Stories from Life

The course

Write your own life story

Do you want to share your lived experience and write a powerful story that allows people to experience the events, places, and communities that mean something to you?

Founded on the belief that there is a value in people from different regions recording the realities of their lives, this four-week course offers an accessible entry point into writing to people from all walks of life, helping to boost your confidence and guide you as you complete a story from scratch. 

You’ll work in a small group of fellow writers with an expert tutor to learn how to turn raw experience into stories. We’ll look at the basic rules of storytelling and how to structure a real-life experience on the page so that others will want to read on. You’ll have a go at bringing scenes to life using description, and creating vivid characters and memorable dialogue. We’ll also focus on the importance of editing and rewriting.

By the end of the course, you’ll have produced a story you’re proud of and which says something about your life and your region. 

Richard Benson

Meet your course director

Richard Benson

Richard is ‘one of Britain’s leading cultural commentators’ (The Guardian), a prizewinning writer and bestselling non-fiction author whose work tells the stories of ordinary people’s experiences and the social worlds they live in.

In partnership with New Writing North

We partner with writing development agency New Writing North to help develop creative writing talent in the North of England with programmes to inspire and engage writers and readers.

New Writing North are offering 10 discounted bursary places, on this course across 2023 as part of the North of Tyne Cultural Skills Programme.

If you are based in the North of Tyne, access more information on the bursary here.

How it works

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.

You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.

Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor - a critical part of the writing process.

You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

Things to know

This course is designed for people who have an urge to write or tell stories but have no experience, lack confidence or need flexibility to study. Suitable for beginners.

It’s suitable if you: 

  • Are completely new to writing and don’t know where to start
  • Want to learn more about the basic principles of writing stories 
  • Would like to build confidence in yourself and in your writing
  • Feel the need to write about your life experiences
  • Would like to record the life of your family, community or region
  • Love to read and would like to have a go at writing 
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners

This course allows you to: 

  • Start writing and find inspiration in real-life experiences 
  • Recognise how to build an idea, event, memory or fact into a narrative 
  • Appreciate the value of writing, rewriting, editing and critiquing
  • Build confidence by expressing and recording a life experience 
  • Value stories that emerge from the realities of life in your community and region
  • Trust your instinct when selecting and developing ideas
  • Become a more effective writer, for recreation and at work
  • Develop the transferable skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Practise giving feedback to other writers and receiving responses to your work
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and judgement as you work on a final assignment.

Session 1: Finding Inspiration in Experiences

We’ll start the course by looking closely at the basic rules of storytelling and what makes an effective story. Focusing on life experiences, you’ll learn how to find inspiration from your past and turn an event into inspiration for a story. 

Session 2: Turning Experiences into Stories

How do you get from your raw memories to a written account on the page? In the second session, you’ll focus on how to turn your experience into a story by creating structure and crafting a beginning, middle, and end to your story.

Session 3: Power and Polish

Your story shouldn’t just be a factual narrative – it should read as a powerful piece of writing that moves people. To do this, you’ll learn how to set descriptive scenes, write engaging dialogue, and find a resonating ending that leaves the reader feeling satisfied.

Session 4: Editing and Rewriting

In the final week, we’ll focus on why editing and rewriting, and not inspiration, is what makes you a writer. Also on accepting and understanding why the process of writing might lead you to understand experience differently, and how to use that. We’ll also look at ways to maintain the motivation and discipline to finish a project, and where to take it next, including competitions and anthologies.

At the end of the course you will submit a finished and edited story for tutor feedback.  

If you are a writer based in North of Tyne, you may be eligible for a bursary discount through New Writing North

You can submit your application through the New Writing North site. 

This course is open to writers all over the globe. If you are based anywhere else in the world, you can buy the course now.

Join our alumni community 

After your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:

  • Revisit all your courses materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
  • Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
  • Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
  • Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
  • Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
  • Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers

Commission a report on your work
If you’d like to receive a personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing from your course tutor, this is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on what steps to take next.

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue on to another Professional Writing Academy course, please get in touch for more details.

The team

Meet your course team

Richard Benson

Richard Benson

Business Storyteller

Richard is ‘one of Britain’s leading cultural commentators’ (The Guardian), a prizewinning writer and bestselling non-fiction author whose work tells the stories of ordinary people’s experiences and the social worlds they live in.

More about Richard Benson

Start your journey


(Including taxes)

My tutor has been excellent: wise, astute and generous in his support and encouragement of us all. He also gave us the wonderful gift of a precise set of tools with which to proceed. The whole experience has been very instructive.

Find out about our payment plans and get in touch.

Course Alumni

Meet our writers


My writing has come on in leaps and bounds, from simple grammar, punctuation and formatting to showing not telling. I already had the idea but wasn't sure how to execute it, and this is exactly what the course did for me.

Got a question?

Speak to one of the team.

Speak to the team