Creative Nonfiction: Writing into the Personal *online
Creative nonfiction writing is about real stories, well told, that serve to both entertain and inform.
What is your true story and how do you plan to shape that narrative? In this introductory course, writers will tell their personal stories through experimenting with different genres and forms of writing. Are you curious about how a poem or a hermit crab essay can lead to truth-telling? Every story has already been told, or so they say, but it’s how you recount that story and your unique voice that creates a compelling narrative.
This interactive course includes craft talk, writing exercises, workshop opportunities to give and receive feedback, and readings, all within the confines of our class time, to give you a deeper understanding of your craft as you engage in the essential work of writing the true stories that matter to you.
By the end of the course, writers will accumulate pieces of personal writing that can be used to develop a portfolio or larger body of work.
Week 1 – Overview of Creative Nonfiction
- Read and discuss various examples of creative nonfiction and define
- Identify or explore some of the themes in your work and get introduced to each other’s writing. (Optional: bring a completed piece or section of writing to share with the group. Max 500 words)
- Sources of inspiration. Explore what tools and strategies you already have in your writing repertoire.
- Recognize what makes a piece of personal writing exceptional
Week 2 – Memoir (craft)
- Memoir is about writing to further understand the subject—you—and an aspect of your life, i.e. the period in your life when you married the partner who was so obviously wrong for you (in retrospect). What scenes from your life best exemplify what you’ve learned from that experience of the failed marriage?
- Blurry lines: borrowing and sharing the elements of fiction. Discuss examples and the tricks of fiction we utilize in memoir writing.
Week 3 – Memoir (reflection)
- Thinking bigger and beyond ourselves: Vivian Gornick’s “The what?” and the “So What?”
- Looking at connective tissue. What are the glue and parts that hold the body of a memoir together?
- Using the tools and tricks you’ve learned to write scenes and reflection pieces
Week 4 – Essay (the blog post, the newspaper and the magazine article)
- Differentiate and describe various types of essay writing.
- What differentiates a section of memoir writing from a blog post, a newspaper article or a magazine piece? While these pieces can be starkly different, overlap exists depending on the tone of the publication.
- Why write for these mediums?
- Considering the topics of your choice, we will write a short blog post and an article for the Globe and Mail First Person column
Week 5 – Personal Essays (literary, narrative)
- Learn to differentiate the literary essay from memoir writing
- We write an essay to further understand a question, or the subject of the essay—e.g. When is a Marriage Over?—using the personal experience of the self—e.g. the messy divorce
- Introduce various kinds of personal essays: braided, fragmented, graphic, lyric essay, etc.
Week 6 – Personal Essays (literary, hybrid and other forms)
- Further explore Hermit Crab essays.
- Discuss various examples and write your own.
Week 7 – Poetry (for the already-poets and the poets-that-don’t-even-know-its)
- The prose poem defined
- What is a chapbook and why am I bringing it up here?
- Incorporating poetry into memoir, examples from the field
- Compose prose poems
Week 8 – Writing is Rewriting
- Brief revision and synthesis of course teachings
- A discussion on editing
- Readings: writing circle. The opportunity to share a piece of writing.