In spring 2021, I’ll be teaching ENG-W 311: Writing Creative Nonfiction, a course I have taught a couple of times in the last five years. Here’s the course description:
Creative nonfiction is an exciting genre to read and to write. It complicates the boundary between what we normally think of as imaginative storytelling and writing about real people, places, things, and events. Most people associate imaginative writing or fiction with, say, fantasy novels, contemporary fiction, romance, sci-fi, thrillers, mysteries, and most of what we call “Literature,” while we think of nonfiction as writing about real events: journalism, documentary or travel writing, personal essays and memoirs.
Creative nonfiction (or “CN”) combines the best of both worlds, fusing elements of fiction and nonfiction by emphasizing the creative potentials of everyday life and simultaneously honoring the strangeness of reality. This is certainly part of the genre’s appeal. So, while it’s fair to say that creative nonfiction is rooted in reality or things that have actually happened, it also plays fast-and-loose with what we might think of as “truth” and gleefully incorporates figures of speech, rich imagery, exaggeration, creative characterization, and other stylistic elements that we might normally associate with literary texts.
This course will be equal parts (1) writing workshop, (2) overview of both classical and contemporary examples of creative nonfiction, and (3) extended course on the nonfiction essay. Together we will read some of the finest examples of creative nonfiction writing available; read, internalize, and imitate these models; practice the kind of discipline a good writing habit demands; and have our work read, critiqued, and supported by a small group of smart, sophisticated readers.