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Advanced Nonfiction Writing

“The first draft of anything is shit.”
—Ernest Hemmingway

“How to write: Stop not writing. Get and keep your butt in the chair. Write really bad small sections of the whole—passages, moments, episodes, memories—until you have an incredibly shitty first draft. Then take out the boring parts, the lies and pretensions. Then write a better second draft.”

—Anne Lamot

“Why bother conducting an experiment at all if you know what results it will yield? Maybe every essay automatically is in some way experimental–not an outline traveling toward a foregone conclusion but an unmapped quest that has sprung from the word question. I don’t know where the journey ends; otherwise, why call this action journey?”
—John D’Agata
“To think with any seriousness is to doubt. Thought is indistinguishable from doubt. To be alive is to be uncertain. I'll take doubt. The essayist argues with himself, and the essayist argues with the reader. The essay enacts doubt; it embodies it as a genre. The very purpose of the genre is to provide a vehicle for essaying.”

—David Foster Wallace

"Write like a motherfucker."
—Cheryl Strayed

Image by Minh Pham.webp

As the advanced level offering in creative nonfiction, this course emphasizes a more sophisticated, rigorous approach to writing and revising creative nonfiction essays, which are in themselves something of an indefinable literary art form whose lofty goal it is to weave truth (nonfiction) and beauty (creativity). This course will function as an innately critical creative writing workshop designed for students who are serious about their writing and serious, too, in their pursuit of advancing and polishing their work. As this course is particularly designed for juniors and seniors with prior experience in creative nonfiction essay writing, I expect all participants to dedicate ample time reading, writing, and thoroughly and substantially revising—‘reseeing’—each work. If you are new to the genre, you would do well to see me early in the semester to discuss the type of work we’ll be writing and reading in this class. The nature of our small workshop means you’ll be producing work and revising regularly, and you can expect ample freedom in both the content you create and the schedule you keep for yourself. Regardless, students are expected to come to class with mature ideas, interests, and risks that they hope to explore on the page and a serious intention in pushing themselves as writers and artists.

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