Possibilities and pitfalls in writing about living people

Photo of Wolfson College Seminar Room

Saturday 14 January, 10am - 4.30pm

Wolfson College


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Possibilities and Pitfalls when Writing about Living People

Saturday 14 January 2023, 10am - 4.30pm,
Wolfson College



  • Full day including tea/coffee and lunch: £90
  • OCLW Friends’ rate: 10% off (£81) 


Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, in partnership with the Oxford Writing Mentors, invites you to join us for a day event all about writing the lives of living or recently deceased people. 

Whether it’s a biography of a local hero, an autobiography addressing a difficult period in your life, or a family memoir based on your parents’ diaries, we ask practical questions such as:

  • How do you write about living people and not get sued?
  • Who owns the copyright on your mother’s diary?
  • Does fictionalising the story make some problems go away?

About the process:

  • How can writers separate themselves from the emotion of writing about people loved and lost?
  • At what point (if ever) should you tell someone they appear in your book? 

And more conceptually:

  • Where is the line between truth and memory?
  • Whose story is it anyway? 

The day will feature authors alongside industry experts as we think about the process of writing about living people, what can go wrong, and what you can do if it does. If you’ve ever thought about writing about living people, this event is for you. 

Provisional programme:


Buttery – tea/coffee


Dr Tony Gray, Director of Words by Design

(30 minute talk with 20 minutes for questions, followed by comfort break)


Professor Norma Clarke

(45 minute talk with 30 minutes for questions)


Sandwich lunch in the Buttery


Theo Jones, Contracts Advisor at the Society of Authors

(30 minute talk with 30 minutes for questions, followed by comfort break)


Panel with all three speakers, Q&A from audience





Registration for this event has now closed.