Meet Maureen Murdock


"Memoirs help us find meaning in our lives by showing us how our lives fit into a larger mythic pattern. When a writer recounts a memory about themselves, they are talking about all of us to some degree."

—from Mythmaking: Self-Discovery and The Timeless Art of Memoir

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Maureen Murdock is an author, educator, and photographer. She was Chair and core faculty of the MA Counseling Psychology Program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara and adjunct faculty in the Depth Psychology Department at Sonoma State University.

Photo of Maureen Murdock teaching a workshop in Barcelona, Spain.

Maureen teaching a workshop on The Heroine's Journey in Barcelona, Spain.

Maureen combines her interest in the mysterious workings of the psyche with a study of mythology and a love of story telling and memoir writing. To that end she helps people explore meaning in their lives through the excavation of their memories in lectures and workshops throughout the United States and in memoir classes at the San Francisco Writing Salon, UCLA Writer’s Program and in private memoir groups in Santa Barbara, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

After teaching memoir writing for many years, I started to look at the similarity between the themes  that emerged from my students’ memoirs and the themes from ancient myths. Myth explores such themes as origins, journey, heroism, betrayal, the search for mother or father, love, and the cycles of death and rebirth. Memoirs explore the very same themes in the stories of everyday lives. I started to think about memoirists as our contemporary mythmakers, asking the same questions our ancestors did: "Who am I? Where am I going? What is my tribe? What is my purpose?” “Where is home?”

My first book on memoir, Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory (Seal Press, 2003) started as an essay about the similarities between myth and memoir but took on a more personal meaning as my mother struggled with Alzheimer’s disease. I began to look at the relationship of memory to identity as the loss of my mother’s memory affected her sense of herself. Writing the book also brokered a healing in the relationship between my mother and myself. As I wrote, the book became more and more about the relationship with my mother and less and less about myth. However, Unreliable Truth also contains the elements of memoir writing  and writing prompts to get you started on your own memoir.

In my new book, Mythmaking: Self Discovery and the Timeless Art of Memoir I am doing a deep dive into the archetypal themes that underlie most memoirs. Using excerpts from beloved contemporary memoirs, practical advice about craft, and writing prompts, you will be able to gain a deeper understanding of the rich scope of the memoir genre and why it is so popular today.

Poet Myra Shapiro writes, “Holding ancient myth to modern memoir, Murdock celebrates the power of words, of story. This is a page-turner not only for writers but for any reader who is curious about being alive. Even the titles of her chapters moved me: ‘Who Are My People?’ ‘What Is My Journey?’ ‘Exile And Belonging.’ To top it off she concludes each chapter with writing prompts leading us to our own stories. By doing so, we join the community of women and men through all time. A spiritual practice indeed!”

Maureen’s popularity as an author, lecturer, and workshop presenter has enriched the lives of thousands of people. Her other books include The Heroine’s Journey, Fathers’ Daughters: Breaking the Ties that Bind, Spinning Inward: Using Guided Imagery with Children, The Heroine’s Journey Workbook, Unrealiable Truth, and Monday Morning Memoirs: Women in the Second Half of Life. Her books have been translated into 20 foreign languages.

Maureen has written articles about mental illness, addiction, and incarceration for professional journals and the Huffington Post and she volunteers in California prisons with AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project).