English 290NF - Spring, 2017

Creative Writing: Non-Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Houston, Pam
Time: W 6:10-9:00
Location: 120 Voorhies


    In this class we will explore several subgenres that exist within the extremely broad and unfortunately named category of nonfiction: the lyric essay, the memoir, and political and environmental journalism in particular. We will talk about how to make a beautiful essay as opposed to, say, a beautiful story or poem, and how we decide what material should take which form. We will talk about what we call "truth" in these dangerous political times, and how it figures into this genre we define by its negative. As in any class in artistic writing, there will be a great deal of focus on metaphor, lyricism, form and structure. We will discuss artistic choices available to the essayist such as point of view, tense, narrative stance, tone, scene versus summary, dialogue, beginnings and endings, and voice. Each student will be expected to turn in three new essays during the course of the quarter and turn in either a revision or a new essay at the semester's end. There will be reading assignments throughout the quarter and weekly writing exercises early on that will give way to workshop after a few weeks.


    Grading will be based on the quality of original material handed in as well as the quality of commentary on other participants' stories, and quality of discussion about the assigned reading.


    The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
    The Faraway Nearby , Rebeccas Solnit
    Quench Your Thirst With Salt, Nicole Walker
    The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander
    Dear Friend From My Life I Write To You In Your Life, Yiyun Li