Writing Your Story

Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nope I am glad that The Great Courses is constantly exploring new avenues for life-long learning. The approach represented by this course, however, did not work out. It was an interesting experiment. Evidently it is a recording of an active on-line course which was then made available to those of us who missed the live event. While I cannot judge the effectiveness of the live event, it just does not work as a replay. There are 26 lectures, of which five are less than 5 minutes in length and another nine are between 5 and 10 minutes in length. Only three are the traditional length of at least 25 minutes. The instructor is Joyce Maynard, who has no academic credentials, although she did move in with J.D. Salinger for a while (evidently, an important part of this course). Since she has written a number of best-sellers, she shares with the students her reflections on writing; she does not have the academic chops to share the scholarship on the subject. I hope The Great Courses continues to explore new avenues for life-long learning. This course, however, is not an avenue; it is a dead end.
Date published: 2020-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great workshop I'm really glad to come across this one. The format itself is refreshing because it's not just one teacher lecturing on and on... Besides the writing tips she shares, which are easy to understand and easy to put into practice, what makes this course above average is you can see she's really trying to help the future writers overcome the barrier of not willing to share. And I think she did a great job using her own stories to help others put away their fear and worry.
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I am very impressed with this course. I'm not even halfway through it but I've learned so much already. Joyce Maynard has an incredible amount to teach writers about how to write better and more effectively. I'm really enjoying learning from her. It's truly excellent. Highly recommend it. (And also I know she's a very good writer - I've loved reading some of her pieces in the past. I'll look for more now...)
Date published: 2020-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Gifted teacher on the elements of craft I was pleasantly surprised by this non traditional writing workshop by Joyce Maynard. Her passionate devotion to the craft of writing keeps you tuned in . This course is a broad brush stroke about writing your personal essay. She keeps things simple to get you focused on the key factors that shape the personal essay from a truthful (and shameless) point of view. She shows you how to declutter your writing to make it sing using examples from her own writing and that of her students. Good teachers are expert at fanning the embers of creativity stored within to bring our personal (and universal) stories to life. Joyce Maynard has this gift. This is not the typical format of the Great Courses. This workshop was part of a larger course and has been edited down so sections are short. I watched the first 12 so I am halfway through this course and love it! I'd love to see more by this teacher.
Date published: 2020-09-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Your Story Joyce Maynard was exceptional in this course. One of the best courses I've taken within the category of writing. Such honesty. Such illumination. Thank you. KSWhite
Date published: 2020-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Supportive and Human Perspective The course is a great review of some of the essential parts of writing from your own perspective. Ms Maynard's (Non-Fiction) writings are about conveying her experience through some event(s). This is the approach taken in the course, how best to convey your experience through event(s) so that readers will become engaged in it (them). [She has had a lifetime of experience in this area, some for which she has faced much critique - but come out strong enough to know what is her voice and to continue using it quite well.] She clearly states that when writing about experience(s), we really can only write about our own. One can document events factually, but we can never document any experience except our own. She has been criticized for having only written about herself - and she does a fine job of justifying that in that she is writing about experience (not a historical representation of events, but rather a very personal - emotional - viewpoint on what transpired, for her). This is what she intends to teach (and does so successfully) with this course = how to convey your emotional point of view in a compelling way. The course succeeds in teaching us about Writing "Our Own" Story. Because we are documenting an emotional viewpoint, it's very easy to get lost in stream-of-consciousness writing (particularly when dealing with our own emotional stories). Ms Maynard teaches the tools as to how to frame, craft, and develop a story that maintains the skills of a writer, while allowing for the expression of a wholly human story. That is her intent, to share what she has learned from years of writing/publication (the cold, hard, tools of writing) along with the years of living (the challenging, painful experiences of life). She brings to the fore the fundamental points needed, in terms of focus, in order to create a well-developed work. She's examining the essence of good writing, while at the same time allowing for expression of the emotions driving you to explain what happened (from your perspective/in your words). What she is doing here, is providing an audience (who has a lifetime of experiences/emotions to present) with the tools needed to craft a focused work that expresses those emotions clearly to the reader (and the writer). The combination of supporting emotional expression, while providing author-tools allows for an audience to express their experiences clearly, where they may not have been able to do so otherwise. She does an excellent job of popularizing the emotional expression of experience by sharing the skills needed to do so well. With that, I give the course 4 stars. It could be further developed/expanded upon to become something more in-depth. She is a professional teacher/lecturer (and a fine one at that), so the course could be expanded to provide more (perhaps in phases = introductory chapters/elements, then advanced tools in later lectures). The courses workshop style format does quite well, and for the observer, seeing how the process of using the tools presented are used is very helpful for performing that work on their own writing as well. I give The Great Courses, however, 1 star for this (as a) product. It is not a "Course" per se, this is a PBS (funding marathon) seminar. Total running time (according to the DVD case = 5 hours 19 minutes). There are 26 "Lectures" on the 2 Disc set. 2 are over 30 minutes long (1 being 30:01) 2 are between 20 and 30 minutes long 5 are between 15 and 20 minutes long 3 are between 10 and 15 minutes long 9 are between 5 and 10 minutes long 5 are less than 5 minutes long While the course description does denote "an average of 12 minutes" on lectures. This is a case where statistics deceive (using average provides very little in terms of meaning). With The Great Courses, one comes to expect a level of academic excellence/depth/analysis close to a semester-lecture-series. If it has now become "caveat emptor" then the course description pages should not just list the course lectures but also the running time of each leacture. Even when purchased on-sale, Great Courses are a fair investment. Selling this at the same cost levels as a course that does engage a full semester of material marks a demerit to The Learning Company in my book. The brand must now be scrutinized, as product is being marketed as same which are not of same depth. The profiteering of The Learning Company here is an entirely seperate issue from the material in the course and truly does mean you will have to be wary in courses being sold as full content in the future. The course is very worthy, if you are seeking to express your story clearly, Ms Maynard will help you clarify how to do that. She's an excellent teacher, an energetic and clear presenter. She will help you improve your skills, and help you express your perspective (without discounting or demonizing "the other"). That makes it very much worthwhile. Her perspective, as one who has done so, it very much worthwhile and she comes from a place of complete support for expression of our experiences. (Personally I enjoyed the video presentation of the course, although content would probably be derived from audio - video many times works better for me.)
Date published: 2020-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Presenter was excellent. Joyce Maynard does an excellent job presenting these lectures. She has great examples for each topic covered and is engaging and keeps attention well. I'm not interested in writing a memoir, however, I felt like the topics could easily be transferred to creative writing in general. The only crique I have is that the videos end abruptly. For example, Ms. Maynard will be talking one second and the next the video is over. The transitions between videos could be better. Pros: the videos are straight to the point, the presenter does a great job of giving examples, it's engaging and interesting, and the presenter herself has a good energy. You can tell she loves what she does and is knowledge about the topics. Overall, this was a great course!
Date published: 2020-08-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Things everybody should hear to write their story The most important theme it taught is to eschew abstract names of feelings and emotions with concrete descriptions of physical reactions thereto in order to cause the reader to experience them. Three other features of value are the checklist of common grammatical errors which are very common, telling the truth rather than what you think will sell, and not to practice a common popular business world expedient known as "brainstorming." As she put the last admonition, "When you vomit all over the page and think you will find anything of value, all you will get is vomit."
Date published: 2020-08-18
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Writing Your Story
Course Trailer
What Happens When We Keep Secrets?
1: What Happens When We Keep Secrets?

8 min
Name Your Obsessions
2: Name Your Obsessions

13 min
Stick to Your Story
3: Stick to Your Story

17 min
Identify Your Journey
4: Identify Your Journey

6 min
Take Your Story Apart
5: Take Your Story Apart

16 min
The Landing Place
6: The Landing Place

9 min
The Honesty Question
7: The Honesty Question

5 min
What's the Worst That Can Happen?
8: What's the Worst That Can Happen?

7 min
Descriptive versus Interpretive Language
9: Descriptive versus Interpretive Language

11 min
Diagramming the Sentence
10: Diagramming the Sentence

9 min
The Importance of Economy
11: The Importance of Economy

10 min
Dialogue and Rhythm
12: Dialogue and Rhythm

9 min
Six Common Mistakes Writers Make
13: Six Common Mistakes Writers Make

8 min
The Paragraph
14: The Paragraph

3 min
Building the Arc
15: Building the Arc

3 min
The Test of a Good Memoir
16: The Test of a Good Memoir

17 min
The Container
17: The Container

4 min
Two Containers from Scratch
18: Two Containers from Scratch

30 min
Developing Your Container
19: Developing Your Container

18 min
Dissecting a Good Container Essay
20: Dissecting a Good Container Essay

30 min
The Writing Life
21: The Writing Life

3 min
Creating a Writing Practice
22: Creating a Writing Practice

22 min
What Gets in Your Way?
23: What Gets in Your Way?

15 min
The Not-Writing Process
24: The Not-Writing Process

11 min
Criticism and Rejection
25: Criticism and Rejection

4 min
What Happens When We Tell Our Truth?
26: What Happens When We Tell Our Truth?

32 min
Joyce Maynard

My job here is to give you permission to tell your story.



About Joyce Maynard

A native of New Hampshire, Joyce Maynard began publishing her stories in magazines when she was thirteen years old. She first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale. Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and many more. She is a longtime performer with The Moth. 

Maynard is the author of seventeen books, including the novel To Die For and the best-selling memoir, At Home in the World—translated into sixteen languages. Her novel, To Die For, was adapted for the screen by Buck Henry for a film directed by Gus Van Sant, in which Joyce can be seen in the role of Nicole Kidman’s lawyer. Her novel Labor Day was adapted and directed by Jason Reitman for a film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, to whom Joyce offered instruction for making the pie that appeared in a crucial scene in the film.

The mother of three grown children, Maynard runs workshops in memoir at her home in Lafayette California. In 2002 she founded The Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, where she hosts a weeklong workshop in personal storytelling every winter.

She is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.

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