This is an intensive writing and reading course in what has been variously called "the literature of fact," "literary nonfiction," "creative nonfiction," "personal journalism," "new journalism." All those labels, and then some, can apply here. The core goal is to get a circle of student writers writing, and have them willing to share the work aloud in class. Implicit in this is the willingness to suffer some gentle slings of criticism--but also to accept admiration when it comes. We will be looking at models of nonfiction from present and past word masters: Annie Dillard, E.B. White, Joan Didion, James Baldwin, V.S. Naipaul, James Agee, Michael Herr, Tim O'Brien, Richard Ben Cramer, Thomas Lynch. Ever heard this last name? Lynch is a Michigan undertaker. He writes like a dream. Good writing is where you find it; sometimes it will be about the art of taking folks under.
We will attempt different forms of writing, starting with the personal essay, or family memoir: then move on to something deeply reported and/ or researched. You will have a primary say in what you wish to tackle. You will be asked to do three serious pieces in the term. There will be the hard sweaty work of revision. Although not a direct aim of the workshop, it's slimly possible someone will emerge with a piece of nonfiction any professional editor in his right mind will be proud to publish. This happened in last year's workshop. Those interested in taking the course should submit one or two samples of their best nonfiction work. Since the instructor is not on campus in the fall term, please give the samples to the department secretary, Loretta Williams, who will pass them along.