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Writing About Dead Relatives: Turning Family History into Story

Our family history and stories of what happened before we were born shape us as people and writers. We all carry these stories inside of us, and oftentimes they’re passed down through oral histories, diaries, and letters. As writers, this is rich material. But how do we explore family history in nonfiction, without betraying our relatives or resorting to nostalgia and cliché? How do we write about the lives of long-dead relatives, when memory is faulty and people aren’t around to speak their own truths? This session will explore how writers from James Joyce to James McBride have drawn on family histories for inspiration and meaning. You’ll leave with practical suggestions and a bibliography of resources for how you can write about your family history.

Instructor: Lee Chilcote is an award-winning journalist, writer and author whose writing is published in Vanity FairNext CityBelt and many literary journals as well as in The Cleveland Neighborhood GuidebookThe Cleveland Anthology and A Race Anthology: Dispatches and Artifacts from a Segregated City. His poetry chapbooks are The Shape of Home and How to Live in Ruins. He is founder and former editor of The Land, a local news startup reporting on Cleveland's neighborhoods, and a founder and past executive director of Literary Cleveland. He lives in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of Cleveland with his family.


Details: Writing About Dead Relatives: Turning Family History into Story takes place Mondays April 3, April 10, April 17, and April 24 from 6:30-8:30pm in person at Lakewood United Methodist Church, 15700 Detroit Ave, Lakewood OH 44107.

Prerequisites: None

Genre: Nonfiction/memoir

Level: Emerging

Format: Literary analysis and craft workshop with generative work outside of class.

Location: This class takes place in person at Lakewood United Methodist Church, 15700 Detroit Ave, Lakewood OH 44107.

Size: Limited to 12 participants (including scholarships).

Suggested Sequence: Follow this class with an intermediate level memoir, nonfiction, or essay writing course.

Scholarships: Two scholarship spots are available for this class for writers in Northeast Ohio. Apply by December 1.

Cancellations & Refunds: Cancel at least 48 hours in advance of the first class meeting to receive a full refund. Email

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