Writing Your Story

Join acclaimed memoirist Joyce Maynard and discover how to write personal true stories that your readers will never forget.
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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
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