$221.76 – $1,695

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

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Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Ladera Lane Campus

801 Ladera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93108

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This program is currently sold out. To be placed on a wait-list, please email retreat@pacifica.edu.


Opening Residential Weekend (required) March 31-April 2
(Friday, 7pm – Sunday noon)
Closing Residential Weekend (required) December 15-17
(Friday, 7pm – Sunday noon)
*Residential Retreat Week (optional) August 28-Sept 1
(Monday 9am – Friday noon)


With Maureen Murdock (Residential Faculty)
And Jennifer Selig and Daphne Dodson (Residential and Online Faculty)

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 – making room for archetypal and mythic consciousness, and honoring a soul-filled perspective on creative imagination.

“The longing to tell one’s story and the process of telling is symbolically a gesture of longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and a sense of release.”
--bell hooks, in Remembered Rapture: The Writer at Work

Opening Residential Weekend with Maureen Murdock:

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 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. 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.

Online format description

The online portion of the certificate program, facilitated by Jennifer Selig and Daphne Dodson, takes place over eight months, each covering a distinct theme in memoir writing. The month begins with select readings on the theme, accompanied by a faculty presentation and an online discussion. In the middle of each month, participants have the option of joining a live online faculty-moderated discussion of a recommended “memoir of the month.” 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 process, or may produce new material in response to suggested writing prompts.

Online Topics Include:

  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

Closing Residential Weekend with Maureen Murdock and Jennifer Selig

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. Special guest memoirist Kelly Carlin, author of A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George, will join us and share her story of writing her memoir about her celebrity father. Together we’ll take a backwards glance and discuss the insights we experienced and the inroads we made on our individuation journeys vis-à-vis writing our memoirs, and we’ll glance forward as well and discuss venues for publishing memoir pieces and full-length books, including mainstream, small press, and self-publishing options. Participants will be invited to consider publishing under Jennifer’s imprint, Mandorla Books, and if there’s sufficient interest, we’ll explore the possibility of publishing a compilation of memoir pieces written during the course.

*Optional Residential Retreat

During this optional week long retreat, participants will engage in imaginal remembering and expand their writing toolkits by spending time in community with each other and faculty Daphne Dodson and Jennifer Selig. Participants will gather for several hours in the morning and then again in the latter part of the afternoon, leaving hours in the middle of the day and the evening for writing time on the peaceful Ladera Lane campus.

What Daphne will share in the morning:

Do you ever wonder why people remember shared past events differently? Have you ever been astonished by a memory that suddenly appears, with vivid detail, in your mind’s eye? Rather than accepting memories as fixed reruns of prior life experiences, Daphne encourages us to open ourselves to the notion that memories are imagistic expressions of the psyche that may offer us much wisdom, creativity, and healing. In both group and one-on-one sessions, she will guide each participant through the process of imaginal-remembering, engaging with memory-images as a means of deeply experiencing the innate creativity of the psyche. The imaginal people and places encountered during these sessions will offer rich sensorial material for writing revealing and captivating memoirs.

What Jennifer will share in the afternoon:

From its inception, depth psychology has always placed close attention on the word, whether it was Freud’s “slip of the tongue,” Jung’s word association test, or Hillman’s emphasis on “the angel aspect of the word—recognizing words as independent carriers of soul between people.” Bringing together her 16 years of experience teaching English language and literature coupled with 14 years of teaching depth psychology, Jennifer will guide participants through a series of exercises aimed at improving the ability of our writing to both carry and evoke soul. We’ll practice Vladimir Nabokov’s injunction to “caress the detail, the divine detail,” and we’ll work to capture the lightning in Mark Twain’s maxim, “The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”


Maureen Murdock, Ph.D., is a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist in private practice in Santa Barbara, CA where she teaches weekly memoir classes and leads workshops internationally. Since 1990, she has taught memoir writing in the UCLA Extensions Writers’ Program where she received the Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 1995. She was Core Faculty and Chair of the M.A. Counseling Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute and continues as adjunct faculty. She is the author of the best-selling book, The Heroine’s Journey, which explores the rich territory of the feminine psyche and delineates the feminine psycho-spiritual journey. 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 is the editor of an anthology of memoir writing entitled Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life and has published a Kindle short entitled The Emergence of Bipolar Disorder: A Mother’s Perspective. Her books have been translated into a dozen languages. You can read her blog on her website: www.maureenmurdock.com.

Daphne Dodson, Ph.D., is a qualitative research psychologist working on behalf of several of the world’s leading healthcare, entertainment, and technology firms. As an excavator and curator of the stories of lived experiences, she adeptly guides individuals to move deeply into their memories and current perspectives to uncover the rich insights hidden therein. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Imaginal Remembering: Engaging Psyche through an Imaginative Approach to Memory and the young adult novel The Outcasts: Simon’s Gift. In addition, her essay “Rebirthing Biblical Myth: The Poisonwood Bible as Visionary Art” is included in the 2016 book Jungian Perspectives on Rebirth and Renewal: Phoenix Rising, and her article “Saying Goodbye to Our Children: A Phenomenon of Soul-Making” will be featured in the December 2016 issue of Psychological Perspectives, published by the C. G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles.

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. Most currently, she teaches at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and is the founding chair of the Jungian and Archetypal Studies MA/Ph.D degree, and the Engaged Humanities and the Creative Life MA degree. She is the co-editor and author of several books, including Reimagining Education: Essays on Reviving the Soul of Learning (2009); The Soul Does Not Specialize: Revaluing the Humanities and the Polyvalent Imagination (2012); Integration: The Psychology and Mythology of Martin Luther King, Jr. and His (Unfinished) Therapy With the Soul of America (2012); and A Tribute to James Hillman: Reflections on a Renegade Psychologist (2014). She has also written dozens of magazine and newspaper articles, and a handful of screenplays. She has recently begun to emphasize memoir writing, and her forthcoming book, Deep Creativity: Reflections on the Intersection of Life, Art, and Soul, co-written with Deborah Anne Quibell and Dennis Patrick Slattery, contains many of her memoir pieces.

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Pacifica Graduate Institute’s Ladera Lane Campus

801 Ladera Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93108

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