This course focuses on understanding and practicing the rhetorical and stylistic choices available to writers of creative nonfiction. Our discussions of readings and our workshops of class members' essays will examine and explore options for story and theme, action, information, characterization, dialogue, structure, pacing, narrative persona, voice and tone, language and style.
About half our class time will be spent discussing published nonfiction texts and general issues related to them, and doing some in-class writing exercises; the other half will be spent discussing class members' essays-in-progress in a workshop format.
We'll approach our readings not as literary critics but as fellow writers. We'll talk about content, of course, but we'll emphasize craft; that is, we'll be focusing not only on what is written but on how it's written. We'll examine the choices these published writers have made and assess where and why those choices work—or, in some cases, where and why they don't.
Texts change each time the class is offered, but we usually read six to eight books, including the most recent Best American Essays anthology. In the most recent version of the class, our texts were:
- Rachel Manija Brown, All the Fishes Come Home to Roost
- Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird
- James McBride, The Color of Water
- Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography
- Robert Sullivan, Meadowlands
- David Foster Wallace (ed.), Best American Essays 2007
Class members will write and revise two longer (7-10 pages) and several shorter (2-5 pages) essays; these essays may be personal, historical, sociological, contemplative, informative, speculative, or pretty much anything else, as long as they're nonfictional. Final versions of essays, along with drafts produced along the way, will be due in a portfolio at the end of the semester.
We'll workshop several student essays per week. In order to kick-start discussion and democratize participation, every essay will have two discussion leaders. In addition to writing up comments for the writer, discussion leaders will choose a passage or issue with which to lead off discussion.
last updated: Saturday, 01-Mar-2014 15:15:14 CST