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The Stories You Need to Tell by Sejal Shah

Sejal Shah

“Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it.” –Ursula K. Le Guin

Six years ago, I was talking to my friend Marijana after a yoga class. I wanted to teach something at Writers & Books and the proposal deadline was drawing near. Marijana asked me, Well, what are you interested in? I said, I want to create a class that helps students access important stories—those stories they’ve always meant to write. I’ve now taught The Stories You Need to Tell three times: in 2013, 2014 and 2016. It’s one of my favorite classes.

There are the stories you carry around with you—just by being human. Stories we repeat, and stories we never tell. Both to preserve them or to transform them or to release them, telling our stories changes us. Something changes in the process of writing them down. Though Stories You Need to Tell is officially classified as memoir, I also welcome those who write fiction and draw from autobiographical stories.

We’ll have six weeks to write together, to make time to write the stories that matter most to you—perhaps related to family history or something in your own younger life.

A turning point in my writing life came when I was able to complete an essay about the death of a close friend. It was a story I needed to write. That essay began with a prompt from a writing class and then took a couple of years to finish. But I wrote it and I did finish it. Here’s a link:

Street Scene

And here’s vignette or short piece about Cobb’s Hill. It’s so satisfying to write about places important to us.


Read Sejal Shah’s instructor bio:

Sejal Shah

For more information on Sejal’s workshop:

The Stories You Need to Tell: Mixed Level Memoir

Course description:

This course gives students the support, structure, and inspiration to begin or continue writing. We will read creative nonfiction essays by contemporary writers, generate a few first drafts through writing exercises, and take one short essay of your own through a round of revision. I will offer writing prompts. We will cover topics such establishing setting, accessing your bank of images, and where to begin (first paragraph, first sentence), and strategies for revision.