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Memoir – one day workshop at Fermanagh

Yesterday, I was privileged to facilitate a memoir workshop for writers in Fermanagh and Omagh. It was a glorious day, and the hour and a half drive was pleasant, and hassle-free.

Fermanagh House, Enniskillen

Thirteen people signed up with a balance of men and women from two writing groups. We worked in the Boardroom of Fermanagh House, and I used a PowerPoint presentation (which I will send to the writers) and a flip chart. An afternoon break was built into the session with coffee or tea and a scone eaten in a well-lit and comfortable lounge area. Everyone had the chance to speak with strangers and affirm friendships. A pleasant place to work, with a helpful caretaker who made sure I had what I needed.

The workshop was arranged a few months ago, and because I knew experienced writers would be attending, I developed a four hour session with their skills in mind. Prior to the course, I asked the attendees to bring with them a photograph and a small object. With the first writing exercise, I knew I had tailored the session right, as everyone began writing from the prompt. No confusion, or puzzled frowns, or hesitation. It was gratifying to watch enthusiastic and dedicated writers fully engaged in the process. And it was an enormous pleasure to listen to their memoirs, and share in the emotion they generated.

This is what memoir is about. Emotion. For me the criteria for a great memoir is the ability to convey the emotions stirred by the memory so that I, as the reader, can identify with them from my own experiences. Thus the terms of reference may be different but the emotions are familiar. In our lifetimes, we have experienced similar feelings and can empathise with the situation on the page.

The second important element of a great memoir is honesty. It takes courage to expose one’s vulnerabilities to others, but the writers are well on their way to achieving this in the pieces they wrote. We aimed for approximately 100 words for each memoir, and the six or seven pieces produced from each writer are ripe for development.

During the day, I shared a couple of my memoirs. Far from my hometown both in distance and years, it was a pleasure to talk to a man who remembered the place and places of my youth, and we exchanged memories.

I am looking forward to reading the finished stories which I hope they will put together in an anthology.

Thank you Fermanagh Writers for organising a fantastic day.




Published inCultural LifeWriting


  1. Well done Lynda. Sounds like you had a fabulous day. I remember my first memoir course with you and the wonderful and not so wonderful memories it brought up. Delighted to see you taking your teaching talents further a field. I think everyone can benefit from your course.


    • Lynda Kirby Lynda Kirby

      Yes, Amanda. I remember that course too and it generated great memories and an anthology. A wonderful group of people sharing themselves.

  2. Great post, Lynda, and congratulations on what was clearly a great workshop.

    • Lynda Kirby Lynda Kirby

      I am looking forward to running more but none on the agenda yet. Currently facilitating a writing and editing course. Week 6 and the finish is coming up. It has been enlightening too.

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