English 100NF - Spring, 2019

Creative Writing: Nonfiction

Class Information

Instructor: Houston, Pam
Time: W 12:10-3:00
Location: 308 Voorhies


    We will explore which events in our lives deserve to be written about, and when and in what ways it is okay to write about the lives of others. We will talk about 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 whether or not language can mean, definitively, and whether, if so, its meaning can be expected to stand still. 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 ponder whether or not there is such a thing as the truth of an essay, and how that might differ from what we might call: how it really happened.
    As in any class in artistic writing, there will be a great deal of focus on metaphor, lyricism, style, 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, two to the whole class, according to the schedule we will make on the first night, and one new essay to me at the end of the quarter. I will also ask for a revision of one or the other of the first two essays. There will be reading assignments throughout the quarter and weekly writing exercises early on that will give way to workshop after a few weeks.

    Required Texts:
    Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot
    The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
    Maid, by Stephanie Land
    Book of Delights, by Ross Gay
    How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee


    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.


    Heart Berries, Terese Marie Mailhot
    Book of Delights, Ross Gay
    How To Write an Autobiographical Novel, Alexander Chee
    Maid, Stephanie Land
    The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch