Carol Spindel


Carol Spindel is a writer, potter, ACLU activist, and grandma living in Urbana, Illinois, who retired after teaching creative nonfiction for more than twenty years at the University of Illinois. Her most recent book is I Give You Half the Road, a nonfiction account of the lives of five people she has known since they were children in Ivory Coast, West Africa. Her essays have touched on many topics and been published in many places, including Guernica, The Washington Post, Oxford American, and aired on her local NPR station, where one of her commentaries won a PRNDI Award for "Best Writing." When her first memoir, a New York Times Notable Book, went out of print, she re-published it herself (see A longtime Festival teacher, she is delighted to see the Festival return to Iowa City.


Carol Spindel photo

All About My Life: Structuring Memoir Through a Single Category

Event status
Attendance Required
In this fun weekend workshop, we'll write our life stories through one single category of objects or experiences. All about my life according to...the shoes I wore, the houses I lived in, or the cars I drove. My life told through my most important conversations or the photographs I wish had been taken but never were. My life through the books that shaped the way I think. Or my life via art objects, hats, movies, sports events, gardens, video games, people I will never see again, favorite walks, songs, or quilts sewed. You know what has mattered to you over time. But remember, you can only pick one! It's so much easier to write a memoir (or call it a series of linked personal essays) when you have a structure to work with. This simple unifying structure conveys the passage of time while its draconian limitations free you to leave out all those extraneous details that bedevil the memoir writer and swamp the reader. (Although you'll be surprised at how much deeper meaning you can sneak in if you work at it.) All writers, from the most beginning to the most experienced, are welcome as long as they're willing to experiment. A bonus gold star if you don't take yourself or this project too seriously. You'll leave this quirky workshop with a basic understanding of structure, a project underway, and a simple plan for completing it. In this workshop we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide limited feedback on work produced during the workshop.
Carol Spindel photo