Quebec Writers' Federation Workshops

Fall Session 2017
Workshop leader: Elaine Kalman Naves

Eight Tuesdays, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
October 3 to November 21, 2017

QWF Office – 1200 Atwater Avenue, Room 3, Westmount, QC

Workshop fee: $160 for QWF members; $190 for non-members
Cost of QWF membership (annual) and workshop: $195

Payment is due within one week of registration to confirm your spot.

For more information, or to register:
(514) 933-0878 or

This workshop is designed for people who have already had some experience of a workshop setting, and who have begun (or are ready) to embark on a memoir project—book-length or otherwise.

Memoir, a sub-specialty of autobiography, is a form of personal writing that has become hugely popular in recent years. While autobiography is generally the preserve of public figures and takes a chronological “breakfast-to-bedtime” approach to an entire life, memoir usually highlights one period or one theme taken from the life of an ordinary individual, someone with little or no claim to fame. Its special currency is the universality of human experience; its value is what may be learned from a so-called ordinary life.

Good memoirs are both confessional and factual. They evoke a particular time and place and – no matter how personal – are not exercises in navel gazing. As the renowned Czech-Canadian author Josef Skvorecky once put it, “Some writers may think their only subject is themselves, [but] if they are any good they are telling the history of their times and of their people. If all a writer manages is a picture of her- or himself against a blank curtain, then the writer is just a miserable scribbler who never grew out of puberty."

Participants will present work to the group once or twice during the eight weeks and will be expected to read each other’s work carefully in order to provide critical feedback. About half of each session will be devoted to in-class exercises and discussion of selected material from the text named below. The rest of the time will be spent discussing participants’ submissions.

The text for the course is This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett, a work that operates both as a how-to book on writing and as an exemplary series of linked memoirs/personal essays. Participants should come to the first session prepared to discuss “Nonfiction, an Introduction” and “How to Read a Christmas Story,” the first two chapters. (Books are available for purchase at Paragraphe Bookstore 2220 McGill College Ave, Montreal. QWF members get a discount when they show their membership card.)

Portfolio requirements
To apply, please send the following to with the subject line “For Elaine Kalman Naves” by September 15:

  1. a 3-5-page double-spaced writing sample (non-fiction or fiction) that you feel is representative of your abilities.
  2. a paragraph introducing yourself and your writing history.
Please include your name on both documents. The QWF office will contact you about admission status by September 20.

Firstname Lastname
Credit: Studio Iris

Elaine Kalman Naves is a long-time literary journalist and the author of seven non-fiction titles, and a novel. She is a two-time recipient of the QWF’S Mavis Gallant Prize for Non-Fiction and the winner of two Canadian Jewish Book Awards and a Canadian Literary Award for Personal Essay. Her memoir Journey to Vaja: Reconstructing the World of a Hungarian-Jewish Family has been made into a documentary film. The French translation of her award-winning memoir, Shoshanna’s Story, will be published in August 2017 by Nota Bene. Elaine has led workshops at the QWF since their inception in 1998. To find out more about Elaine, visit her website at


Registration Information

To register, email [ workshops AT QWF DOT org ].

Payment Information

Payment is due within one week of registration to confirm your spot. Payment options are listed in the column to the right.

Please familiarize yourself with our
cancellation policy.

QWF workshop cancellation policy

Read about QWF and accessibility:

QWF and accessibility

For more information:

(514) 933-0878
[ workshops AT QWF DOT org ]

QWF gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des Arts du Canada