Long Story Short: Compressing Life into Meaningful Micro Memoirs

with Gretchen Clark

Long Story Short: Compressing Life into Meaningful Micro Memoirs

August 14, 2024
6 Weeks


$445.00Enroll Now

Learn to distill the spirit of your story in fewer than 500 words. “Less is more” will be our writing mantra as we explore the tiny yet mighty publishing trend of micro memoir through a mix of weekly craft lectures, analysis of published author writing samples, and creative, open-ended writing prompts.

Each week, you’ll have an opportunity to post two pieces of writing: an initial free write (up to 1,000 words) that I’ll help you trim and tighten, then a repost of that micro memoir now revised and condensed to its essential elements. You will receive feedback from me on both of your weekly submissions, with particular attention and detail dedicated to your micro memoirs. 

Course lectures will include two new writing prompts each week. You will always be given the freedom to choose to use a prompt or work from something of your own that you’ve created. By the end of the course, you will have written five solid new pieces of micro nonfiction.

Who This Course is For:

This course is for anyone who is interested in learning to write compelling, compact stories, to elevate and broaden your literary publication opportunities, or who simply enjoy taking a writing course for community and personal enrichment. All levels of writers are welcome.

Learning and Writing Goals

Learning Goals

 In this course, you will:

  • Learn to shrink stories from your life to their essential elements.
  • Deepen your writing practice through a variety of written and personal examples presented in weekly lectures.
  • Try out new approaches to nonfiction storytelling.
  • Master various styles of editing techniques.
  • Reclaim the fun in writing. 

Writing Goals

In this course, you will:

  • Free write and submit up to 1,000 new words each week.
  • Compose 5 new micro memoirs of up to 500 words each.

Weekly Syllabus

Week 1: What is this Goodie Called Micro Memoir?

In this introduction lecture, I’ll share with you a starter kit of tools you can use to begin writing these small yet mighty pieces. I’ll also talk about what short pieces have in common with pop songs, and how we can use those same priorities to make our micro memoirs sing.

Week 2: The Art of the Close-Up

This week we’re going to learn how to train our story lens to zoom in on the best parts of our life stories. I’ll show you how this tight cropping of our stories is the writing equivalent of a photographic close-up. And just like in actual photography, whenever we reduce the field of view, the size and significance of the subject in focus increases dramatically.

Week 3: Captain Hook

This lecture is all about the hook, the all-important make-it-or-break-it first line(s) of our stories. The hook, in fishing terms, is a device used to catch, or snag a fish. The same meaning applies here. We want to start our stories with something enticing; something that says to our readers, “You like that? There’s more where that came from. Follow me.”

Week 4: Made of Truth, Powered by Tension

The binary stars of micro memoir writing are truth and tension. This week I’ll cover the four different types of tension and when it’s okay to use poetic license in nonfiction. I’ll also speak in depth about the difference between factual and emotional truth, and why both are important to include in our stories.

Week 5: The Deep End of the Ocean

How do we impart a sense of depth into our micro essays? This week we’re going to dive below the surface and answer that question. We’ll talk about the importance of subtext, surprise, change, epiphany, and disclosure, as well as how to incorporate them into our work to give the desired, satisfying effect of a richer, more layered story.

Week 6: The Chop Shop

Stephen King once quipped, “To write is human, to edit is divine.” Our final lecture will center around the all-important task of editing our writing. I’ll present easy, practical tips for cutting the superfluous bits from our stories. Learning to ruthlessly chop off dead weight from our micro tales will make them soar.

$445.00Enroll Now

Course type:

Student Feedback for Gretchen Clark:

Definitely very happy with class content. Gretchen’s critiques are so, so helpful. I liked the way Gretchen set up the class so that we were able to choose from many options for our assignments. We could revise an essay or write a new one. As a teacher, Gretchen is like chocolate cake with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Can’t get enough of her. I would take any class Gretchen offered. Caroline Commins

Gretchen was wonderful—positive, understanding, and helpful without being negative or overly critical. Her comments were insightful and extremely helpful to me. She clearly put a lot of time into reading and responding to our work, and I am SO thankful for that! Kathryn Martinak

Gretchen was a wonderful teacher. She responded promptly to questions via email, and she always gave thorough, thoughtful, and comprehensive feedback. It was clear that Gretchen truly engaged with the whole of our submissions, and I appreciated her willingness to challenge us (always graciously) through her feedback. Ashley Logsdon

This course helped me expand my understanding of what an essay can be, and encouraged me to push myself to try different forms of expression. I learned a lot from my fellow students and the instructor and received excellent feedback on my writing. I learned so much from Gretchen’s lectures as well as from her comments, not only on my writing but on my fellow students’ writings as well. Elizabeth Speziale

Gretchen was great. I have taken over a dozen online writing courses and this one was almost calming. Instead of feeling like I ‘had’ to submit work for critique, I not only wanted to, but I was anxious to read the other writers’ work. Barbara Reidmiller

I learned a lot and had fun doing it. We were encouraged to think and write outside the box. It made me more creative. Loved the experience. Svetlana Dietz

Gretchen has great ideas and gives coaching feedback as well as praise. It was exciting to learn about new forms in essay writing and how the form can help carry the story. The group of writers was helpful and positive in providing feedback to each others; I really enjoyed the experience of the community. Karen McCall

Wow!! Gretchen was a fantastic teacher, and I would very much like to take another of her courses in the future. She did a great job of creating a supportive community (not easy to do online), she was very responsive to questions, and I learned a lot from her lessons. And I will definitely go back and work with some of her inspiring writing prompts. Her feedback on my work was amazing – she really took the time to go through each essay and highlight what worked well and where there were opportunities for improvement – everything from overall essay structure to word choice. She really gave me confidence that I am a writer, while giving me much-appreciated nudges to include more of “me” in my essays. Eileen McLellan

I was recently offered my own bi-monthly column in Blue Water Sailing magazine. Writers.com and private time working with Gretchen has certainly contributed to my work improving enough to be given that opportunity. Heather Francis, yachtkate.com

Gretchen was extremely diligent with her feedback and it felt like nothing I wrote went unnoticed. She took the pains to respond equally diligently even with the re-posted material. Her feedback made me want to write more. Mannu Kohli

I thought Gretchen was great. Despite having a lot of people in the class, I always felt that she gave full attention to her feedback on my submissions. She was always quite responsive to questions I had. I really liked her lectures and her suggested materials, I found all of those quite helpful. Allison Allen

I loved this course. Gretchen provided me with really helpful feedback and I appreciate how open she was to discussing the works in progress. I wrote ten pieces I want to keep working with and submit to journals, and want to keep playing with the form. I definitely got my money’s worth and am happy with the progress I made in the course overall as a writer. Nicole Breit

Do you have a couple hours? Because that is how long it would take me to sing Gretchen’s praises. Every piece she has helped me with, let’s make that six, has been accepted for publication. All told, actually, I’ve received 11 acceptances within a relatively short time span for a writer who has just recently begun to submit her work. … It isn’t just that Gretchen is a gifted writer and teacher/editor, she possesses unusual insight. She reads with many eyes, ears, and hearts and on many different levels. She is present to the reading like a psychoanalyst is present to her patient’s free associations: unbiased, unattached, letting herself be moved or struck by anything and everything. … And she is patient and kind and even when her suggestions maddened me because they forced me to think and feel myself more deeply into my story, she was, 98% of the time, right on. … What more can I say. I just love working with Gretchen! Pat Heim

Though Gretchen included specific assignments with each week’s lecture…they were given to us as suggestions and for inspiration, but we were always free to go off on our own and write whatever caught our imaginations that week. I was also very pleasantly surprised at the high level of talent among my classmates in this course. … Your classes allow every student to write and post something each week, not simply once or twice during the course, as other classes do. Elaine Kehoe

I thought the lectures were thoughtful and inspiring and I liked that the assignments were flexible in that I could write about anything that I wanted, but Gretchen gave us prompts for if we needed some ideas. I also liked that she provided some optional readings and referenced other books on writing, I ended up doing a lot of outside reading which was very helpful. I did feel like I learned a lot….. Gretchen was excellent. Her positive tone was just the thing to keep students in the class encouraged and motivated. She was also very willing to answer any questions students had and seemed to tailor her critique to what students were asking for, which was wonderful. Overall I felt that she was approachable and was there if I wanted to ask anything. McKenzie Long

I’ve taken several other on-line writing classes with other schools and this unique approach was the most interesting and challenging of all. I thought the teachers were the freshest and most thorough in the time they put into their critiques. I totally enjoyed the class. I would do something unique with these teachers again. Eve Bandler

I was very happy with both the class content and the teacher. Gretchen’s comments on my essays were insightful; she offered suggestions that I would not have thought of on my own. This was my first online writing class, and I will take another. Thank you so much! Kim Baumgaertel

Gretchen’s writing and her lessons are superb and she’s a great teacher. I learned a ton from her. I had never heard of the lyric essay before. Gretchen gave me a thorough understanding of it – and lots of practice. Bonnie Gold

Gretchen was great, and always available for questions/clarification. I am definitely driven by challenge, and felt that Gretchen has a good way of keeping you on your toes and helping you to consistently improve. Lessons were inspiring and assignments perfect for challenging the creative side of the brain. An advanced lyric class would be awesome! I would recommend the class to anyone interested in writing. I have signed up for several classes through November. Jenifer Patureau

I loved the class. The Lyric Essay is/was/and shall continue to be a favorite of mine now that I’ve taken this class. The freedom to manipulate material in new ways, soak words with lyric structure, really came through. Feedback was personal and always offered ways to take a piece to another level. Rewrites were encouraged and feedback was prompt and insightful. Keep those new classes coming so I can continue to write on your site for many years to come. Joanna Johns

This course is terrific. The lessons are creative and inspiring–just look at the lecture titles! Gretchen is smart, kind, and encouraging. Her critiques are full of insight and ideas for taking the writer a step or many steps further. I keep recommending writers.com when I talk w/ friends. I’ll be back for another class. Marge Osborn

Creative, inspiring, motivating, delightful, fun. Gretchen’s lessons were written with so much imagination and creative juice. It just made you rub your hands together and want to dive in. She was encouraging as well. I have considered taking *this* class again! Tatyana Sussex

Gretchen’s class was really great! The Lyric Essay was one of the best courses I’ve taken from Writers.com. I would like to take a “Lyric Essay 2” course. Caroline Commins

The class was wonderful. Couldn’t have had better teachers. Wonderful about letting us veer in our own directions at times. They provided a very nurturing environment for everyone. … Their comments were very helpful and clearly they know their stuff. … I would absolutely take another class from either instructor. I can’t give them a glowing enough review. … This is the way you dream a class will work. David Ladd

This was my first online course, and I’m very glad I took it. I feel that the tuition was money well-spent and I emerge from this experience wiser about the subject and very much encouraged to continue my writing using techniques I learned in class. Jean Dutton

August 14, 2024
6 Weeks


$445.00Enroll Now


Gretchen Clark has been a freelancer for an online naming company and a creative arts mentor for at-risk teens. Her essay Pink Chrysanthemum was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.  Her work has been published in The Boston Globe, Hamilton Stone Review, 94 Creations, Writer Advice, Literary Mama, Hip Mama, Flashquake, Blood Lotus, Foliate Oak, Skirt!, Word Riot, Quiet Mountain Essays, 34th Parallel, New York Family Magazine, Pithead Chapel, Switchback, Underwired, Toasted Cheese, Celia’s Roundtrip, Brevity, River Teeth, Flashquake, Tiny Lights, Ray's Road Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hippocampus, The MacGuffin, Awakenings Review, and Nailpolish Stories, among others.