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Creative Non-Fiction Writing

ENGL 135.303

The craft of travel writing is the craft of storytelling. Stories are a tool we use to see the world around us more clearly, and to travel is simply a way of reminding oneself I am here right now. Stories are the way we come to understand ourselves, and to find meaning in our lives and in our world. Our job here is to learn to see more vividly; to capture that most elusive of things called experience, which is the essence of all travel. This will be a workshop where we will meditate on the idea of travel-as-experience and how to recreate these experiences as vivid narrative. We will discuss craft, the mechanics of writing effective narrative nonfiction, and yet we will try to be mindful of the intuitive (and unconscious) powers at play in our writing as well. Each week we will do in-class writing exercises and students will go on weekly “travel” assignments, to be brought back to class, read aloud, and critiqued. In a way, the class will operate like the editorial meeting at a magazine, where we brainstorm different ideas for “assignments,” and then discuss what might make any given story work more effectively. Perhaps one story might require a little historical research; another might benefit from an interview with an expert (or interesting character); other stories might be best as a mix of stream-of-consciousness and reportage or as David Foster Wallace might have deemed it: “experiential postcards.” The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that travel writing can be anything you want it to be, so please be prepared to break boundaries.

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