2014 Schedule

Note:  I retired from teaching at Santiago Canyon College in fall 2013 and now teach a free monthly class at the Orange Family History Center. The FHC is located at 674 S. Yorba in Orange (near Chapman Avenue and the 55 Freeway). All classes are on Thursday afternoons from 1-4 p.m. Here are the dates:

  • Jan. 16
  • Feb. 20
  • Mar. 20
  • Apr. 17
  • May 15
  • June 26
  • Fall schedule TBA

Seminars 2014

  • Feb. 19, 7:30 p.m., North Orange County Genealogy Society, “Breathe Life into Your Ancestors’ Story.”
  • March 25, “Our Lives, Our Stories, America’s ‘Greatest Generation,” a program co-sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Minnesota Historical Society, the Carlsbad City Library Museum, and the North San Diego County Genealogy Society. Carlsbad City Council Chambers, 10 a.m.
  • April 12, 2:00, Pomona Genealogy Society, “How to Write a Fascinating Family History.” Pomona City Library.
  • April 19, Orange Family History Fair, “How to Write a Family History.”
  • June 8, Jamboree, 8:30, “How to Write a Fascinating Family History”; 10:00, “Write a Personal History that Captures Your Interesting Life”; Burbank Marriott, 2500 Hollywood Way, Burbank (right across the street from the Burbank Airport). See the list of all Jamboree’s offerings here.
  • Aug. 18, Education Week, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah; “Turn Your Genealogy Data into a Fascinating Family History.” Three-hour seminar, beginning at 9:50 a.m., 3108, Jesse Knight Bldg.
  • Oct. 25, San Diego Genealogy Society, Marina Village, Coral Room, 1936 Quivira Way, San Diego. “Be a Good Ancestor: Write a Personal History that Captures Your Interesting Life,” and “Turn Your Genealogy Data into a Fascinating Family History.”


Seminars 2013

  • Feb. 1:  Family History Center, “How to Write a Family History,” 674 S. Yorba, Orange, CA 92869. No registration required.
  • March 2–BASH, hosted by Orange County, CA Genealogy Society, Huntington Beach Library, Huntington Beach, CA
  • April 20–Orange Family History Fair, “How to Write a Personal History,” “How to Publish a Family History,” 674 S. Yorba, Orange 92869 (No registration required)
  • June 16–Questing Heirs, Long Beach, CA, 1:00.
  • Sept. 21Whittier Genealogy Society, 10:30

Seminars 2012

  • Feb. 15–San Clemente Stake, “Easy Ways to Begin Writing Your Personal History,” 7:00 p.m.
  • April 21–Orange Family History Fair, “How to Turn Genealogy Facts into a Fascinating Family History,” 1:20-3:30 p.m. 674 S. Yorba Street, Orange, CA 92869. No need to pre-register.
  • June 7–SCGS Jamboree Writers Conference, Burbank, CA. 10:00-12:30–“Breathe Life into Your Ancestors”; 2:00-3:00–“It’s Time to Write Your Own Story”; 3:30-4:30–“The Place of Place in Your Family History Narrative.” Go here for more information.
  • June 15–Miracosta College LIFE Group. “Preserving Your Family Stories.” Miracosta College, Oceanside Campus, Board of Trustees Board Room, 1:00 p.m.
  • July 24–N. San Diego County Genealogy Society, 10 a.m., Carlsbad City Counsel Chambers. “How to Turn Genealogy Data into a Fascinating Family History.”
  • Aug 4–Orange County California Genealogy Society, 11:00 a.m., Huntington Beach Library, “How to Turn Genealogy Data into a Fascinating Family History.”
  • Oct. 16–Association of Personal Historians Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO. All-day seminar, “Boot Camp for Personal History Writers: Kick Your Writing to the Next Level.” 
  • Nov. 2-3–Utah Association of Personal Historians Conference, Utah Cultural Celebration, West Valley City. More coming. 

Seminars 2011

  • June 9, 2011–Jamboree, Southern California Genealogy Society, Los Angeles Marriott Burbank Hotel, 8:30 a.m., “The Family History Writer’s Conundrum: How to Write about Family Skeletons and Other Prickly People”
  • June 28, 2011–N. San Diego County Genealogy Society, 10 a.m., Carlsbad City Council Chambers. Topic:  “It’s Your Life Story: Now Put Yourself into It!”
  • Aug. 15-19, 2011–Campus Education Week, Brigham Young University, “How to Write a Personal History People Will WANT to Read”
  • Sept. 7-11, 2011–FGS Conference, Springfield, IL, “The Place of Place in Your Family History Narrative:  Anchoring Your Family History in Its Setting”
  • Sept 17, 2011–Chino Valley Family History Fair, TBA
  • Oct. 17, 2011–Association of Personal Historians National Conference, Las Vegas, 10:30-noon, “Boot Camp for Life Writing Teachers: What to Teach and How to Teach It”
  • Oct. 18, 2011–Association of Personal Historians National Conference, Las Vegas, 10:30-noon, “Make a Scene: Bring Your Personal Histories to Life”

A little about what I teach…

typewriterMy classes have a dual focus: First to motivate students to write their life story, and, second, to show them how to make it interesting. It’s one thing to write down memories as they spring from your head; it’s quite another to shape those memories into a fascinating story, one that lets readers into your life, and shows them what it was like to walk in your shoes. I focus on SHOWING, not just TELLING. If people learn this skill, they’ll tell an interesting story. Learning to write is like learning to play the piano: The more people practice, the better they get. It’s rewarding to watch my students grow as writers over time.  I also love when they discover that their lives have been interesting and meaningful, something they may not have realized had they not taken the time to record their stories.  It’s so satisfying to play a small part in that process. To learn more about my classes and my teaching techniques, visit my website at You’ll find most of my curriculum in the book I co-authored with my husband and published in 2007, Breathe Life into Your Life Story:  How to Write a Story People Will WANT to Read, available through the publisher, Signature Books, and ____________________________

Honors and Endorsements:

In 2008 Santiago Canyon College honored me with the Faculty Excellence Award. If you’d like to read what some nice people have said  about  my classes and seminars, click here.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JACK COOVERT June 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I enjoy your web site and have attended your seminars, I am very impressed
with the writings of Jane Fried, is there an e-mail or other publications

2 Memoir Mentor September 21, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I just noticed your comment, Jack, and am sorry I haven’t responded before now. I appreciate your kind words and am pleased you may have found some inspiration from my classes. All the best with your projects.


3 K. Ann Wood September 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Unfortunately, because of my own teaching schedule, I cannot attend the annual Association of Personal Historians conference to be held in Los Vegas in October. I particularly would have liked to attend your workshop on teaching as I am always looking for ideas to make my workshops more interesting. Could you tell me if you will be offering a similiar workshop in California in January/February 2012 (I will be spending the winter there) or do you know if this workshop will be recorded, so I can buy it as a CD. Thanks.

4 Memoir Mentor September 11, 2011 at 11:24 am

I believe my APH presentation will be recorded. I will be teaching my spring term in Orange County from February to May, but my focus will be on how to write a personal history, not how to teach the subject. I’m sorry you will be missing the conference. Maybe next year.

5 Judy Goldwyn November 6, 2011 at 1:52 pm

If your “Boot Camp for Life Writing Teachers” is available in any form, I would like to purchase it.
I teach writing at a large senior center in Connecticut, and have found great interest in the genre. Teaching Life Writing to 12-14 individuals is a big challenge. I’d love to get some guidance from you, particularly in organizing their writing and offering prompts that will help the students create their memoirs.
Looking forward to your reply.

6 Memoir Mentor November 7, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m sure you’re enjoying teaching life writing. I love what I do. I gave my Boot Camp for Life Writing Teachers at the annual conference of the Association of Personal Historians. It’s a great organization. You should check out their website at personal, where you’ll find a wealth of information. I’ve been told that the MP3s for the conference presentation will be available for download on the website either this week or next. Click on the APH Store link in the navigation bar. Currently, only files for past conferences are available, so wait a few days and check again. I believe they’ll be selling the MP3files for $7.00. Meanwhile, I’ll email you my Powerpoint PDF. Between that and the MP3 file, you should have quite a lot of useful information. Good luck to you.

7 Darlyne Hilliard January 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Uh Oh. I’m coming baaaaack. Can’t wait to see you.

8 Memoir Mentor January 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm

I couldn’t be more delighted, Darlyne.

9 Debbie Lenk November 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

We are interested in your writing life histry classes/seminars but live in the Seattle area so it is impractical to attend a 10-week course in CA. Any suggestions? Are there any 1-2 day seminars you are teaching or would recommend we attend?


10 Helen Mills February 14, 2013 at 9:20 pm


My husband Bill and I are scheduled to take your class beginning next Tuesday at Santiago Community College and we are very excited. Should we bring laptops to the first class, or just pencil, pen and paper. Thanks

Helen Mills

11 Memoir Mentor February 15, 2013 at 7:39 am

I’m looking forward to meeting you. Paper and pen will be sufficient.

12 patty robedee April 11, 2013 at 7:22 am

Heard about your writings through a dear friend-
looking forward to writing many books
Thanks Dawn

13 Memoir Workshops November 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm

Dear Dawn Thurston,

As a writing instructor, you are invited to order a complimentary copy of the award-winning book:

Memoirs of the Soul: A Writing Guide
By Nan Phifer

“Memoirs of the Soul goes beyond being a how-to book on memoir writing. It takes you on a journey into your own life that will reveal aspects of your experience you never knew existed. The author gives you all the nuts and bolts—writing prompts, warm-ups, creative exercises . . . but the true gift of the book is the way it introduces you to yourself.” —Jane Tompkins, Ph.D.

To order, please visit:

You can look inside the book, read more reviews, see its awards, and learn more about Ms. Phifer at:

Ekongkar Khalsa
Ad Assistant

Leave a Comment