Creative Nonfiction Writing

Bethany Goch, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Spring 2018

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the art and practice of creative nonfiction prose, including personal essay, memoir, and literary journalism. Students will explore the unique possibilities of the genre by reading and studying modern and contemporary authors, and composing and revising a variety of creative writing assignments. You will be asked to read and write every class, respond to the work of published authors as well as your peers, think critically about the formal components of creative nonfiction, thoughtfully draft and revise your own work, and, most importantly, think of yourself as a writer.

(from David Foster Wallace’s Spring 2008 Creative Nonfiction Workshop syllabus)
“The term’s [creative nonfiction] constituent words suggest a conceptual axis on which these sorts of prose works lie. As nonfiction, the works are connected to actual states of affairs in the world, are “true” to some reliable extent. If, for example, a certain event is alleged to have occurred, it must really have occurred; if a proposition is asserted, the reader expects some proof of (or argument for) its accuracy. At the same time, the adjective creative signifies that some goal(s) other than sheer truthfulness motivates the writer and informs her work. This creative goal, broadly stated, may be to interest readers, or to instruct them, or to entertain them, to move or persuade, to edify, to redeem, to amuse, to get readers to look more closely at or think more deeply about something that’s worth their attention. . . or some combination(s) of these. Creative also suggests that this kind of nonfiction tends to bear traces of its own artificing; the essay’s author usually wants us to see and understand her as the text’s maker. This does not, however, mean that an essayist’s main goal is simply to “share” or “express herself” or whatever feel-good term you might have got taught in high school. In the grown-up world, creative nonfiction is not expressive writing but rather communicative writing. And an axiom of communicative writing is that the reader does not automatically care about you (the writer), nor does she find you fascinating as a person, nor does she feel a deep natural interest in the same things that interest you. The reader, in fact, will feel about you, your subject, and your essay only what your written words themselves induce her to feel. An advantage of the workshop format is that it will allow you to hear what [a group of] intelligent adults have been induced to think and feel about each essay you write for the course.”

Text:

To Show and To Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate

Syllabus: 

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Fall 2017

Course Description:

Creative nonfiction is a shape-shifter of a genre, an inherently hybrid form whose lofty goal is to weave truth with beauty. We will soon discover that creative nonfiction is a strange and wild beast, more like an amoeba than a cube, expanding and contracting, slipping out of your grasp. That's what makes the genre wonderful: it can hold almost anything you try to put inside.

Required Texts:

My Body is a Book of Rules by Elissa Washuta
How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Spring 2017

Course Description:

Creative nonfiction is a shape-shifter of a genre, an inherently hybrid form whose lofty goal is to weave truth with beauty. Our focus in this class will be on one form of this genre, a wild and strange beast known as the essay -- the micro-essay, to be specific. You will soon discover that both creative nonfiction and the essay are nearly boundless forms, more like amoebas than cubes, expanding and contracting, slipping out of your grasp. That’s ok. That’s what makes the genre wonderful: it can hold almost anything you try to put inside.

The course will function partly as a seminar in creative nonfiction and partly as a workshop. This means we will read a lot, and we will write a lot. We will study craft intensely: shaping metaphor from literal scenes and settings and images; developing our subjective identities into compelling, honest writer-voices. We will ask difficult questions about the ethics of truth-telling in public, and the nature of fact and memory. But we will also plumb emotional depths, laughing and crying and struggling and surviving.

Our class discussions will spring from assigned readings on topics as wide-ranging as insomnia, chess, light pollution, and coal mining. We will doodle and wander in the classroom often. Every few weeks, you will bring in a micro-essay of your own and ask your peers to read the wriggling little thing and offer suggestions on its care and feeding. After extensive practice in giving and receiving such response, the semester will culminate in revision, expansion, and development of those micro-essays into a collection of full-grown essays (of varied lengths) capable of driving cars, paying bills, and moving out of their parents’ basements.

Think of yourself as the Cheshire cat, grinning and mysterious, approaching every subject with your own strange wonder, trying to figure out what it means to tell the truth, but tell it slant.

What You'll Need:

- How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith (for journal fodder and essay ideas)
- Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass
- Brief Encounters, ed. by Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney (BE on the calendar below)
- An additional essay collection of your choosing, from this list, ordered by Week 3.
- A traditional composition notebook for your journal.
- Cloud storage is always a good idea (if you save your work in only one place, you are courting disaster).
- Access to a reliable printer for other reading materials and your own work.
- Caffeine, paper, curiosity

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Fall 2016

Course Description:

Creative nonfiction is a shape­shifter of a genre, an inherently hybrid form whose lofty goal is to  weave truth with beauty. Our focus in this class will be on one form of this genre, a wild and  strange beast known as the essay ­­ the micro­essay, to be specific. You will soon discover that  both creative nonfiction and the essay are nearly boundless forms, more like amoebas than cubes,  expanding and contracting, slipping out of your grasp. That’s ok. That’s what makes the genre  wonderful: it can hold almost anything you try to put inside.    

The course will function partly as a seminar in creative nonfiction and partly as a workshop. This  means we will read a lot, and we will write a lot. We will study craft intensely: shaping metaphor  from literal scenes and settings and images; developing our subjective identities into compelling,  honest writer­voices. We will ask difficult questions about the ethics of truth­telling in public,  and the nature of truth and memory. But we will also plumb emotional depths, laughing and  crying and hurting and surviving.   

Our class discussions will spring from assigned readings on topics as wide­ranging as Easter,  tinnitus, parenthood, and coal mining. We will doodle and wander in the classroom often. Every  few weeks, you will bring in a micro­essay of your own and ask your peers to read the wriggling  little thing and offer suggestions on its care and feeding. After extensive practice in giving and  receiving such response, the semester will culminate in revision, expansion, and development of  those micro­essays into a collection of full­grown essays (of varied lengths) capable of driving  cars, paying bills, and moving out of their parents’ basements.   

Think of yourself as the Cheshire cat, grinning and mysterious, approaching every subject with  your own strange wonder, trying to figure out what it means to tell the truth, but tell it slant. 

What You’ll Need:    

● How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith (for journal fodder and essay ideas) 
● Winter: Notes from Montana by Rick Bass  
● Brief Encounters, ed. by Judith Kitchen and Dinah Lenney (BE on the calendar below) 
● An additional essay collection of your choosing, ​from this list​​, chosen and ordered by  Week 3. You will give a brief presentation on this author and their work to the class near  the end of the semester, and your final portfolio will include a 3­5 page critical response  focused on this book. 
● A traditional composition notebook for your journal. 
● Cloud storage is always a good idea (if you save your work in only one place, you are  courting disaster). 
● Access to a reliable printer for other reading materials and your own work.  
● Caffeine, paper, curiosity 

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Fall 2015

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the art and practice of creative nonfiction prose, including personal essay, memoir, and literary journalism. Students will explore the unique possibilities of the genre by reading and studying modern and contemporary authors, and composing and revising a variety of creative writing assignments. Prerequisite: ENGCMP 0004 or ENGCMP 0006.

Required Texts:

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (TA)

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Spring 2013

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the art and practice of creative nonfiction prose, including personal essay, memoir, and literary journalism. Students will explore the unique possibilities of the genre by reading and studying modern and contemporary authors, and composing and revising a variety of creative writing assignments. Prerequisite: ENGCMP 0004 or ENGCMP 0006.

Required Texts:

-Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present,
edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (TA)

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Spring 2014

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the art and practice of creative nonfiction prose, including personal essay, memoir, and literary journalism. Students will explore the unique possibilities of the genre by reading and studying modern and contemporary authors, and composing and revising a variety of creative writing assignments. Prerequisite: ENGCMP 0004 or ENGCMP 0006.

Texts:

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (TA)

Marissa K. Landrigan, Creative Nonfiction Writing, Fall 2013

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the art and practice of creative nonfiction prose, including personal essay, memoir, and literary journalism. Students will explore the unique possibilities of the genre by reading and studying modern and contemporary authors, and composing and revising a variety of creative writing assignments. Prerequisite: ENGCMP 0004 or ENGCMP 0006.

Required Texts:

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone (TA)

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