Transforming Life Experience into Memoir

Gretchen has devoted most of her life to writing, first as a journalist and freelance magazine writer, then as a writer of short stories, a memoirist, an essayist, and a teacher.  She believes passionately in the importance of encouraging others to tell the stories of their lives.  Like memoirist Patricia Hampl (one of her teachers at the University of Minnesota) she thinks there is nothing more important than for all of us to have a written version of our past, for, as Hampl says, if you don’t tell your story, someone else will tell it for you.  Gretchen’s workshop style is open, empowering and affirming, while also demanding and challenging.  Students in her workshop will practice innovative ways of generating stories from their lives, learn techniques for developing and shaping material into essays of various styles and lengths, receive tips for revising their work, and instruction in productive response to peer writing. There will be time to write, time to work one-on-one with the instructor, time to read and study examples of the best published writing, and time to have your own work responded to in a group setting. Participants will come away from the 5-day workshop/retreat with renewed inspiration, a refreshed sense of themselves as powerful storytellers, and a new set of craft tools in their writer’s toolboxes. 

Each writer in the group will be asked to submit a manuscript in advance of the workshop, to be shared with the other members of the group, whose responsibility it will be to read all fellow students’ work before the first day of the workshop.  Email to in Word, TXT or RTF format, please.  Please submit at least 2 weeks prior to the class date.




Gretchen Legler

Gretchen Legler is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Maine at Farmington, specializing in memoir writing, the personal essay, and nonfiction essays about the natural world. She has taught in the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage and in the Low Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University, and often offers community workshops on writing and the environment.

Her most recent book of nonfiction, On The Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station Antarctica (Milkweed Editions, 2005) won the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment’s award for best environmental creative writing, and was runner up for the Publishing Triangle Judy Grahn Award for lesbian nonfiction. The book is a collection of linked essays about Antarctica, where Gretchen spent six months as a fellow with the National Science Foundation’s Artists and Writers Program. Her creative nonfiction about Antarctica has also already appeared in such venues as Orion, The Women’s Review of Books, and The Georgia Review.

Work from her first collection of essays, All The Powerful Invisible Things: A Sportswoman’s Notebook (Seal Press, 1995), has won two Pushcart Prizes, and has been widely excerpted and anthologized in venues including Orion magazine, Uncommon Waters, Another Wilderness, Gifts of the Wild, Minnesota Seasons, A Different Angle, and more.

She is currently completing a booklength collection of essays about life in rural Maine, where she and her partner, musician Ruth Hill, farm goats, chickens and vegetables on an 80-acre plot of woods and pasture. She is also working on a nonfiction book about her experiences in Bhutan, India and Nepal where she recently spent 9 months as a Fulbright Scholar. An article of hers about Bhutan can be read in Orion magazine at:



Course Dates

Aug 21 to Aug 27



Class Size