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Advanced Journalistic Writing

ENGL 158.301
instructor(s):
M 2-5

This is a how-to course for talented aspiring writers -- how to write well in the real world; how to hook the reader and sustain interest; how to develop the journalistic skills that enable a writer to gather, sift and report information. The instructor will share his own real-world experience, as a full-time working journalist for the past three decades. He will be joined on occasion by eminent journalists- including several star journalists from the New York Times- who will address the class and appear at mandatory forums to be held at the Kelly Writers House.

Even though students will read and critique some famous practitioners of non-fiction writing-among them, Gay Talese, Tom Wolfe, Michael Herr, Truman Capote and Richard Ben Cramer-along with contemporary newspaper storytellers that include the instructor (a national correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer), the emphasis will be on the students' own writing.

The goal is to inspire students to tap their own potential, gain fresh insights, and feel comfortable enough to share their assigned work-both short and long pieces-with others in the class over the span of the semester. Students will write all kinds of non-fiction pieces, from personal memoirs to long-form features about anything from the Philadelphia scene to campus issues and events. The topics are less important than the craftsmanship; anything can be a great read if it's written and reported well.

Journalistic issues, both practical and ethical, will also be addressed-among them: how to decide who to interview, and how to handle an interviewee; how to use (and not use) the Internet; when to use (or not use) anonymous sources.

Spaces in this special course are strictly limited. Students will be admitted to the workshop on the basis of an application: students should submit several writings, along with a thoughtful message explaining their interest (and any relevant background or experience) by email to: journalism@writing.upenn.edu.

This course is a collaboration of the Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing and the Annenberg School for Communication.