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Writing Life Stories

Course Code
Study mode
Start Date
To be advised
24 hours
Course Fee
How to Apply

Everyone has a story to tell. This course helps you tap into your memories to uncover the stories which make you who you are. Class time will be divided between guided writing exercises, discussion of assigned readings, and sharing of each other's written materials. Various aspects of the writer's craft will be introduced to help in your rewriting and polishing process.

Life Stories may be about yourself. These may include family stories, and stories relating to your origins, your parents and grandparents, as well as stories marking significant moments in your life's journey. They may be stories about another person. This course will help you learn how to gather and validate information about another person and consider how to relate stories about another person. Whether you are interested in personal discovery through the process of telling your own story, or creating a legacy for future generations, these stories will both "delight and instruct" -- and may even jump-start your new career as a personal / family historian or biographer.

Course Outline

Session 1 What are Life Stories? Differences between Memoirs, Biography, Autobiography, Autobiographical Novel / Autobiographical Collection of semi-fictional short stories and/or sketches. Life-Lists; Finding the Story; Free-writing and journaling.
Session 2 Scene, Dialogue and Summary.
Session 3 Audience and Purpose; What to tell, how much to tell.
Session 4 Voice and Point of View.
Session 5 Details and highlights.
Session 6 Beginning, Middle and End.
Session 7 Rewriting and Polishing; literary techniques.
Session 8 Sharing the stories you have written.

Space is limited to 15

Reference book: Turning Memories into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories by Denis Ledoux (Soleil Press, 2006 -- Revised and Expanded Edition)

Books for reading / discussion * :
(Subject to change)

  1. Sophronia Liu, A Shimmering Sea: Hong Kong Stories (Proverse, 2013);
  2. Gillian Bickley, The Golden Needle: The Biography of Frederick Stewart (David C Lam Institute for East-West Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University, 1997);
  3. Wannabe Backpackers by Gerald Yeung (2009);
  4. A Misted Mirror by Gillian Jones (2011);
  5. Memoirs of an Ice-Cream Lady by Emily Ho (2011);
  6. Searching for Frederick by Verner Bickley (Asia 2000);
  7. Rupert Chan, Chocolate's Brown Study in the Bag (Proverse, 2009).
  8. Through American Eyes: The Journals of George Washington (Farley) Heard, edited by Gillian Bickley (Proverse, 2017)

* Students are required to buy/borrow these books. These books should be available in most local bookstores or in public libraries, and ebooks are also available for most of these books.  Details of the textbooks and useful links will be provided to students before the course starts.

About the teacher

Dr Gillian Bickley (née Workman) was born and educated in the United Kingdom. She has held full-time academic positions teaching Literature in English at the University of Lagos (Nigeria), the University of Hong Kong, the University of Auckland (New Zealand) and Hong Kong Baptist University. She has lived and worked in Hong Kong since 1970 except for three years when living and teaching in New Zealand. She and her husband, Dr Verner Bickley, MBE, are co-founders of the publishing arm of Proverse Hong Kong ( and of the annual international Proverse Prize for unpublished literary work. Her writing specialties are biography, Hong Kong educational and social history of the nineteenth century and poetry. As an editor, she has edited autobiographies, biographies, short story collections, novels and novellas, poetry collections and academic works and seen them through into publication.

She is the biographer of the Founder of Hong Kong Education, Dr Frederick Stewart, and of the first bishop of Victoria, Dr George Smith. Her poetry collections are: For the Record (2003), Moving House (2005), Sightings (2007), China Suite (2009) and Perceptions (2012). The first two of these collections have been translated and published in Chinese. Individual poems have been translated into several languages.

At the 18th International Festival, "Curtea de Argeș Poetry Nights", held in Romania, July 2014, she was awarded the "the Orient-Occident Grand Prize (for Arts)" by the Festival Board.

She enjoys sharing her expertise with others and helping aspiring writers develop their work.

Days / Time
  • Sunday, 9:45am - 12:45pm
  • 8 meeting(s)
  • 3 hours per meeting
  • Dr. BICKLEY, Gillian, BA (Hons), Cert. Ed., M. Litt. Brist; PhD Leeds; FRSA
  •  Applicants are required to have reached the age of 18. 
  • No previous creative writing experience is required. But you do need to have a passion for stories and storytelling, and adequate command of English to complete the work we do together.
Course Fee
  • Course Fee : HK$6,000

Application Form Download Application Form

Enrolment Method
Online Application

We provide online application and payment service for students to make enrolment via the Internet. Enrolment will be confirmed once students have made the payment online by using either PPS or credit card.

By Post / In Person

Applicants are required to complete the Application for Enrolment Form SF26. Either take or post the completed form, along with the appropriate course fee and supporting documents, to any of the HKU SPACE enrolment centres.

Payment Method

Course fees can be paid by cash, EPS or WeChat Pay at any HKU SPACE Enrolment Centres.


Course fees can also be paid by crossed cheque or bank draft made payable to “HKU SPACE”. Please specify the programme title(s) for application and applicant’s name. You may either:

  • bring the completed form(s), together with the appropriate course or application fees in the form of a cheque, and any required supporting documents to any of the HKU SPACE enrolment centres;
  • or mail the above documents to any of the HKU SPACE Enrolment Centres, specifying “Course Application” on the envelope. HKU SPACE will not be responsible for any loss of payment sent by mail.

Applicants may also pay the course fee by VISA or MasterCard, including the “HKU SPACE MasterCard”, at any HKU SPACE enrolment centres. Holders of the HKU SPACE MasterCard can enjoy a 10-month interest-free instalment period for courses with a tuition fee worth a minimum of HK$2,000; however, the course applicant must also be the cardholder himself/herself. For enquiries, please contact our staff at any enrolment centres.


The course fees of all open admission courses (course enrolled on first come, first served basis) and selected award-bearing programmes can be settled by using PPS via the Internet. Applicants may also pay the relevant course fees by VISA or MasterCard online. Please refer to Enrolment Methods - Online Enrolment  for details.


  • For general and short courses, applicants may be required to pay the course fee in cash or by EPS, WeChat Pay, Visa or MasterCard if the course is to start shortly.
  • Fees paid are not refundable except under very exceptional circumstances (e.g. course cancellation due to insufficient enrolment), subject to the School’s discretion.  In exceptional cases where a refund is approved, fees paid by cash, EPS, WeChat Pay, cheque or PPS (for online payment only) will normally be reimbursed by a cheque, and fees paid by credit card will normally be reimbursed to the payment cardholder’s credit card account.
  • In addition to the published fees, there may be additional costs associated with individual programmes. Please refer to the relevant course brochures or direct any enquiries to the relevant programme team for details.
  • Fees and places on courses cannot be transferred from one applicant to another. Once accepted onto a course, the student may not change to another course without approval from HKU SPACE. A processing fee of HK$120 will be levied on approved transfers.
  • Receipts will be issued for fees paid but HKU SPACE will not be responsible for any loss of receipt sent by mail.
  • For payment certification, please submit a completed form, a sufficiently stamped and self-addressed envelope, and a crossed cheque for HK$30 per copy made payable to “HKU SPACE” to any of our enrolment centres.


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