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For more information or to enrol by phone, contact Continuing Education on 0800 864 266 or email

Life Writing with Deborah Shepard

Encompass everything from the complete life to the day-in-the-life.


Everybody has the skills to write their life story. Life Writing with Deborah Shepard is designed for people who have never written before and participants who already enjoy writing in other genres and want to try memoir.

Under Deborah’s gentle guidance you will experience a summer writing school like no other. You will have five blissful days to indulge your dream and write your heart out in a collaborative and supportive environment.

Limited to 15 participants

Course outline

Session One: Getting Started

  • introductions
  • a definition of memoir and why people write memoir
  • writing exercise: What brought me here?
  • a conducive environment for writing
  • a timeline of my life
  • group analysis of literary excerpts: ‘I was born’
  • writing exercise: 'I was born.'

Session Two: Remembering Childhood

  • The Writing Life: writers’ studios and the writing discipline
  • writing exercise: 'My Writing Space'
  • writing tips and guidelines for the presentation of work
  • edit workshop: a group exercise
  • group analysis of literary excerpts: ‘Remembering Childhood’
  • writing exercise: 'Remembering Childhood'

Session Three: Writing directly from life

  • an introduction to observational writing
  • writing exercise: in the outdoors
  • group discussion: Writing about the people we love
  • ethical dilemmas and a participatory model
  • group analysis of literary excerpts: ‘Someone I have loved’
  • writing exercise: 'Someone I have loved'

Session Four: Preparing work for publication

  • individual mentoring session with Deborah Shepard
  • editing your story and writing a short bio

Session Five: Publication and Celebration

  • group reading of participants’ stories on 'Your Story'
  • the defining qualities of successful authors
  • how to protect your writing project and carry on
  • future publishing and performing opportunities
  • shared lunch
  • group analysis of literary excerpts: a self-portrait
  • writing exercise: ‘A self-portrait: where to from here?’

Learning outcomes

On completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • continue the reading programme established on the course, using my bibliography and read memoir critically
  • sit down and write with confidence
  • write for online publication
  • continue writing their memoir for book publication, for blogging, as an essay, for a family history project and perform the writing at the monthly Inside Out Open Mic forum. 

Who should attend?

This course is designed for:

  • new writers, people who are interested in writing and are newcomers to the genre
  • people who want to discover their writing voice
  • people who want to record their stories for their family
  • people who want to write and publish their life story
  • people who want to explore their inner world and express their thoughts and feelings and observations and transform them into literature
  • young and older writers
  • people who have written in another genre such as fiction or poetry, or non-fiction and who want to explore memoir. 

About the tutor

Deborah Shepard (PhD Film, Television & Media Studies)

Deborah is an author, editor and life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors. Her books include: Reframing Women: a history of New Zealand film  (2000),  Between the Lives: Partners in Art (2005),  Her Life’s Work  (2009) and a new work  Giving Yourself to Life: A Journal of Pain, Hope and Renewal  (February 2015). Deborah has taught life writing for eight years at the Centre for Continuing Education, the Creative Hub and the Michael King Writers’ Centre. She is the consultant biographer for the Mercy Hospice Auckland and she hosts a popular life writing forum on her website

What participants say

“This is such a worthwhile course where emotional safety and student growth in writing are paramount” - Marilyn Woolford