Stories from Life

The course

Write your own life story

Do you want to share your experiences and memories, and write powerful stories that people love reading? Would you like to express yourself in a way that means people get to read about the events, places and communities that mean something to you?

Designed to get you writing stories about your life, whoever you are and your level of experience, this five-week course will build your confidence as a memoir writer. By the end you will have written a story from scratch, and be ready to begin more.

Working in a small group of fellow writers with a friendly expert tutor, we’ll look at the basic rules of storytelling and how to get a real-life experience onto the page so others will want to read on. You’ll have a go at bringing scenes to life, and create vivid characters and memorable dialogue. We’ll also focus on editing and rewriting.

By the end of the course, you’ll have produced a real-life story you’re proud of, and that says something about your life and 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 2024 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
  • Want to write about what you’ve learned from tracing your family tree
  • Love to read and would like to try writing
  • Write at work but would like to get more creative
  • 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 family, 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.

Each course is divided into sessions. These sessions are released one by one (weekly or fortnightly, depending on the course). 

There’s no need to log on at a set time. You can work through the learning materials whenever suits you, day or night, wherever you are in the world. Just complete the assignments and join forum discussions by the session deadline. 

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

Session 1: Start to Write

Start by learning to overcome forces that might stop you writing, and set down some words on the page. Then learn how to think like a writer about real-life experiences, and turn them into stories people want to read. That means understanding the basic rules of storytelling. By the end of the session you’ll know how to find inspiration from your past and turn an event into inspiration for a story.

Session 2: Turning Experiences into Stories

In week 2, focus on how to turn your experience into a story by creating structure and crafting a beginning, middle and end. You’ll learn how to shape a story to keep readers engaged, and we’ll share tricks professional writers and editors use to work out how their stories can be improved.

Session 3: Polish Your Words

We’ll look at how to improve your use of language, and make your writing distinctively your own. You’ll learn how to create compelling scenes, write engaging dialogue, and find a resonating ending that leaves the reader feeling satisfied. And we’ll look at methods the professionals use to make their writing more effective.

Session 4: Edit Your Work

The final session will run over two weeks to give you time to write your story. You’ll learn how to effectively edit your work – the part of the process that makes you a real writer. We’ll explore how the process of writing can change how you understand your own experience, and consider how to use such changes. We’ll also look at ways to maintain the discipline to finish a project, and how, when you’re finished, to put your work forward for competitions, anthologies and reading events.

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


Earlybird price


(Including taxes)

My writing has never been taken care of and held in such graceful space before. I am so incredibly thankful and in awe of this platform. This experience has been a true gift that is boundless.

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