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Luis Alberto Urrea

When I Paint My Masterpiece: Creative Approaches to Writing Your Memoir 

Luis Alberto Urrea, photo by Joe Mazza
Luis Alberto Urrea, photo by Joe Mazza
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It might be of interest to you that my most successful novel was actually a memoir with a fresh paint job. Sometimes that is all you need: a different style, an unexpected technique. Are you an impressionist? A realist? A romantic? A surrealist? Just as each life is unique, every memoir is its own masterpiece. In this generative workshop, we will explore the territories within you and look for unexpected pathways to help you express what you hold inside.

Remember, your body can tell a story as well as your memories. On the first day, we will look at the map of the big river, which is the life you have led, and find the story only you can tell. Each day will include a discussion of craft, followed by workshopping your memoir submissions. In the months before we meet, you will be asked to submit an excerpt of your work (five to ten double-spaced pages max) and read the submissions of your classmates in preparation for the workshop.


  • This is an all-levels workshop.
  • Please submit a cover letter that states your interest in this workshop and gives an overview of your prior workshop experience, if any.
  • The cost is $675. If you are selected to participate in the workshop, a deposit of $300 is required to register, with the balance due by September 30.
  • If you are accepted into a workshop and would like to attend some of the Seminar, a space will be available to you at a reduced price of $300 (you will be notified of this option upon acceptance into the program). The Seminar runs from January 12 – 15.
  • Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and/or to apply for a Workshop Fellowship Award.
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.



A Pulitzer Prize finalist, Luis Alberto Urrea is the bestselling author of seventeen books and is a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame. His latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, was named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, the American Library Association, Newsday, Kirkus Reviews, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others.

He is a Guggenheim fellow and the recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Literature award. His collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 novel, was selected as a National Endowment of the Arts Big Read and has been chosen by more than fifty cities and colleges as a community read. Urrea’s nonfiction book, The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the Kiriyama Prize and won the Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction. His next novel, Goodnight, Irene, will be released in May 2023 by Little, Brown and Company.