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Writing Down The Soul 2020

Writing Down the Soul: A 9-Month Certificate in Memoir Writing

Mar. 25 – 27 | Dec. 3 – 4 | June 29 – July 3

Ongoing Course | at Pacifica Graduate Institute's Ladera Lane Campus

Program Description

Writing Down the Soul

With Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Leigh Selig

This program welcomes participants who:

  • Have always wanted to write a full-length memoir or try their hand at shorter personal reflections
  • Have already written memoir pieces and want to bring a depth perspective to their writing
  • Have a desire to cultivate a sense of archetypal and mythic consciousness in their writing
  • Wish to honor a soul-filled perspective towards creative imagination
  • Desire the structure and support a thoughtful writing community can offer

Writing Down the Soul breathed beauty and life into my writing. It was a deeply rewarding experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the desire to write, deepen their connection with others and make meaning of their own lives.”
— Ruth Salmon

Featured in The Writer Magazine 

Opening Residential Weekend with Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Leigh Selig (Conducted live via Zoom)

Memoir’s particular appeal lies not only in its truth-telling but in the effort the writer makes to reveal herself. Mary Karr writes, “A psychological self-awareness and faith in the power of truth gives you the courage to reveal whatever you unearth, whether you come out looking vain, or conniving or hateful or not.” The essence of a great memoir is the voice of the writer and how she brings the reader into a scene with sensory details. The memoir has to deliver vivid characters, evocative settings, and pitch-perfect dialogue for the reader to remain interested. This opening residential aims to help you uncover your truth, develop insight into the larger themes of your story, and cast yourself as a compelling character. We’ll read excerpts by published memoirists such as Mary Karr, Abigail Thomas, Brando Skyhorse, and Myra Shapiro as examples of character development, dialogue, and structure, and we’ll spend some time with writing exercises each day. Participants will have an opportunity to come to know their fellow classmates, including the three they will be partnered with for feedback groups during the online writing modules.

Online Format Description (Conducted asynchronously via Pacifica’s online learning management system)

The online portion of the certificate program, facilitated by Jennifer Leigh Selig, takes place over eight months, each covering a distinct theme in memoir writing. The month begins with select readings on the theme (typically 60-75 pages), accompanied by a video presentation and an online discussion. In the middle of each month, participants have the option of joining a live Zoom discussion of a recommended “memoir of the month” to study issues of craft and content. Each month ends with the posting of 2-4 pages of memoir writing by participants for small group and faculty feedback. Participants may choose to submit pages of an ongoing memoir in the process or may produce new material in response to suggested writing prompts.

While there are due dates for each of the components, participants can work at their own pace and partake in discussions and offer feedback at their convenience.

Online Topics:

  1. “Making Sense of the Senseless,” and Other Reasons We Write (and Read) Memoirs
  2. Anatomy of a Memoir: Story as Flesh, Structure as Bones  
  3. To Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth(?)
  4. Whose Story Is It? Writing Sensitively About Others in Our Lives
  5. Memory Matters: Imaginal Remembering and Other Depth Psychological Approaches to Embodying and Enlivening Our Memories
  6. “Psyche Equals Voice,” Or How to Write Pages That Sing With Soul
  7. The Power of Metaphor and the Potential of Key Images
  8. The Path of Personal Transformation: The Alchemy of Memoir Writing

Required Books:

  • Barrington, J. (2002). Writing the memoir: From truth to art (2nd). Portland, OR: Eighth Mountain Press.
  • DeSalvo, L. (2000). Writing as a way of healing: How telling our stories transforms our lives. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Karr, M. (2015). The art of memoir. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
  • Kephart, B. (2013). Handling the truth: On the writing of memoir. New York, NY: Avery.
  • Maran, M. (Ed.) (2016). Why we write about ourselves: Twenty memoirists on why they expose themselves (and others) in the name of literature. New York, NY: Plume.
  • Murdock, M. (2003). Unreliable truth: On memoir and memory. New York, NY: Seal Press.
  • Quibell, D. A., Selig, J. L. & Slattery, D. P. (2019). Deep creativity: Seven ways to spark your creative spirit. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications.


Closing Residential Weekend with Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Leigh Selig (Conducted live via Zoom)

After nine months of intensive memoir writing, it’s time to give birth! Participants will celebrate their labors as a community with Maureen and Jennifer as midwives. On Saturday, December 3rd, everyone will be encouraged to read aloud from self-selected pages of their memoir writing, with Maureen offering feedback on the pages and the presentation. On Sunday, December 4th, Jennifer will lead the group in taking a backward glance, discussing the insights we experienced and the inroads we made on our individuation journeys vis-à-vis writing our memoirs. We’ll look into the future as well, and discuss venues for publishing memoir essays and full-length books, including mainstream, small press, and self-publishing options. Participants will be invited to submit a piece of their writing for a compilation yearbook commemorating the course.

Optional Residential Writing Retreat

During this optional retreat, participants will gather in community with Jennifer, who will draw from her 33 years of teaching both writing and depth psychology and offer presentations to inspire both craft and calling. There will be time for writing, for revising, and for workshopping memoir pages on the peaceful Ladera Lane campus. Alumni from the Writing Down the Soul program starting with the class of 2017 are also invited to attend, making this writing retreat a rich opportunity to meet other memoirists and learn from their journeys. Alumni will participate in panel discussions, present their own workshops, and offer mentoring to the class of 2022.

Program Testimonials

“Thanks for this course. I dreamed about it, a little afraid it would disappoint. It’s even more wonderful than I thought possible. I am profoundly grateful.”

~Shirley Munoz

“Jennifer Selig and Maureen Murdock have masterfully crafted a memoir course. As true professionals, ardent teachers, and skilled writers they braid the essential elements of memoir— technique, structure and voice—into a deeply resonant experience of one’s soul. Taking this course was a stellar gift to my writerly self.”

~Dr. Christine Flaherty

Program Details

Opening Weekend – Online (required)
March 25-27, 2022

  • Friday: 5:00pm-7:00pm;
  • Saturday: 9:00am-12:00pm, 2:00pm-5:00pm;
  • Sunday: 9:00am-12:00pm

Closing Session – Online (required)
December 3-4, 2022

  • Saturday, December 3: 9:00am-12:00pm, 1:30pm-5:00pm
  • Sunday, December 4: 9:00am-12:00pm

Residential Writing Retreat (optional)
June 29-July 3, 2022

  • Wednesday: 12:00pm – Sunday, 12:00pm

Location: Pacifica’s Ladera Lane Campus
NOTE: Participants who have travel considerations may make arrangements to leave early
All Sessions are Pacific Time


  • $1,295 Pacifica Student Rate
  • $1,495 Pacifica Alumni, Full Time Students, & Senior Rate
  • $1,795 General Rate
  • $525 Summer Residential (Optional)

Summer Residential fees include meals: Wednesday lunch through Sunday lunch.

Featured Presenters

maureen-murdockMaureen 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 has been translated into 15 languages, including Farsi and Turkish, and has been chosen as a Luminary book club edition. A documentary entitled “The Heroine’s Journey” is being made about the impact of her work on Australian women. She was Chair and Core Faculty of the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute and teaches memoir in Pacifica’s program “Writing Down the Soul.” She taught memoir writing in the UCLA Extension Writers Program for 30 years and was named Outstanding Creative Writing Teacher of the Year in 1995. 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 is the editor of an anthology entitled Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life and has published a memoir, Blinded by Hope, under a pseudonym. Murdock volunteers for the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) with inmates at Lompoc Federal Prison. You can find her blog about mental illness, addiction, and the criminal justice system on her website

Jennifer Leigh Selig, Ph.D., has been in the classroom as either a student or a teacher (and often both at the same time) ever since she was five years old. She is the editor and author of over a dozen books, including Reimagining Education: Essays on Reviving the Soul of Learning (2009/2019); Re-Ensouling Education: Essays on the Importance of the Humanites in Schooling the Soul (2012/2019); Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy With the Soul of America (2012); A Tribute to James Hillman: Reflections on a Renegade Psychologist (2014) and Everyday Reverence: A Hundred Ways to Kneel and Kiss the Ground (2019). Her co-authored book, Deep Creativity: 7 Ways to Awaken Your Artistic Spirit (Shambhala Books) co-written with Deborah Anne Quibell and Dennis Patrick Slattery, contains many of her memoir pieces, and won the gold medal in the Nautilus Award as the best book of 2019 in the category of Creativity and Innovation. An interview with Jennifer on Writing Down the Soul was featured in The Writer magazine.

General Information

Opening Weekend and Closing Sessions are hosted Online and the optional Residential Writing Retreat is located at Pacifica’s Ladera Lane Campus.

Overnight housing is available for the Residential Writing Retreat at Pacifica’s Ladera Lane Campus.  Reservations  can be made online at the time of registration, or by contacting

It is the Institute’s goal is to make facilities, programs, and experiences accessible to all members of the community. The Institute works individually with those who are disabled to determine how individual needs can best be met.  For additional information regarding Disability Services, please visit

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

Registration Details

Mar. 25 – 27 | Dec. 3 – 4 | June 29 – July 3

This is a previous event listing

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