Skip to main content

Memoir Madness

The Art & Psychology of Writing Memoir

March 3rd – 5th, 2023

3 day live workshop | Offered Live via Zoom

Program Description

“I think many people need, even require, a narrative version of their life. I seem to be one of them. Writing memoir is, in some ways, a work of wholeness.”

–Sue Monk Kidd

“What I wrote were things that assailed me from within myself. I permitted the spirit that moved me to speak out. A book of mine is always a matter of fate. There is something unpredictable about the process of writing, and I cannot prescribe for myself any predetermined course.”

–C.G. Jung


Do you have a story that is insisting on being told, yet you’re wrestling with self-doubt or questions as to where and how to begin? Writing memoir is as much a psychological journey as it is an artistic process. There is no single path to follow, rather every memoirist seems to have to blaze their own trail in what many would agree, often evolves as a type of heroic journey of the soul.  While there seems to be some common mile markers along this path, each person’s journey is unique.

We invite you to spend a weekend with this incredible team of well-recognized memoirists as they share the backstories of their inner process of writing and offer insights and wisdom for navigating your own journey towards a published memoir.

This course is ideal if

  • You are interested in accessing the deeper levels of the psyche in your writing process
  • You are working on or thinking about writing a memoir and want creative approaches to work with your own life’s prima materia
  • You are struggling with a writing process that works and want to hear from successfully published memoirists about their individual and varied processes.

Course Overview

Kelly Carlin
The Fool’s Gold: Using Humor to find Your Humanity

A fundamental need of humans is to be seen and heard. And let’s get real, all of us were rendered mute and invisible in some way in our formative years.

Writing my memoir, “A Carlin Home Companion,” allowed me to tell the story of my life that I could never tell as I was living it. Having grown up as the daughter of a legendary comedian in a household where alcoholism, workaholism and co-dependence were rampant, feeling seen and heard in that exciting and chaotic milieu was, you could say, a wee bit challenging. My memoir tracks my struggle with finding my center and creative voice from my birth until my father’s death in 2008. By finally giving myself space to see and hear my own life experience through writing about it, I was healed in many ways.

But even though writing my memoir allowed me to finally be seen and heard, I knew that this could not be the sole driving force that fueled me. No one will write anything of weight and worth by fulfilling this archaic need alone.

Memoir writing may be therapeutic for the writer, but writing a memoir is not therapy. It must be something more if we want it to be able to land in the hearts of readers.

Memoir is certainly a chance to be seen and heard, but that healing only sticks if the written work allows the reader to be seen and heard too. They come to our tales to find themselves and so we must invite the reader into a safe space to live their story within our own.

Obviously learning to the craft of writing good story is an important element to writing a great memoir, but in order to do that we have to be willing to move beyond our unconscious ego’s desires that can show up as our victim stories, or an unconscious need to even a score, or to make ourselves a Teflon-coated hero.

I have found one of the most powerful stances you can take to move beyond these egoic narrative traps, is to discover and write from your inner Fool. When we are willing to make ourselves the “butt of the joke” – be willing to be vulnerable and make mistakes in front of everyone – we create a world where everyone belongs.

When I’m not able to laugh at myself and see my foolishness, I most certainly will still get the benefits of release, validation and pride from my writing process, but my audience won’t get as much as they could from reading it.

I fully admit that I tell my stories so that I’m not so alone in the world. I want to be seen and heard, but also I always want others to find themselves in my struggles, my victories and my humanness.

In the end, telling our stories with humor is a great act of community, both we and our readers will find our place in the human species.

But none of that can happen if we take ourselves too seriously.

Hendrika de Vries
Who is telling the Story? The Dance of the Two Selves in Writing a Memoir.

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.”

-Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch resistance fighter in WWII.

The decision to write a memoir is most often triggered by an internal or external catalyst long after the events you want to write about have taken place. At the same time the voice from the past struggles to be heard. My presentation will focus on the intricate partnership between these two voices, the self that remembers now and the self that experienced the events back then, in the crafting of a memoir.

For my reflections and writing exercises I will draw on the writing of my own award-winning memoir: When a Toy Dog became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, in which my younger self tells the story of the violence, hatred, oppression, and hunger she experienced as a little girl in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. I will show how the adult remembering self, with her current insights and information, was able to create a temenos, a safe space, in which traumatic recollections might find their authentic expression and deepen the story. My goal will be to share my discovery of the dynamic process in this unique artform, in which our past and present selves engage in an intimate dance that not only heals old wounds but brings the historical events into the present to be understood, transformed, and given meaning in the collective— a key to the future.

Maureen Murdock
Memoirists are Contemporary Mythmakers

In writing and telling our stories, we come to know the deeper pattern of our lives. Perhaps the popularity of memoirs in our culture today reflects the desire to find meaning in the mystery of our lives and to understand our unconscious choices, actions, and dreams. Memoirs help us find meaning by showing us how our lives fit into a larger mythic pattern. When a writer recounts a memory about herself, she is talking about all of us to some degree. The essence of memoir is to participate in the writer’s struggle to achieve some understanding of the events, traumas, and triumphs of her personal recollection. Although not every memoir reflects a mythic theme, most memoir writers unconsciously reveal mythic themes and patterns in their desire to find meaning in their lives. Memoirists are our contemporary mythmakers.

Memoirists are Contemporary Mythmakers combines excerpts from published memoirs to probe questions proposed by the domains of myth articulated by Joseph Campbell: Who am I? What is my Tribe? What is My Journey? What is My Purpose? We’ll read excerpts by published memoirists such as Joan Didion, James McBride, Honor Moore and Cheryl Strayed and do in-class writing exercises.

Dennis Patrick Slattery, Ph.D.
Memoir Writing and the Myth-Making Process

“Outward circumstances are no substitute for inner experiences.” C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

Memories cannot be quantified; their travel is deeper, into life’s essential qualities as I see, shape, and serve them beyond the memoir but still inside the mystery of remembering, itself. A memoir conducts and companions a living myth, with as much amplitude as one’s apprehension makes possible and as far as one’s mythopoetic capacities can develop it. My presentation will explore the rich crossroads between myth, memory and the creation of an identity, all within the vessel of imaginal remembrance. I will refer to my own memoir, A Pilgrimage Beyond Belief, a revision of an earlier version, Grace in the Desert: Awakening to the Gifts of Monastic Life. Memoir writing includes witnessing to a form of awakening, of becoming conscious on levels of awareness that story-telling activates. Through my recollections of creating this memoir, I hope to recreate the passion and the purpose for writing it and the conditions that engendered its birth.

Juan Thompson
So you want to write the story of your life?: Lessons I learned while writing a memoir

In this presentation, Juan Thompson will talk about some of the most important lessons he learned while writing his memoir about his father, Hunter S. Thompson. These lessons include learning to answer the question, “Why am I writing this book, and who I am writing it for?”; coming to understand that memory is deeply unreliable, especially those memories that act as the foundation of our identity; coming to understand that writing and publishing a book will almost certainly not change your life; and the uncomfortable fact that while the dead cannot be hurt by your words, you can cause a lot of harm to those still living. The presentation will include a few brief readings, in addition to time for Q&A.


Friday, March 3rd

5:00 – 7:00 PM  Opening Panel discussion with all presenters

Saturday, March 4th

9:00 – 10:30 AM  Session I: Memoir Writing and the Myth-Making Process with Dennis Patrick Slattery

10:45 – 12:15  Session II: Memoirists are Contemporary Myth Makers with Maureen Murdock

12:15 – 1:45 PM  Lunch Break

1:45 – 3:15 PM  Session III: Who Is Telling the Story? The Dance of the Two Selves in Writing Memoir with Hendrika de Vries

3:30 – 5:00 PM  Session IV: The Fool’s Gold: Using Humor to Find Your Humanity with Kelly Carlin

Sunday, March 5th

10:00 – 11:30 AM  Session V: So You Want to Write the Story of Your Life? Lessons I Learned While Writing a Memoir with Juan Thompson

11:30 – 12:30  Closing Community Session

Program Details


March 3rd – 5th, 2023



  • $225.00 Pacifica Student Rate
  • $275.00 Pacifica Alumni, Full Time Students & Senior Rate
  • $325.00 General Rate

The Zoom link will be the same for the whole weekend, and will be sent out prior to the event. For those unable to attend live, the presentations will be recorded and will be available to view for 90 days after the event.

About the Teachers

Kelly CarlinKelly Carlin is an Emmy award winning television producer, author, storyteller, podcaster, entrepreneur, with a masters in Jungian Psychology (Pacifica Graduate Institute). Through her comedic and soulful storytelling in both her solo show and best-selling memoir, “A Carlin Home Companion: Growing up with George,” (St. Martin’s Press), she revealed how being the “daughter of” shaped her heart, mind and creativity. Kelly’s devotion to empowering others through personal transformation manifests in her coaching program Women on the Verge which invites women to courageously step into their next chapter. In 2022, she executive produced the two-part HBO Documentary, “George Carlin’s American Dream,” (directed by Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio), which won the Emmy for Best Documentary Special. Her work on the Industry Advisory Board for the multi-award winning National Comedy Center, where her father’s archives live, allows her to amplify the NCC’s mission to tell the story of comedy to the world. Her monthly SiriusXM show, “The Kelly Carlin Show,” dives into the lives and craft of comedy legends and rising starts. She is currently developing a new memoir and a podcast about the power of being able to laugh at ourselves to heal ourselves and the world. She’s always tending to her father’s legacy, and expanding her reach with her teaching so that she can serve more people who are looking for the courage to live their true north.

Hendrika de Vries is a retired therapist, a teacher and writer. A child in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam; a teenage immigrant, champion swimmer, young wife and mother in Australia, she landed in America in the turbulent 1960s, where she began her studies in theology and depth-psychology. As a family therapist the focus of her life’s work has been to facilitate the healing of trauma, life transitions and the empowerment of women. As an adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute she helped students explore and transform the archetypal patterns in their life stories. She is the author of When a Toy Dog Became a Wolf and the Moon Broke Curfew, an award-winning memoir about survival, feminine heroism, a mother-daughter bond, and a father’s gift of imagination in a dark violent time. It won numerous awards, including the 2019 Sarton Women’s Book Award, and was written up by the US Review of Books as “a welcome addition” to the group of such powerful personal WWII narratives as The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and Night by Elie Wiesel.

Maureen Murdock, Ph.D. is the author of the best-selling book, The Heroine’s Journey, which explores the rich territory of the feminine psyche. This groundbreaking book, her response to Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, has been translated into 17 languages, including Farsi, and Shambhala Publications has issued a 30th Year Anniversary edition with a Forward by Christine Downing. She was Chair and Core Faculty of the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute and teaches memoir with Jennifer Selig in Pacifica’s program “Writing Down the Soul”. Murdock is also author of Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory; Fathers’ Daughters: Breaking the Ties that Bind; Spinning Inward: Using Guided Imagery with Children; and The Heroine’s Journey Workbook. She started teaching memoir writing in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program in 1990 and edited an anthology by her students entitled Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life. Her book, Memoirists are Contemporary Mythmakers will be published by Shambhala in 2023. Murdock volunteers for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) with inmates at Lompoc Federal Prison. www.maureenmurdock.com.

Dennis Patrick Slattery Ph.D., has been teaching for more than 54 years, the last 27 of which have been in the Mythological Studies Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, where he is currently Distinguished Professor Emeritus. He is also a Core Faculty Member at the Jung Platform since 2017. He is the author, co-author, editor or co-editor of 30 volumes, including 7 volumes of poetry and one novel co-authored with Charles Asher. His most recent titles include the award winning Deep Creativity: Seven Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit, co-authored with Deborah Anne Quibell and Jennifer Leigh Selig, and The Way of Myth: Stories’ Subtle Wisdom. In addition, he has written over 200 articles, book reviews and Op-Ed pieces. He has offered Writing Retreats on C.G. Jung’s The Red Book as well as on “Writing One’s Personal Myth” through the works of Joseph Campbell and other writers. For three years he taught student inmates in a California prison using Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. He has been taking painting classes in water color and acrylics for the past 12 years. www.dennispatrickslattery.com

Juan Thompson wrote “Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson”, published by Knopf in 2016. He grew up in Colorado, where he went to school, raised a family and had a career in Information Technology. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky, a city where his father grew up and then fled at age 17, never to return.

General Information


Hosted Online


Cancellations 14 days or more prior to the program start date receive a 100% refund of program registrations. After 14 days, up to 7 days prior to the program start date, a 50% refund is available. For cancellations made less than 7 days of program start date, no refund is available.

For additional information, including travel, cancellation policy, and disability services, please visit our general information section.

Registration Details

March 3rd – 5th, 2023

Number of Presenters: 5 Presenters
Class Length: 3 Days.

This is a previous event listing

805.969.3626 | retreat@pacifica.edu

The Zoom link will be the same for the whole weekend, and will be sent out prior to the event. For those unable to attend live, the presentations will be recorded and will be available to view for 90 days after the event.