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Advanced Nonfiction Writing

ENGL 145.301
instructor(s):
R 4:30-7:30
fulfills requirements:
Elective of the Standard Major

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 heavy concentration on writing assignments and workshopping. We will also examine the work of authors such as Katharine Boo, Isabel Wilkerson, Monica Hesse, Lillian Ross, Lorene Cary, Gay Talese, David Foster Wallace, Richard Ben Cramer, Matthew Desmond, Truman Capote, John Hersey 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 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. Opportunities also exist for exemplary student work about Philadelphia to be professionally published as part of a collaboration with the Kelly Writers House and the daily online publication The Philadelphia Citizen. Class attendance and participation are essential.

The course will meet on Thursdays 4:30-7:30pm and Fridays 2-5pm on the following days: August 29 and 30, September 12 and 13, September 26 and 27, October 17 and 18, October 31 and November 1, November 14 and 15, December 5 and 6. I will be available for one-on-one discussions: November 7 and 8 and December 12 and 13. 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@writing.upenn.edu. Permit from the instructor is required.