If you are already a better repoter that Joan Didion, a snazzier stylist than Tom Wolf, a finer storyteller than Tracy Kidder, don't take this course. Try giving it someplace. It pays better.
But if you think you still have something to learn about writing, listen in. First-rate nonfiction requires superb reportage, shrewd organization, versatile diction, lively wit, personal passion and a willingness to somersalt in public. Everyone in this course, by the end, will write a brilliant critical, personal, explanatory or intellectual essay - for the task, exercises in shorter forms of non-fiction - the critical book review, the op-ed piece, the profile, the love letter - will occupy the early part of the term. In the second part, everyone will do a first draft of an essay, on a topic reached in consultation with the instructor, and subsequent revisions until the student or instructor (or both) give up. We will also study the essay as literary form, drawing on the Best American Essays series and Phillips Lopate's anthology, The Art of the Personal Essay.
The course operates as a workshop, so students should be prepared to constructively criticize the work of their peers, and be criticized by them. Class members get to know one another unusually well, so be prepared to explore and be explored. The instructor is the literary critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the President of the National Book Critics Circle, and a writer for The Nation, The New Yorker, Harper's and other national publications. He, like you, is very busy. He, like you, may occasionally have to reschedule meetings. If that disturbs your biological clock, take biology.
Students intersted in taking the course should submit a sample of nonfiction writing, no longer than three pages, and a brief autobiographical cover letter, explaining who you are and your ambitions as a writer.