This workshop was already conducted. (Click for upcoming workshops)

Paul Lisicky

On Urgency: A Memoir Workshop

Paul Lisicky, photo by Jude Theriot
Paul Lisicky, photo by Jude Theriot
See all 2025 Workshops


What does it mean to write memoir at this particular point in time? How do we write out of our own personal urgency while also asking questions about community, care, survival, and power, given all that is wrong with the world and all we’d like to make better? How does it feel to be alive right now? We’ll think about those questions alongside all the elements of craft: voice, structure, aboutness, sonics, description, polarity, openings, and closings.

This is a critique-based workshop in which you will be required to read and critique your classmates’ work before we meet as a group. We’ll workshop three manuscripts a day, in addition to leaving time for discussion of a few brief examples of published work, which we’ll use as the basis for in-class prompts. Along the way, we’ll work hard, look after each other, and make sure that play and seriousness share the same space.

You will be asked to submit a draft of a chapter, excerpt, or fully contained piece of five to ten double-spaced pages (2,500 words max) in advance of 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, you have the option of attending the Keynote on Thursday, January 11, at a reduced price of $150 (we will send you a link upon confirmation). Alternately, you may purchase a ticket to attend the Seminar in full, as it runs after the workshops (January 11 – 14).
  • 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. (Do not submit a regular application if you are requesting financial aid.)
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.



Paul Lisicky is author of the memoirs Later: My Life at the Edge of the World (one of NPR’s best books of 2020); The Narrow Door (a New York Times Editors’ Choice and a Finalist for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction)and Famous Builder (finalist for a Lambda Literary Award). His other books include Unbuilt Projects, The Burning House, and Lawnboy. His next book, The Sky in It: A Life with Joni Mitchell, is forthcoming in 2024.

His work has appeared in the Atlantic, BuzzFeed, Conjunctions, FenceNew York Times, Ploughshares, Tin House, the Cut, and others. He has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Copernicus Society of America, and the Fine Arts Work Center, where he has served on the Writing Committee since 2000. He has taught in creative writing programs at Cornell University, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Texas at Austin, and elsewhere.

Lisicky is currently a professor of English in the MFA program at Rutgers University-Camden, where he is editor of the journal StoryQuarterly. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.