Writing from life: autobiography, biography and creative non-fiction with Hannah Vincent

Creative writing and publishing

Ref: SWE12029

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Places available

About this course

Explore how to write up your own life experience, or someone else's, as the basis for a writing project. Consider how best to organise and shape this raw material to make it readable and exciting for a reader.

Course Description

Have you ever thought your own life experience or someone else’s (a family member’s, perhaps?) might make good reading?

Have you ever said about a life experience – yours or someone else’s – ‘honestly, you couldn’t make it up’?

On this weekend course, you will consider the raw material life delivers us for our writing, exploring how best to organise and shape this raw material to make it readable. You will apply literary techniques that will help render our lived experience interesting and exciting for a reader. You will also consider what ethical issues arise when writing from life.

Together with the tutor and your peers, you will read and discuss extracts from texts others have produced about their lives, including work by authors such as Rachel Cusk, Audre Lorde, Marcel Proust, James Baldwin and Karl Ove Knausgaard.

Learn to work with objects and archive materials such as diaries and letters, as well as paying attention to the writer’s body, memory and imagination.

There will be opportunities for in-session writing and opportunities to share your work and get feedback from your tutor and your fellow writers.

By the end of this course you will have a clear understanding of what aspects of your story are of the most interest to potential readers and you will appreciate what skills and techniques are required to bring your story to life on the page.

Please feel free to bring a project you have already begun working on or arrive with a blank page – this course is suitable for experienced writers, as well as those who have never set pen to paper or finger to keyboard.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the tutor will supply materials such as printed documents used as teaching texts.

What students need to bring

  • Laptop or notebook and pen

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Notebooks, pens, pencils
Wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toes or sandals. Safety boots, if specified.


Hannah Vincent

Hannah Vincent is a novelist, short story writer and award-winning playwright. Her first novel Alarm Girl was published in 2014. She wrote her second while carrying out PhD research at the University of Sussex in autobiographic practice. The Weaning was published in 2018. Hannah’s debut collection of short stories She-Clown and Other Stories was published in 2020. Hannah teaches creative writing on The Open University’s MA programme and she has taught life writing for New Writing South and Charleston. She is currently Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Brighton.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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