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Creative Non-Fiction Writing

ENGL 135.302
W 2-5


Creative nonfiction essays, at best, celebrate curiosity, observation, prejudice, and other idiosyncrasies of the human condition. They use reportage and the literary techniques of fiction in the service of compelling real-life stories. In this workshop-style class you will write and revise four essays (1200-1500 words each), each one driven by one of the following writing challenges: Place/Journey, Person, Emotion, and Action/Event.

The subject matter of your work is deliciously open and up to you. I am, however, available to help shape and steer and urge you away from the overly solipsistic. Take advantage of the city that surrounds you, the way life has surprised you, and your own deepest yearnings. Subjects can range from the Reading Terminal at lunchtime, an open mike night, a Howard Johnson's counter on a rainy afternoon, a contentious dorm meeting, the bird outside your window, or a visit home.

In assignments, class exercises and discussions of the readings, we will address technical issues such as narrative/thematic tension, transition, point-of-view, character development, dialogue, point of view, characterization, imagery, metaphor, as well as the skills of interviewing, structure, tone, style, and personal voice. We will use your (and occasionally my) work as the bases for discussion. Since I am a full-time freelance writer, you will also be subjected to my wit and wisdom about the publishing world.

The core aim here is to get a group of student writers writing, and to have them willing to share the work in class. Thus, class participation is vital and expected.

In order to hit the ground running, students should come to the first class having read both Wendell Barry's "An Entrance to the Woods" and E.B. White's, "Once More to the Lake" from the Lopate anthology.

--The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present by Phillip Lopate (Editor), Teachers, Writers Collaborative
--selected current works TBA

fulfills requirements