Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Advanced Nonfiction Writing

ENGL 145.301
instructor(s):
Fridays 2-5:00 pm

Great non-fiction writing is about passion. Passion for an idea both wonderful and practical. Passion for reportage. Passion for storytelling thru plot and rhythm and pace. Passion for writing without compromise of the facts. All easy to say but elusive to execute. We will look at the work of authors such as Truman Capote, Tommy Thompson, Michael Lewis, Nat Philbrick, David Halberstam, Primo Levi, and John Updike in the pursuit of that goal. We will examine some of my own books such as Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City and Father’s Day, as well as magazine pieces from Vanity Fair, for candid discussions on what the author was precisely trying to do and whether it was achieved. We will also extensively examine the work of students. Up to a thousand words will be required for each class in addition to reading assignments. A more comprehensive piece will be required at the end of the semester (the length is up to students since if you learn anything, it is that long is not necessarily better).

This is a course for students who are seriously considering a career in non-fiction writing. The course will meet Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. on the following days: August 27 and 28, September 10 and 11, September 24 and 25, October 1 and 2, October 15 and 16, October 29 and 30, November 12 and 13, November 24, December 9 and 10 (please note these final sessions are during reading days) so students should plan accordingly. For two week-long periods during the semester, I will be available at any time for one-on-one discussions. I will also be available by Skype. A writing sample for acceptance (fiction or non-fiction) into the class is required. So is passion. Please send your writing samples to Mingo Reynolds mingo@writing.upenn.edu.