English 290NF - Spring, 2023

Creative Writing: Non-Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Houston, Pam
Time: T 12:10-3:00pm
Location: 120 Voorhies


Any attempt to define nonfiction succinctly is doomed to fail, but such an attempt is full of conversational potential, so we will try, on the first day of class to do just that. Nonfiction is known as the third genre, in some ways it is just getting its legs underneath it, and there is the feeling within the genre that anything at all might happen. Which I find exciting. In this class we will explore several subgenres that exist within the extremely broad and, in my opinion badly 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 complex political times, and how it figures into this genre we insist on defining by its negative. As in any class in artistic writing, there will be a great deal of focus on metaphor, voice, 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.

Each student will be expected to turn in two new essays or memoir chapters during the course of the quarter and turn in either a revision or a new essay/chapter at quarter?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.


Several Essays available free on line, TBA
South To America, Imani Perry
Body Work, Melissa Febos
How We Fight For Our Lives, Saeed Jones
What You Have Heard Is True, Carolyn Forche