• Jo-Anne Richards and Jo-Anne Hitchens running the Art of the Memoir workshops at the Karoo Art Hotel Barrydale

Art of the memoir: 1st Chapter (2022) meets with critical acclaim

Posted on Tue November 16, 2021 in Workshops.

The 'critics' would have been the course attendees; 18 aspirant memoir writers who met under the tutorship of best selling writers and teachers Jo-Anne Richards (Innocence of Roast Chicken) and Jo-Anne Hitchens (Death and the After Parties). All About Writing's workshop was wonderfully well received by all the delegates There will definately be a chapter 2 in 2023.

This report from an insider's view; I was a participant. I've been working on my own 'The curse of Clocolan & the search for the proper way' memoir for a while but had stalled on it. Maybe this would get me going again...

People talk of 'double jeopardy'. I was on double trepidation. On the one hand on account of this being our first full hotel booking post the renovation. The other on account of my own insecurities as a stalled memoir writer. One gazes across the faces of so many strangers at the start of a workshop like this and the only thing you can do is also the worst thing you can do; judge a book by it's cover; 'bookish', brainy, academic, serious... "We've definitely gone too big on the El Jimador Tequila order" I thought to myself; wrong. 

We started as strangers but memoirs are unavoidably intimate things; far 'looser'  than the more linear format of a biography in my view; they're the select seemingly random slices from the cake of a life. But if well constructed there's an arc in there. And when the scenes are well considered and beautifully embellished these stories begin to really pop. Strangers in the beginning, friends in the middle , bonded like brothers and sisters at the end. Wow, did I love this as a course and as a learning exercise. I'm back on track and await any next learning  opportunity under the baton of these two really skilled and inspiring Jo-Annes ; Richards and Hitchens 

Extracts from some of the groups reflections

Liz Macintosh on her return home from the workshop

Like many of you I have been integrating in the last couple of days the magic of all that we have learnt and experienced over the weekend. I have given my romantic self permission to emerge and hope you will indulge my vulnerability in sharing these words. 

I have life. I celebrate life. I want to live life as a poem. I want the lyrics of my new song to capture the magnificence of the ocean. I want to be dwarfed by the horizon at dawn and amazed by the whirling constellations in a velvet night sky. I want to feel tender plants break through the hard crust of Earth and smell the petrichor after a Lowveld summer storm. I've been on the outside looking in for the past months. I've seen the warm glow of a lamp, the sapphire and ruby shades of a Persian rug, the colourful crocheted blanket on the back of a chair. Now i walk through the blue front door and pull up a chair. Ahhh! I believe that the essentials of life are kindness and music and home and books and new friends and adventure and companionship and health and love. I am whole, I am healed, I am perfect. I am home. 💗🌷 Liz M

Merle Levine - writing like a dream ❤️❤️

A short relive which I share with my family and with you…

I’ve just returned from a wonderful Memoir Writing retreat in Barrydale, held at the Karoo Art Hotel.

Under the full moon and expert midwifery of the Two Joannes, we journeyed into the books we are each writing. We freefalled without a parachute, into our stories as we wrote our writing exercises furiously under an intense time constraint and then – no pressure - read our masterpieces to the group. What lives, what stories, what wise insights and courageous outsights were shared with such raw honesty.

I think we learned more about each other in this crucible of a weekend, than probably our families know about us.

One little taste of the humour and choreography of our hosts at the Karoo Art hotel, Sue and Rick and Charlie. For sundowners a corner bar room was set up with a classical guitarist and lights dimmed. I noticed to my surprise, tea cups and silver tea pots. Now I love tea but…

I was handed a china tea cup, with a slice of lemon rattling with an ice cube.
What's this? I asked, looking at a swimming sprig of mint.
"Green Tea" she said, the sweet waiter with a twinkle in her eye.
"Gee and Tea" she replied.

The weekend in short: The twists and turns of agony and ecstasy. To be a writer or not to be. Is there a choice or is it Karma? Good Karma or bad Karma or does it matter? As Hemmingway said: “It is easy to be a writer, you just sit at your typewriter and bleed.”


I know that I am more than myself. I know there is a vastness beyond although sometimes it really doesn’t feel like it. Pain. What is pain? Why is there pain? I love this world we call earth and I love the people who share this life with me. Why are we raw? Why are we vulnerable? Why are we naïve? What is hope? What is belief? If we believe it will be so. Is this why we are thrust into cages? Into bodies? Into difficult lives? Is this why we are pushed beyond our limits? Is this why we feel so alone? So that we can find company? So that we can arrive? Why do we compare? There is so much love. Fresh air. Freshly cut grass. Freshly baked bread. A ripe delicious strawberry. The blue of the sky. The moist sheet of mist. The drama of a thunderstorm. Communication with an 800-year-old tree. The wonderment of what an old tortoise is thinking. The bite into a fresh deep red tomato straight off the vine. To find the majesty. To find the glory. To find love. Love of all that is. Connection. Intimacy. Self-realisation. The love of the physical. The love of vibration. To understand the mind. To appreciate the miracle of all that is. Why do we choose to live with the devil? To break free of narcissistic abuse is to find yourself. To find your true self. Your connection to source. To appreciate all of life and its glory. To love yourself.


Thank you Jo Annes for a beautifil guided journey. Thank you to all the participants who deeply enriched my life with all of your formidable stories. I learnt so much. More please! Loved this group. It feels like new heart soul tributaries have been opened to flow.


Read All About the course by All About Writing