Creative Writing: Introduction to Nonfiction Prose

Section 01
Grae Gardiner
Course Description

If you’ve ever read a news article or opinion piece, followed a recipe or scientific experiment, scrolled through social media, or absentmindedly clicked through links on Wikipedia, there’s a good chance you’ve engaged with some form of nonfiction writing. But are any of these examples of writing creative nonfiction? The answer is a little bit of yes, a little bit of no, and a lot of perhaps, let’s try it.

In this course we’ll set out to answer the very broad, but endlessly rich question “what is creative nonfiction,” considering how this expansive and ever-shifting genre looks on the page and moves in the mind. We’ll talk about categories and categorization, about “the essay,” about big capital-T Truths, about “telling it slant,” about story, about meditation and observation, about language, about what you think and why you think it, about what is beautiful and terrifying in your life or in the lives of other beings or somewhere in between.

To understand creative nonfiction’s particular genre conventions and compositional strategies, we’ll read pieces from authors both historical and contemporary in a variety of subgenres, forms, and modes—including flash and micro essays, lyric essays, personal essays, memoir, literary journalism, haibun, and graphic nonfiction/comics, among others. Then, we’ll draft our own pieces. Each student will be required to write three different pieces of creative nonfiction, as well as participate in workshopping the writing of their peers. Ultimately, we’ll be reading and writing in a knowledge-making community together: asking questions, scribbling sentences, practicing, testing, trying out and finding out what creative nonfiction can do for us and for the world(s) around us.

Course Flyer for ENGLSH 1520, section 01