Skip to main content

Writing Down the Soul: An Archetypal and Mythological Approach to Memoir Writing

March 23, 2024 – December 8th, 2024

Course is at Capacity. Registrations for Waitlist are Open. | Offered Live via Zoom

Program Description

Opening Virtual Weekend with Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Leigh Selig  

(Conducted live via Zoom) 

Opening Online Immersive Learning Weekend (required)
Saturday, March 23 9:00 am-12:00 pm, 1:30 pm-4:30 pm 
Sunday, March 24   9:00am-12:00pm, 1:30-3:00 pm 

All Sessions are Pacific Time 

Like myth, memoir presupposes that there is a certain unity to human experience, that we all share similar hopes, dreams, and desires. When we tell the story of how and where we grew up, who our parents were, how the significant people in our lives influenced us, and what challenges and obstacles we faced, we are locating ourselves within an ancient human tradition of storytelling and meaning-making. Memoirs help us find meaning in our lives by showing us how our lives fit into a larger mythic pattern. Although not every memoir reflects a mythic theme, most memoir writers unconsciously reveal mythic themes in their desire to find meaning in their lives. Memoirs address the domains of myth: Who am I? Who are my people? What is my journey? What is my purpose? Where is home? The essence of a great memoir is the voice of the writer and how she brings the reader into a scene with sensory details. In an atmosphere of friendship, support, and safety, we will read excerpts from contemporary memoirists like Joan Didion, Dani Shapiro, Natasha Trethewey, and James McBride that reflect mythic themes, and respond to short writing prompts.

Program Format

Learn at Your Own Pace with Pacifica Extension’s Virtual Learning Format

The eight monthly learning sessions are designed to allow you to engage at your own pace and at your convenience. Each month begins with select recommended readings on the theme (typically 60-75 pages), accompanied by a pre-recorded video presentation and an online discussion forum. In the middle of each month, participants have the option of joining a live 60 minute Zoom discussion of a recommended “memoir of the month” to study issues of content and craft facilitated by Jennifer Leigh Selig. Each month ends with the posting of 2-4 pages of memoir writing by participants for feedback by small groups and Jennifer. Participants may choose to submit pages of an ongoing memoir-in-progress 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.

Closing Virtual Weekend with Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Leigh Selig  

(Conducted live via Zoom) 

Online Closing Immersive Learning Session (required)
Saturday, December 7  9:00 am-12:00 pm, 1:30 pm-4:00 pm 
Sunday, December 8  9:00 am-11:00 am 

All Sessions are Pacific Time 

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. 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. Afterward, 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 class book commemorating the course. 

Featured in The Writer Magazine  

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 

Monthly Learning Session Schedule 

April  The Archetype of the Storyteller: “Making Sense of the Senseless,” and Other Reasons We Write (and Read) Memoir   Thursday, April 18th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
May  The Archetype of Structure: Story as Flesh, Structure as  Thursday, May 16th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
June  The Archetype of Truth: To Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth(?)  Thursday, June 20th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
July  The Archetype of Memory: Imaginal Remembering and Other Depth Psychological Approaches to Embodying and Enlivening Our Memories  Thursday, July 18th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
August  The Archetype of Voice: “Psyche Equals Voice,” Or How to Write Pages That Sing With Soul  Thursday, August 15th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
September  The Archetype of the Caregiver: Whose Story Is It? Writing Sensitively About Others in Our Lives  Thursday, September 19th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time  
October  The Archetype of Image: The Power of Metaphor and the Potential of Key Images  Thursday, October 17th, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time 
November  The Archetype of Transformation: The Alchemy of Memoir Writing  Thursday, November 21st, 5:00-6:00 pm Pacific Time  


Required Readings

  • Barrington, Judith. (2002). Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art (2nd ed 
  • Karr, Mary. (2015). The Art of Memoir 
  • Kephart, Beth. (2013). Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir 
  • Maran, Meredith. (Ed.) (2016). Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists On Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) In the Name of Literature 
  • Murdock, Maureen. (2024). Mythmaking: Self-Discovery and the Timeless Art of Memoir. 
  • Selig, Jennifer. (2024). Deep Memoir: An Archetypal Approach to Deepen Your Story and Broaden Its Appeal. 

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 

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 

Program Details


Opening Virtual Weekend (online) (required)
Saturday, March 23 9:00 am-12:00 pm, 1:30 pm-4:30 pm 
Sunday, March 24   9:00am-12:00pm, 1:30-3:00 p

Closing Virtual Weekend (online) (required)
Saturday, December 7  9:00 am-12:00 pm, 1:30 pm-4:00 pm 
Sunday, December 8  9:00 am-11:00 am

All Sessions are Pacific Time

Registration Fees

  • $1,795 General Rate
  • $1,495 Pacifica Alumni, Full Time Students, & Senior Rate
  • $1,295 Pacifica Student Rate

About the Teachers

Maureen Murdock, Ph.D. is a family therapist and 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 foreword by Christine Downing.  She was Chair and Core Faculty of the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute and teaches memoir with Jennifer Leigh Selig in Pacifica’s program “Writing Down the Soul.” Murdock is also the 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 new book, Mythmaking: Self-Discovery and the Timeless Art of Memoir will be published by Shambhala in March, 2024. www.maureenmurdock.com.

Jennifer Leigh Selig, Ph.D., has over three decades of teaching experience in the fields of literature and depth psychology. She is the editor and author may 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: Seven Ways to Spark Your Creative 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. In February, 2024, she’ll release her latest book, Deep Memoir: An Archetypal Approach to Deepen Your Story and Broaden Its Appeal. She and Maureen have been teaching memoir together for the last eight years. Learn more about Jennifer at www.jenniferleighselig.com.

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 23, 2024 – December 8th, 2024

  • Number of Classes:
    • 2 Weekend Online Immersive Learning Experiences
    • 8 Monthly Live Memoir Discussion Groups
    • 8 Pre-Recorded Learning Sessions
    • On-line Discussion Forum
    • Memoir Sharing Forum w/ Feedback 
  • Class Length: Various Lengths
  • Class Time: Various Times

    Course is at Capacity.
    Registrations for Waitlist are Open.