(Live Workshop) The Art Friend’s Dilemma: Advice on Writing from Real Life

with Briana Una McGuckin

how to be a good art friend

It may have seen special attention in the past few months, but it’s a perennial topic: How do we write about people we know? This workshop is intended for anyone who wants to write or finish a piece of memoir or life-like fiction, who may be blocked by anxieties around upsetting others.

Memoirists aren’t the only ones who have to be careful about what they put in writing. “Write what you know” is great advice for fiction, but writing what we know also potentially involves writing about people we know—or about experiences we have in common with them. In this workshop, we’ll examine:

  1. Useful practices and techniques in published memoirs, and
  2. My own lessons learned (mis)managing real-life relationships while publishing close-to-home short fiction.

Our overall goal: to learn how to best balance ourselves on this ethical tightrope.

This two-and-a-half-hour workshop will be generative, with reflective mini-prompts throughout the lecture as well as a longer narrative writing period at the end. Together, we’ll answer questions like:

  • For whom, or what, are we responsible when writing about ourselves and/or shared experiences?
  • What techniques do memoir writers use to tell the truth responsibly?
  • What can we do off the page, in our lives, to be more responsible truth-tellers on the page?

To do this, we’ll start by identifying our anxieties around telling our truths. Then, we’ll look at the techniques used to temper honesty with fairness in memoirs (Running with Scissors, Fairyland, The Chronology of Water, and more), and note the ways in which these narrative choices actually enrich, rather than diminish, the authors’ stories.

Next, we’ll compare and contrast two publishing experiences of my own, and draw conclusions about how our actions off the page might mitigate (or exacerbate!) others’ reactions to what’s on the page.

Throughout, we’ll reflect on our projects using brief prompts, and at the end of the lecture we’ll draft a passage of memoir or close-to-home fiction employing the writing techniques we’ve explored.

Learning and Writing Goals

Learning Goals. In this workshop, you’ll learn:

  • Techniques used by memoirists to tell their truth responsibly
  • Perspectives to guide the truths you write down, and how you write them
  • Mistakes we can make off the page that make what’s on the page worse, and how to avoid them

Writing Goals. During this workshop, you will:

  • Draft a passage of fiction or memoir that tells your truth more fairly and responsibly, without sacrificing the poignance of your experience or your intent in writing it down.

Live Workshop Schedule

The workshop will run from 7:00 P.M. to 9:30 P.M. U.S. Eastern time. It will be roughly broken down into these sections:

1 hour 15 minutes: Lecture and short writing prompts
30 minutes: Writing time to draft a passage of memoir or close-to-home fiction
45 minutes: Q & A, sharing of work/constructive critique, take-aways

Course type:

Student Feedback for Briana Una McGuckin:

briana una mcguckin


Briana Una McGuckin writes Gothic Romance/Romantic Suspense. Her debut novel, On Good Authority, is a Victorian Gothic/Romantic Suspense. Among other places, her short fiction appears in the Stoker-nominated Not All Monsters anthology (Rooster Republic Press), as well as IN SOMNIO (Tenebrous Press) and A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales (Brigids Gate Press). Briana has spastic diplegic cerebral palsy, a perhaps concerningly large collection of perfume oils, and a fascination with all things Victorian.