined with writing exercises for participants.