Writing Your Story

Join acclaimed memoirist Joyce Maynard and discover how to write personal true stories that your readers will never forget.
Writing Your Story is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 27.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from A contradiction of The course eventually morphed into an episode of Oprah( which she referred as a sign of success-- to appear on her couch) Maureen Dowd had some very unflattering words about Joyce Maynard who sold the love letters from JD Salinger. and at times miss Maynard does appear to be an opportunist with traces of narcissism by appearing to settle scores even within this venue with her ex husband and JD Salinger. At one point she says its not about the money and she wanted to protect the reclusive writer's privacy, then why sell those letters? At one point she listened to a few people's stories and made them feel that this was an episode of "This is Your Life" or" Dr Phil." complete with gasps from the pre selected audience of her adoring fans. By the end, it just became an episode of this is your life for Joyce where she was showcasing her work and how great it must be to be Joyce. "Any questions? Oh I love questions." ...But enough about me as a writer, victim, survivor and mother-- what do you think about me?
Date published: 2021-04-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disgusting! I am trying to watch Lesson 19, but I am constantly being taken to Lesson 20. What is wrong with this lesson?
Date published: 2021-02-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from This is not Great Courses??? I have no idea what this is? This is not a college course. This is some memoir, self-help, seminar mumbo-jumbo. I have watched dozens of Great Courses and they are ALL polished, college level academia. This is a live talk show? I have no idea what this is. Many of the talks are 10 minutes. This is not a developed curriculum. I think the error is entirely from Great Courses, they should have never approved this in their catalogue. It is not delivered like their typical materials are delivered....
Date published: 2021-02-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from disappointing Very little guidance in staring to write my story, and much too much Joyce's story. Poorly edited presentation video. Would have been more appropriately divided into 10 or 12 lectures instead of the 26.
Date published: 2021-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Your Story Joyce inspires me to tell my story. I highly recommend her course.
Date published: 2020-12-31
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nope I am glad that The Great Courses is constantly exploring new avenues for life-long learning. The approach represented by this course, however, did not work out. It was an interesting experiment. Evidently it is a recording of an active on-line course which was then made available to those of us who missed the live event. While I cannot judge the effectiveness of the live event, it just does not work as a replay. There are 26 lectures, of which five are less than 5 minutes in length and another nine are between 5 and 10 minutes in length. Only three are the traditional length of at least 25 minutes. The instructor is Joyce Maynard, who has no academic credentials, although she did move in with J.D. Salinger for a while (evidently, an important part of this course). Since she has written a number of best-sellers, she shares with the students her reflections on writing; she does not have the academic chops to share the scholarship on the subject. I hope The Great Courses continues to explore new avenues for life-long learning. This course, however, is not an avenue; it is a dead end.
Date published: 2020-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great workshop I'm really glad to come across this one. The format itself is refreshing because it's not just one teacher lecturing on and on... Besides the writing tips she shares, which are easy to understand and easy to put into practice, what makes this course above average is you can see she's really trying to help the future writers overcome the barrier of not willing to share. And I think she did a great job using her own stories to help others put away their fear and worry.
Date published: 2020-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course! I am very impressed with this course. I'm not even halfway through it but I've learned so much already. Joyce Maynard has an incredible amount to teach writers about how to write better and more effectively. I'm really enjoying learning from her. It's truly excellent. Highly recommend it. (And also I know she's a very good writer - I've loved reading some of her pieces in the past. I'll look for more now...)
Date published: 2020-10-12
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Discover how to translate your life into captivating, resonant stories with Writing Your Story, by acclaimed memoirist Joyce Maynard. In 26 lessons with the feel of a friendly, collaborative writing workshop, you'll explore how to identify the right stories to tell; examine tips and tricks with language, dialogue, and description; and find inspiration for everything from cultivating a writing practice to handling rejection.


Joyce Maynard
Joyce Maynard

My job here is to give you permission to tell your story.



A native of New Hampshire, Joyce Maynard began publishing her stories in magazines when she was thirteen years old. She first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1972, when she was a freshman at Yale. Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist whose “Domestic Affairs” column appeared in over fifty papers nationwide, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, The New York Times Magazine, and many more. She is a longtime performer with The Moth. 

Maynard is the author of seventeen books, including the novel To Die For and the best-selling memoir, At Home in the World—translated into sixteen languages. Her novel, To Die For, was adapted for the screen by Buck Henry for a film directed by Gus Van Sant, in which Joyce can be seen in the role of Nicole Kidman’s lawyer. Her novel Labor Day was adapted and directed by Jason Reitman for a film starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, to whom Joyce offered instruction for making the pie that appeared in a crucial scene in the film.

The mother of three grown children, Maynard runs workshops in memoir at her home in Lafayette California. In 2002 she founded The Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, where she hosts a weeklong workshop in personal storytelling every winter.

She is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony and Yaddo.

By This Expert

Writing Your Story


What Happens When We Keep Secrets?

01: What Happens When We Keep Secrets?

8 min
Name Your Obsessions

02: Name Your Obsessions

13 min
Stick to Your Story

03: Stick to Your Story

17 min
Identify Your Journey

04: Identify Your Journey

6 min
Take Your Story Apart

05: Take Your Story Apart

16 min
The Landing Place

06: The Landing Place

9 min
The Honesty Question

07: The Honesty Question

5 min
What's the Worst That Can Happen?

08: What's the Worst That Can Happen?

7 min
Descriptive versus Interpretive Language

09: Descriptive versus Interpretive Language

11 min
Diagramming the Sentence

10: Diagramming the Sentence

9 min
The Importance of Economy

11: The Importance of Economy

10 min
Dialogue and Rhythm

12: Dialogue and Rhythm

9 min
Six Common Mistakes Writers Make

13: Six Common Mistakes Writers Make

8 min
The Paragraph

14: The Paragraph

3 min
Building the Arc

15: Building the Arc

3 min
The Test of a Good Memoir

16: The Test of a Good Memoir

17 min
The Container

17: The Container

4 min
Two Containers from Scratch

18: Two Containers from Scratch

30 min
Developing Your Container

19: Developing Your Container

18 min
Dissecting a Good Container Essay

20: Dissecting a Good Container Essay

30 min
The Writing Life

21: The Writing Life

3 min
Creating a Writing Practice

22: Creating a Writing Practice

22 min
What Gets in Your Way?

23: What Gets in Your Way?

15 min
The Not-Writing Process

24: The Not-Writing Process

11 min
Criticism and Rejection

25: Criticism and Rejection

4 min
What Happens When We Tell Our Truth?

26: What Happens When We Tell Our Truth?

32 min