Creative nonfiction is prose with a strong personal voice. It is less formal, nonacademic writing found in such magazines as the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair. In this course, you will experiment with different kinds of nonfiction prose, such as the memoir and the interview/profile, and you will practice the skills they require, such as close observation, interviewing strategies, and writing for a more popular audience. You will also try out different sentence forms and various revision strategies, and you will improve your editing ability. You will also read and analyze published nonfiction and your classmates' writing and reflect on your own writing practices. Finally, you will create a portfolio of your finished pieces. The entire class will also experiment with publishing your writing online. The overall objectives of the class are to improve the power, clarity, variety, and fluency of your writing. Of course, it is writing intensive!
Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz, eds. Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
The "list" price of this book new in our bookstore is $60.00, but you should be able to find used copies online for $35 or less. The first two chapters are on Ereserve to give you time to search for the best deal on this text. We will use the WHOLE book, so it's worth buying.
The New Yorker Magazine.
I have ordered special 15-week student subscriptions for $9.00 each, or 65Ę a copy. The news stand price is $6.99 a copy! Everyone's magazines will be delivered to me each week, starting with the February 11 issue, and I will hand them out to you. I will collect $9.00 from each of you in the first 2 weeks of the term.
A small notebook for writing "on the go"
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well. 25th or 30th anniversary ed. New York: Harper Collins, 2001/ 2006. (Used from $8.00)
Strunk, William and E. B. White. Elements of Style. 4th ed. NY: Macmillan, 1999.
Williams, Joseph. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 8th ed. New York: Longman, 2004.
Hacker, Diane. A Writerís Reference. 6th ed. NY: Bedford St. Martinís Press, 2009 OR any other English handbook.
A One-Page Observation
Autobiographical Sketch (3-4 pages)
Profile of a Person (3-4 pages)
A "Reporter-at-Large" Piece (6-8 pages)
A Major Revision of either the Profile or the "Reporter" Piece
Appreciation of a creative nonfiction writer you choose
impromptu writings and responses to writing
A Final Portfolio
1. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE: Since the point of this course is to increase your writing fluency and power by building on the work you did in Eng. 101 & 201, expect to do a great deal of writing. I am not trying to scare you away, but 4 hours of writing (plus 1-2 hours of reading) PER WEEK will be normal. Your writing will improve only if you get feedback and then labor over your writing again and again. So expect to sweat during this term.
2. MEET DEADLINES: Think of yourself as a member of a magazine staff who must meet your deadlines or get fired. Like the editor in charge of such a staff, I will have to "fire" you (give you an F) if you fail to meet deadlines. Once you get behind, you will find it very difficult to catch up and keep up.
3. WORK TOGETHER: In this class, we are members of a writing and reading community, like the staff of any publication. To create this feeling of community, you will share your writing with one another, as well as with me, and write about one anotherís writing. Since the usual audience for your writing will be the class, we will regularly enjoy everyoneís finished pieces in "round-robin" reading sessions. Consider everything you write to hand in as "public" material.
After you have all written your first short pieces, the class, working in groups, will select, edit, arrange, and format one piece by each student for publication as an ONLINE MAGAZINE, using the free publishing website lulu.com. In addition, you will work in small groups to evaluate your own essays as well as those in books.
4. CONFER WITH ME: Everyone must make an appointment to see me at midterm, the week of March 14-19, and again on May 7 to discuss your work and to decide which long piece you will revise and how. Of course, you can come see me at other times too!
5. GRADING: Think of me as your editor rather than your grader. Think of your classmates as fellow staff writers. To focus your attention more fully on your writing, not your grade, I will use a PORTFOLIO system: Only the two longer pieces you write will be graded when due. At the end of the semester, you will hand in a portfolio of all your finished pieces for a final evaluation and grade. You can revise any or every piece for the final portfolio until the day itís due. (In fact, you MUST revise either the profile or the reporter-at-large piece.) Here is the breakdown of grades:
writings, the autobiographical sketch, the observation, and the appreciation will not
be graded when they are handed in.
The profile of
a person and the reporter-at-large piece will be graded when handed in.
Each will count for 15% of your
final grade. The grading
criteria will be handed out with each assignment.
portfolio will be graded at the end of the term for 60% of your final grade. The
grading criteria for the portfolio will be handed out with the list of pieces it
The remaining 10%
of your final grade will include 1) your participation in class, including
group reading and writing sessions and the class magazine experiment, 2)
whether or not you met deadlines, and 3) your attendance.
Nervous about the portfolio grading? Remember that you CAN REVISE any pieces up to the end of the term. I prefer not to grade most of your writing because I want you to feel free to experiment with different topics and a less academic style of writing. And I want you to think of your classmates as well as me as your readers. Youíll be more likely to do all of this if youíre not thinking about pleasing me or psyching me out for a grade.
There will be no exams. On the scheduled final exam day, we will meet to evaluate the course and your own portfolios.
Now try to FORGET about grades and RELAX into your own writing process. Focus on your writing: What do you want to improve? What do you want to try out? What do you want to eliminate?
6. ATTENDANCE: Much of the preparation for and revision of essays will be done in class, often in small groups. Thus, any absence will hurt you and your colleagues. So ATTEND EVERY CLASS unless you're dead. I take daily attendance, and more than 4 absences will affect your final grade. Also, I will often start each class with some writing. If you are late, even by a few minutes, you will miss this work and will be behind the rest of the period. So be on time.
7. SUBMITTED WORK: All finished pieces you give me should be
in BOTH paper copies ( 8 1/2 x 11" paper, one-inch margins and 12-point
font) AND emailed to me. The College subscribes to Turnitin.com. If I think
that any writing you hand in is not your own, I will submit it to Turnitin.com.
I give plagiarized papers a zero
(not an F), and these zeros cannot be made up.
In other words, passing off as yours what is someone else's work is
totally counterproductive. If you need more
time or help, just ask for it. Please KEEP all
drafts and final versions of your papers until the end of the term for your
portfolio. You may continue to revise anything until then.
"Writing is never finished," said the poet Paul Valery, "only abandoned."