Workshops & Classes

What Can You Learn from Mary Karr?

Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers

Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers talk about The Liars’ Club  

Liar's ClubBrooke Warner and I are offering the next installment of our New York Times best-selling memoir series starting next week, April 7, for four consecutive weeks.

This time we are teaching The Liars’ Club, by Mary Karr, and we will focus, as we always do in preparation for these courses, on how Karr uses craft and technique, and we’ll show you exactly how to implement these skill sets into your own writing.

Here are a few questions attendees of the free webinar last week posed that we thought might interest you.


What’s one of the most important things a writer can take away from studying Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club in depth?

Brooke: I see a lot of authors failing to slow down their writing—moving through scenes too quickly and not giving their readers enough sense of place and space. Mary Karr moves a quick pace at times, but then also slows way down, “showing” so effectively in her writing (as opposed to “telling”). Memoirists often get this feedback from readers that they are not showing enough, and so reading Mary Karr can help you understand exactly how to do this in your own writing.


Karr’s book was one of the early memoirs to reveal the “dysfunctional family.” Do you think this is still a relevant issue that writers need to learn about?

Linda Joy: Family dysfunction and trauma are evergreen topics. Many memoir writers we work with are writing about family issues that include loss, divorce, abuse, and mental illness—topics that are not generally welcomed by society and most families. The rule we hear—”don’t air your dirty laundry”—can slow down the process of revealing deep personal experiences for most writers, but Mary Karr shows us another way by putting it all out there. She uses humor, irony, and vivid descriptions to reveal the layers of her characters, who are close family members. Everyone’s family is unique, and each person has the blessings and the wounds from growing up in their family of origin. Your reader wants to know how you translated your experiences, and how you learned from them. When we teach these courses, we work to uncover the universal messages the authors are sharing, to showcase why a memoir like this would resonate with readers everywhere.


Karr’s book is complex in its construction, but what can we learn from seeing how she created a complex weaving of layers of her story and her family’s story?

The Liars’ Club has a complex structure, but what’s wonderful about it is that in its complexity, it shows writers of memoir how they have freedom to explore within their chosen structure. There is no one right way to write your book. Sometimes you need to just go with the flow; sometimes a rigid, formulaic structure makes the most sense. You won’t know till you’re in it, and feeling whether the container you’ve created is working, or whether your failure to create a container is hindering your progress. The structure of your memoir is something you must have a handle on in order to complete your book, but not to start it. Looking at Karr’s structure can help writers grasp the importance of scope. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself why a writer included what they included. Why did they start where they started, and end where they ended—even if you can’t know the reasons why. These questions inform your own writing process, and help you get a firmer handle on the scope of your own work.


What does Mary Karr do that every writer can learn to do better?

Karr paints vivid pictures using detailed descriptions. We open to a scene of chaos, where the doctor has been called and the sheriff is holding Mary’s sister. Mary’s nightgown had Texas bluebonnets “bunched into nosegays tied with ribbon.” The bed frame tilted against the wall with a “scary spidery look.” The character descriptions show the particulars, and drops the reader right into a time and a place with a clear depiction of who’s all there.  She begins the book with a scene that she is trying to understand, to unpack, as many memoir writers are trying to do, especially in a first draft. In every class we teach we touch upon the elements of scene, but to recap here, a scene takes place at a particular moment in time, and in a specific location. A good way to manage your scenes is ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where are you?
  • When does this scene take place?
  • What year is it, and how old are you?
  • Who else is in the scene?
  • What sensual details can bring your scene alive? Note sounds, smells, colors, and texture.
  • Why is everyone in this scene-what significant event is taking place?
  • What will the reader take away from this scene?
  • How does this scene relate to your overall theme?

Brooke Warner and Linda Joy MyersWe hope you’ll join us for our four-week course about Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club. We focus both on the craft of the writer, but also how understanding what they did will make your writing shine brighter.

Check out the syllabus, and remember, NAMW members always get a discount, so you can join us for these four weeks for just $75.




What Made Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club a New York Times Bestseller–Free Webinar

Mary Karr free

 Mary Karr free

Mary Karr’s The Liars’ Club is one of the classic memoirs that started the Memoir Revolution. This book is so engrossing that anyone who’s read it has the same reaction: I LOVED THAT BOOK! As a reader, you identify with her raucous, dangerous family.

Karr’s honest exploration of sex, guns, and alcohol pushes the boundaries of what we might think we’re allowed to write, giving the rest of us creative inspiration and permission around what’s possible for us with our own writing. Karr’s a trustworthy narrator of tragedy and trauma, sprinkling hope and compassion throughout—the perfect recipe for a compelling memoir.


Join Linda Joy Myers and Brooke Warner, co-authors of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir, for an in-depth conversation about Mary  Karr’s The Liars’ Club, and a discussion about what made this memoir become a favorite.

  • How Mary Karr handles trauma in The Liars’ Club and what you can learn from her.
  • How to use varied narrative/voice techniques to guide the reader through a complicated story and through to transformation.
  • How Mary Karr’s uses a circular structure to unpack her intense story, and how to choose what to tell and when.
  • Ways to bring your characters to life, and what we can learn about character development in The Liars’ Club.


Sign up here and receive a free recording of the teleseminar


Spring Memoir Workshop: Find Your Voice, Write Your Truth with Linda Joy Myers

linda-joy-myersSpring Memoir workshop dates

April 9, 16, 23, 30

May 7, 14, 21

June 4, 11

Time: 3 PM PST/6 PM EST

If you are writing a memoir you know what it takes to bring your history and the story of your life to the page. You have to excavate not only what happened, but who you were to reveal your inner truths. A memoir is a journey of meaning and understanding, woven together with facts, reflections, and a story that’s true, a story you have lived.

Of course, your story touches on the lives of others, and there’s the rub. The challenge is to find your own story even though woven in with all the other stories of family, friends, and community, and to be able to tell it fully, to claim your truths.

You have to wrestle with the voice that brings your story to life, the voice that reveals the personal and the universal truths that your readers will need to know. The more personal and detailed your story is, the more it will contain universal truths.

In this 9-week workshop, you will find the stories that you need to write by creating a “turning point list” of significant moments, locate them on a timeline, and write these moments that shaped you, moments that form the spine of the theme of your memoir during the class.

The workshop is small, 4-6 people, which allows intimate sharing during the teleclass that meets once a week. You send your work out to the group, but the group is private and your writing is held with confidentiality. The feedback offers what is working in your story, and supports you with the emotional content as well and giving feedback for how you can develop your story and move forward to the later stages of writing your book.

Vignettes and shorter works are welcome too. You don’t have to be writing a book to join this class. The focus is to get you writing and to support you on your journey. Many people who write a memoir find it transformational, and we welcome discussions about your inner life as you explore it through your memoir. My background as a therapist helps the group find insights to the stories that emerge, and I always approach the writing and the writer with compassion and encouragement to explore the stories that have never been told. We all know that the dreaded “inner critic” can get in the way! We work with how the inner critic stops you and we help you move forward.

To summarize: in this workshop you will
• Find the stories that have meaning to you
• Learn to write the scenes that bring your story to life
• Discover the fiction tools that are the secret to great story writing
• Receive the support and accountability to get at least one story a week written
• Find out how to weave narration, dialogue, and scenes to create a dynamic story
• Learn how to manage your inner critic
And much more

Please contact Linda Joy Myers if you are interested before making payment.

Non-Member Pricing – $420

Click here to purchase

If you are a member log in and then come back to this page to get a special discount.

Writing a Spiritual/Healing Memoir Workshop with Linda Joy Myers

Date: January 22, 2015 to March 26, 2015

Time: 3 PM PST/6 PM EST

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies. ~Shirley Abbott

In this workshop, we silence the noise of everyday life and dig into memories, tune into writing our stories, and learn the skills needed to write a satisfying memoir—to get all the way to “The End.”

It’s important to write freely without worrying about your inner critic or being published just yet—though that may be your ultimate goal. In order to get your memoir done, you need to feed your creative spirit, and have accountability to help get your stories on the page in a first draft.

The workshop:

  1. Send that week’s story to your classmates through email.
  2. Workshop members read and write feedback through email—reflecting on what works; offering feedback about what could be different or clarified.
  3. At class time, we gather by phone to talk about the stories—discussing what comes up as you write, your inner critic, doubts and dreams about your stories, and questions about structure. Find out in person on the call what you want to know from the group that will help you continue and develop your work.
  1. I guide the group, offer writing tips, and teach techniques that help you keep writing and learn how to grow as a writer.

This class is currently full. Fill out the form if you want to be notified of the next workshop.


Public Speaking for Writers and Other Introverts | Skills Memoir Writers Need

Betsy's PR Shot,_edited-1

Betsy's PR Shot,_edited-1Date: October 24, 2014
Time: 11 am PDT 12 pm MDT 1 pm CDT 2 pm EDT
Expert: Betsy Graziani Fasbinder
Topic: Public Speaking for Writers and Other Introverts: Simple Mindshifts to Raise Your Confidence and Gather Devoted Fans

We’re so pleased to offer this special webinar to help you break out of your shyness and learn to present your new memoir to the world in a professional and confident manner. The member webinar this month is Public Speaking for Writers and Other Introverts: Simple Mindshifts to Raise Your Confidence and Gather Devoted Fans with Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, an experienced author coach, writer, and prize winning author.

Writers are natural storytellers, of course. While they’re comfortable conveying their stories on the page, and often with other people in their familiar circles, the idea of getting up in front of a roomful of onlookers to talk about their story or themselves can feel daunting.

Authors spend a lot of time, energy, and money building their platforms for promoting their books, but they often forget about what the platform is there to support: themselves. Being able to speak comfortably to a listening audience whether it’s at a book launch, a reading, a media interview, or a networking event is perhaps the most crucial element of the writer’s platform.

This teleseminar is meant to help writers to learn a few mind-shifts and simple skills to instantly boost their confidence and increase their effectiveness when speaking in public—whether it’s to an audience of five or five hundred. Readers (and potential readers) come to book events to connect with authors. When they’re able to connect with you, these readers become not only buyers, but super-fans who help to sell your books.

Betsy helps clients to be at their at their natural and most comfortable best in front of an audience by helping them to see public speaking not as a “gift” but as a set of learnable skills and to develop confidence and presence.

In this webinar, you will:

• Gather five mental shifts to instantly boost your confidence about public speaking
• Acquire simple tips that can help you connect with listeners
• Gain skills that can help you to be at your natural best in formal presentations, book launches, media interviews, and casual encounters.

If you are a member, log-in to listen to the recording.


As a life-long writer, a psychotherapist for over two decades, and trainer of communications skills, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder’s professional life is about communicating ideas and matters of the heart with clarity and passion.

She coaches writers (and other introverts) to become dynamic, engaging public speakers, and has taught clients in Fortune 500 Companies, politicians, entertainers, business leaders, and authors internationally. Betsy’s debut novel, Fire & Water, published by She Writes Press, was released in 2013. It received a Silver Medal in the Wishing Shelf Book Award, an honorable mention in the New York and Los Angeles Book Festivals, and was released as an audiobook in 2014. Several of Betsy’s memoir pieces have been produced as Readers’ Theater in Nevada City, CA. Betsy lives in Marin County with her husband, and Edgar, her salt-and-pepper doodle.


Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.
Read More Testimonials

professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal 

...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful
Read More Testimonials