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Writing Your Heart Out with Deborah Shepard


The Michael King Writers’ Centre is delighted to announce a course on writing memoir to be led by author, film and art historian, and life writing mentor Deborah Shepard.

“Memoir is the best place to discover your writing talent because these are your stories of your life and you know them best,” she says.

Deborah taught memoir through the Centre for Continuing Education at The University of Auckland for eight years. She is a life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Author's Mentorship programme and is the consultant biographer for Mercy Hospice, where she facilitates training workshops on the art of recording the stories of people who are terminally ill. She runs a popular forum on her website where life writers post their stories.

In 2010 she was author/mentor on the First Chapters writing programme in Manukau and Papakura, South Auckland, where she mentored 30 new writers and edited eleven of their life stories for the publication Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura.

Her books include Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (Harper Collins, 2000), Between the Lives: Partners in Art (Auckland University Press, 2005) and Her Life's Work (Auckland University Press, 2009).

She held the Autumn Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in 2013, when she worked on her new book Writing Your Heart Out: the Art and Craft of Memoir. There will be eight master classes in the series, which will be held at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport starting in March. They will cover a short history of memoir, the nature of the creative process and unlocking the memories, writing on childhood, journalling and observational writing, overcoming self-doubt and the defining qualities of successful writers, writing on friendship and love, ethical issues and advice about going public, a writer’s toolkit including a writing technique, editing, style and form, research, professional presentation and at each session there will be writing exercises linked to each theme.

The programme of master classes is designed for people who have been published already or had some writing experience, kept a regular journal, or those who have attended a memoir course and want to take their skills to the next level. It will have an intensive small-group format. The classes will start on March 19 and will run to May 7. They will be each Wednesday evening from 6 pm to 8.30 pm at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. The cost is $280 incl GST and the course will be limited to nine participants.

Further information: 

Deborah says writing memoir is valuable as a way into writing, as a way to reflect on life experiences and as a means to record important stories for your family. “Memoir is the best place to discover your writing talent because these are your stories of your life and you know them best,” she says. “Writing memoir involves a healthy mix of self-examination, reflection, observation and empathy. The work is engrossing and satisfying and helps people look beyond themselves, to consider the people who figure in their stories and why they matter. Because life writing involves looking back and reflecting on the meaning of experience from a position in the present it can increase our appreciation of all the good things that have come our way and that keep on coming. I have noticed how memoir can help people work through current losses and transitions, helping them integrate the experience. Writing memoir has a meditative quality. It offers a pause in the midst of the daily whirr to reflect upon and integrate the meaning of experience. “On my courses we explore techniques that assist the release of memories and editing exercises where people learn how to strengthen and craft the raw material into compelling narratives. This happens in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and support.”

Contact details:; 09 445 8451

Written by

Michael King Writers Centre

30 Jan 2014

Interests The Michael King Writers' Centre. It is the first full writers' facility and literary centre in New Zealand.