Anna Derrig Memoir & Life Writing


‘There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.’

Maya Angelou

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Memoir and life writing courses and consultancy

We all have a story to tell. I can teach you how to write it.

My name is Anna Derrig. I teach my memoir and life writing courses at Goldsmiths University of London and privately.

I have spoken on BBC Radio 4 – Four Thought, Other People’s Stories and The Digital Human and at international conferences about my PhD topic and book proposal: ethics, consent and life writing.

Information about upcoming courses at Goldsmiths is below.

To contact me about private courses and consultancy, please email

About my courses

Memoirs enable us to examine and articulate the memorable moments and events of our lives. Through writing and constructive feedback, in my courses we explore how to give form and shape to your major stories and turning points.

The writing of your story can be cathartic, joyful or simply words well-written for public or personal benefit. Through inspiring and engaging workshops, we will explore how you can write your untold stories. You’ll learn more about yourself while practising the creative techniques of fiction to frame your life story – from structure to voice and dialogue.

We will also discuss how to write about others ethically, ideally with the consent of your subject(s). You’ll hear about the latest trends in memoir publishing and study contemporary writers such as Sigrid Rausing, Terese Marie Mailhot and Karl Ove Knausgaard. You will also learn how to read as a writer and to give and receive constructive criticism. You will be writing and reading between classes, when you will receive feedback from the tutor and the group.

In small supportive sessions, we form a tight-knit group, exploring the nuances of life writing as a genre, examining the ethical implications, and gaining an understanding of the contemporary field.

Course Structure

Typically, my memoir and life writing course runs one full day each week for four consecutive weeks.

While this may change in future, the following course structure has served well for most people who have taken the course.

Week 1 - Introductions

In our first workshop we’ll begin by getting to know the group, outlining the structure of the course and the expectations. We’ll explore learning to listen actively, how to build your confidence, as well how to access your imagination. We will also discuss the reading listing and how you can read like a writer.

Week 2 - Creative styles - writing and re-writing. Life writing and ethics

This week will examine different creative styles. There will be student readings and feedback (for this and the next two weeks), a writing exercise and we’ll focus on the skill of writing as re-writing. We will also explore life writing as a genre with its particular ethical implications.

Week 3 - Structure, voice and voices. Point of view.

We will look at recently published books and how contemporary authors frame their stories. We will explore your voice and other voices , using writing exercises to practice  different points of view.

Week 4 - Memory, truth and recall. Life mapping.

In our final session, we’ll explore the lines between memoir and fiction – asking to what extent we can fictionalise a story without losing the essence of memoir. We will also reflect on our own lives through a life mapping exercise, as well as questioning the pros and cons of publishing and looking at the contemporary market for memoirs.

What you’ll learn

We will form a strong group bond in which our individual writing can flourish. Group participation provides an atmosphere in which listening to and learning from others is integral. Within this mutually-supportive writing community, anything shared within the group is confidential. We’ll explore how to give non-judgmental, analytical feedback on the writing, not the writer.

We’ll use a variety of techniques to get you started: writing exercises, group feedback, group and pair work, informal discussions, lecture-led discussion, reading lists, whiteboard and powerpoint activities and online resources, where appropriate.

The course is adapted each term to meet your diverse needs as writers. You’ll come away with writing to work on for yourself, whether you want to build a portfolio for further study, enter competitions, or develop ideas as a foundation for a short or longer memoir.


Why Study this Course?

Learn more about memoir and life writing as a genre, including the current trends within the field

Become part of a vibrant and diverse community of writers

Understand how to read like a writer and write like you’ve never written before

Develop your self-awareness and self-evaluation as a writer, through listening to and giving constructive feedback on writing

Find out more about publishing and trends in creative nonfiction

Develop your awareness and critical understanding of the ethical issues surrounding memoir and life writing

Consolidate your learning with peer feedback on your and others’ writing

At the end of this course you will have:

Increased confidence in and understanding of yourself as a writer

A piece of writing you can work on for your memoir and to apply for competitions, other courses and for personal satisfaction

The ability to practice a range of life writing skills and styles, as well as feedback on your writing from a range of viewpoints

An awareness of the pitfalls and opportunities of an ethical approach

Knowledge of contemporary memoirs, current life writing trends and the changing nature of life writing

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Goldsmiths courses

Please note that my short courses listed below are held at Goldsmiths and sell out quickly, so early booking is advisable. Please also note that Goldsmiths is solely responsible for the administration of these courses, collection of fees, and everything else to do with the time, place, cost, and so on. I (Anna) am responsible for the content and the in-class experience but not the administration.

Upcoming Goldsmiths course dates

Please note that the dates and times are subject to change. Enrolment and course administration are the sole responsibility of Goldsmiths, who have provided this information.

Starting date, Saturday 16 Nov 2019

10-4pm on Saturday | 4 weeks

Starting date, Saturday 22 Feb 2020

10-4pm on Saturday | 4 weeks

Starting date, Saturday 23 May 2020

10-4pm on Saturday | 4 weeks


If you have any questions about the administration (registration, payment, fees, venue, etc.) of these courses please contact If you have questions about the content, please contact me,

Support for students with disabilities (Information provided by Goldsmiths)

Goldsmiths is committed to providing reasonable teaching adjustments for students with disabilities that may impact on their learning experience. Please be advised that in order to provide an assessment and plan appropriate support they require as much notice as possible and, in some circumstances, up to 3 months. If you are planning to book, or have already booked, onto a short course please contact Goldsmiths Disability Team ( at your earliest convenience.

Please note: I regret that I (Anna) am not able to make adjustments to the teaching space and facilities. Accessibility arrangements can only be made by and through Goldsmiths.


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Telling your story

To help you write your story, I can offer a number of options.
There is information above for my teaching at Goldsmiths. (Information subject to change at the discretion of Goldsmiths).

Contact me directly about private sessions, writing courses, speaking engagements, and consultations on the ethics of memoir and life writing. There is a contact form on this website, or you can email


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Dr Anna Derrig

I am a writer, tutor and researcher working in the evolving field of ethics and contemporary life writing on and offline.

I completed my PhD at Goldsmiths in memoir, with a critical commentary on life writing and ethics, in the Department of English and Comparative Literature supervised by Professor Blake Morrison and Professor Francis Spufford.

Mine is the first UK course of its kind with a close examination of life writing ethics and consent, so this is a unique opportunity. I have spoken at international conferences and on BBC Radio 4 – Four Thought, Other People’s Stories and The Digital Human (additional BBC research: about this topic and will be publishing a book on creative nonfiction, consent and ethics.

I have also taught creative and life writing for undergraduates with Professor Adam Mars Jones and continue to teach research ethics for PhD students. My creative nonfiction has been published by Penguin and Virago and my journalism in major outlets on and offline.  

If you have any questions about these courses please get in touch with me at



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My work

Academic qualifications

  • PhD Creative and Life writing (Goldsmiths)

  • Fellow of the Higher Education Authority

  • Postgraduate certificate in learning and management in higher education (Goldsmiths)

  • Academic Practice Award (Goldsmiths)

  • MA Journalism (Westminster University)

  • MA Social Policy (Brunel University)

  • Postgraduate social work qualification (Brunel University - CQSW)

  • BA (hons) in Social Administration (University of Nottingham)

Current teaching

Short courses on ethics, memoir and life writing. Research ethics for doctoral candidates and other postgraduates since 2012.  

Professional activities

Previous employment as: a journalist, PR/media manager, access consultant, social and community worker.

  • Published in Penguin, Virago and Gold Room anthologies.

  • Journalism in national and international online/print news and feature outlets.

  • Shortlist: Press Gazette online student journalist of the year.

  • Longlist: Mslexia memoir competition. (2014)

Special Mention: Life Writing Prize Goldsmiths and Spread The Word. (2017)

Featured presentations

Truth, Empathy and Ethics roundtable. NonfictioNOW. University of Iceland. (2017)

Negotiated Truths seminar presenter. Open University’s Contemporary Cultures of Writing Research Group in partnership with the Institute of English Studies. Senate House. (2016)

Copyright and the Future of Digital Creativity panel. CREATe Festival, RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) London. (2016)

Personal and Public Lives panel paper on Shame. Excavating Lives, IABA (International AutoBiography Association) conference. University of Cyprus. (2016)

Life Writing and/as Empathy paper. Symposium on Narrative emotions. University of Navarra, Spain. (2015)

Consent and creative non-fiction conference: creativity panel. Goldsmiths. (2015)

Critical: Literary criticism conference. Consent and life writing paper. University of East Anglia, London. (2012)

Ethics and life writing paper. Postgraduate education conference. Goldsmiths. (2012)

Short courses on ethics, memoir and life writing. Research ethics for doctoral candidates and other postgraduates since 2012.  


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Anna has this amazing ability to offer students insight to the greater implications of writing and to provide us with knowledge which can be applied far beyond the classroom - knowledge which may very well allow for the rewiring of your view of the past and thus the rewriting of your future. Her passion for her subject matter is evident and her sincere and captivating teaching style makes it inevitable that this passion is then transferred onto you and reflected in your work.
— Nazia, creative and life writing student
Writing about the living or recently dead raises some tricky issues: how will family and friends be affected? how much honesty can you get away with? whose life is it anyway? This course provides an ideal space to think about such questions.
— Blake Morrison, Author and Convenor of MA Life Writing at Goldsmiths
I cannot recommend Anna highly enough. I have been an English teacher for more than a decade and know the challenges of teaching creative writing, but Anna is an assured and engaging tutor who managed to give the teaching time meaningful form, without ever overwhelming us with theory.

Part of the course is a very interesting session on ethics in memoir, which I understand is Anna’s PhD area, and whilst I didn’t think I would be especially interested in this as a topic, Anna made it fascinating. She balanced this with making sure that each member of the group had adequate time to present our work and receive feedback from both her and others, keeping in mind our own goals and aims when giving her feedback.

I found her feedback on how to experiment with the tense and voice in my work especially useful. I also really appreciate Anna’s skill in giving tailored advice and feedback to all members of the group, even though we all had varying levels of confidence and experience.

The example that she set of constructive and thoughtful feedback meant that everyone felt comfortable to share their opinions and ideas and this fostered a real sense of community within the group. After only four weeks of knowing my fellow life writers, I know that I am going to remain friends with them for a long time!

The course itself was brilliant and I felt that it represented good value for money as there ended up being over 24hrs of contact time over the four weeks. I signed up because I have been writing a memoir over several years which has remained unfinished and had recently considered going back into studying myself in order to complete it. I completed an English Literature and Creative Writing degree over a decade ago, but hadn’t properly tried to write for a long time.

This course was my dipping my toe back into the water of writing properly after many years off and it was so much fun, and both helped my confidence and really inspired me. Now that I have started writing again, I can’t stop!
— Laura, short course student
“Anna made us all feel safe - a space created where anything was possible and feelings and memories sharpened into beauty.
Her encouragement lit a blaze of hope and ambition in me.
— Kamini, short course student
I was recently a student of Anna’s Life Writing and Memoir course at Goldsmiths University. I cannot begin to tell you how much she has helped me understand not only the genre, but also how to structure, use dialog and most important of all, given me confidence. Anna gave me professionally direct and honest feedback that’s so hard to come by from family and friends and it has made all the difference.
This lady knows her onions...
— Mike Browne, short course student
Anna was the instructor for our memoir writing group at Goldsmiths. Her feedback was insightful, constructive and encouraging. We had a very diverse group of people with varying degrees of ability - ranging from professional journalists to complete beginners such as myself - and Anna was able to pinpoint and encourage each individual’s strengths and provide guidance for improvements.
She created a safe environment in which to share deeply personal information - I felt she was paying attention to not just the writing and the writer, but the person as a whole. It was a wonderful course, I only wished it were longer.
— Lorelei, short course student


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