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International Women's Writing Guild

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Writing What You've Never Had the Courage to Write

  • Monday, February 27, 2023
  • 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM




Writing What You’ve Never Had
the Courage to Write

with Maureen Murdock

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” —Muriel Rukeyser

In writing memoir about our lives, women are writing what we know, not what we are allowed to know or expected to know, or, above all, permitted to tell. We will inevitably be criticized.

We often fear being judged if we put our truth on the page. We fear being criticized for being too angry, too vulnerable, too revealing, too sad. We’re told to stay small, not to take up too much space and, above all, to be likable, nice, straight, able-bodied, and mentally sane.

This workshop is an opportunity to reveal your secrets to yourself and others. Write about what you never had the courage to write, what you never have wanted others to know about you. Put your secrets on the page and you can omit and edit later. Allow yourself to reveal your innermost thoughts, secrets, experiences, feelings because we have all had them. Carolyn Heilbrun writes: “Women are telling their stories to publicly tell other women what their lives have been like.” The purpose of art is to change the conversation.

We will look at excerpts from memoirists who have had the courage to put their truth on the page about such topics as sexual abuse, desire, shame, dealing with family secrets: Chanel Miller, Katherine Harrison, Mary Karr, Jeanette Walls, Honor Moore

During the workshop, you will have an opportunity to write your truth and read it aloud or share it in the chat if you wish. 

Maureen Murdock, Ph.D. teaches memoir writing in Pacifica Graduate Institute’s memoir certificate program, “Writing Down the Soul” and has taught memoir for IWWG for the last 22 years. Since 1990, she has taught memoir writing in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program where she received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 1995. Her new book, Memoirists Are Contemporary Mythmakers which examines memoir through the lens of myth will be published in 2024.

A 30th anniversary edition of her best-selling book The Heroine’s Journey and The Heroine’s Journey Workbook has been published by Shambhala Publications. Murdock is also the author of Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory; Fathers’ Daughters: Breaking the Ties that Bind; Spinning Inward; and Blinded by Hope: My Journey through My Son’s Bipolar Illness and Addiction, published under a pseudonym. Her books have been translated into 18 languages including Polish and Farsi. Her blog about mental illness, addiction and the criminal justice system is on her website:

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