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Advanced Nonfiction Writing

ENGL 145.301
instructor(s):
Friday 2–5:00

This is a course for students who love the written word and desire to advance their ability to write and craft narrative nonfiction. It is a course in applying devices of fiction to nonfiction writing without compromise of facts. Writing will be emphasized, and so will avenues of storytelling through such components as creating a narrative spine, building a dramatic plot, character development, scene-setting and use of quotes. Students must be willing to do significant reportage, since narrative nonfiction cannot exist without it. There will be concentration on writing assignments and workshopping as well as outside readings. We will examine the work of authors such as Truman Capote, Katharine Boo, John McPhee, John Hersey, Lillian Ross, Richard Ben Cramer and JR Moehringer. We will also examine some of my own books, such as Friday Night Lights and A Prayer for the City, 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. Each writing assignment will be roughly a thousand words. A comprehensive narrative nonfiction piece of somewhere around 5,000 words will be required at the end of the semester. Class attendance and participation are essential. Be prepared to come to every class. The course will meet on Thursdays 4:30-7:30pm and Fridays 2-5pm on the following days: August 31 and September 1, September 14 and 15, September 28 and 29, October 12 and 13, October 26 and 27, November 9 and 10, November 30 and December 1. I will be available for one-on-one discussions: November 20 and 21 and December 7 and 8. I will also be available at any time by Skype and email. A nonfiction writing sample of any type (reported piece, narrative, essay or personal) is required for acceptance into the class. Please send your writing samples to Mingo Reynolds at Mingo Reynolds mingo@writing.upenn.edu.