Creative Writing – Nonfiction

Course Number: WR 240
Transcript Title: Creative Writing – Nonfiction
Created: October 18, 2019
Updated: May 8, 2020
Total Credits: 5
Lecture Hours: 44
Lecture / Lab Hours: 0
Lab Hours: 0
Satisfies Cultural Literacy requirement: No
Satisfies General Education requirement: Yes
Grading options: A-F (default), P-NP, audit
Repeats available for credit: 0

Prerequisite / Concurrent

Course Description

Focuses on writing short creative nonfiction for class discussion and analysis in a workshop setting. Includes study and writing of personal narrative, memoir, nature and travel writing, and literary journalism. Explores the works of established writers for forms, techniques and styles as a context for the production of creative nonfiction for class discussion and analysis. Prerequisite/concurrent: WR121. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Read a diverse range of works by established creative nonfiction authors in order to identify and reproduce demonstrated writing techniques and reflect upon cultural content.
  2. Employ creative writing techniques drawn from fiction, poetry, and scriptwriting to write original nonfiction.
  3. Write and revise original creative nonfiction that effectively uses self-reflection, research, and the elements of the craft.
  4. Use critical thinking and problem solving to critique peer writing and communicate effectively about strengths and weaknesses of drafts in workshop community.
  5. Engage with socially important issues and/or the people impacted by them throughout the writing process.

Alignment with Institutional Core Learning Outcomes

Major 1. Communicate effectively using appropriate reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. (Communication)

Major

2. Creatively solve problems by using relevant methods of research, personal reflection, reasoning, and evaluation of information. (Critical thinking and Problem-Solving)

Not addressed

3. Extract, interpret, evaluate, communicate, and apply quantitative information and methods to solve problems, evaluate claims, and support decisions in their academic, professional and private lives. (Quantitative Literacy)

Minor

4. Use an understanding of cultural differences to constructively address issues that arise in the workplace and community. (Cultural Awareness)

Major

5. Recognize the consequences of human activity upon our social and natural world. (Community and Environmental Responsibility)

To establish an intentional learning environment, Core Learning Outcomes (CLOs) require a clear definition of instructional strategies, evidence of recurrent instruction, and employment of several assessment modes.

Major Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed recurrently in the curriculum, regularly enough to establish a thorough understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a thorough understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Minor Designation

  1. The outcome is addressed adequately in the curriculum, establishing fundamental understanding.
  2. Students can demonstrate and are assessed on a fundamental understanding of the outcome.
    • The course includes at least one assignment that can be assessed by applying the appropriate CLO rubric.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

Assessment may include in-class and out-of-class writing, appraisal of the student writing, revision efforts, and participation in the workshop process, including contribution to discussion and the quality of written comments on the work of others.  Students may be asked to demonstrate their understanding of reading assignments, technique and craft through written and verbal responses, journals, quizzes, exams, portfolios close reading exercises using support/evidence, writing exercises which include evaluation of various interpretations of a text and their relative validity. Both instructor and peer evaluation will be incorporated in the assessment process. Regular attendance and meeting deadlines for assignments are essential to the workshop process and may figure into the final grade.  Attendance policies vary with instructors:  students missing a week’s worth of class may not expect an A; those missing two weeks’ worth may not pass the course.

Texts and Materials

The following items are intended as descriptions of instructors’ choices of texts in the past as an aid to choosing texts in the future.  This is not intended as a prescribed or recommended list of texts.

  1. Many instructors use “how to write” texts designed for college level creative writing courses, such as:
    • Lynn Z. Bloom, Fact and Artifact: Writing Nonfiction
    • Theodore A. Rees Cheney. Writing Creative Nonfiction: How to Use Fiction Techniques to Make Your Nonfiction More Interesting, Dramatic and Vivid
    • Lydia Fakundiny. The Art of the Essay
    • Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard (ed),Writing Creative Nonfiction
    • Philip Gerard. Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life
    • Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story
    • Lee Gutkind. The Art of Creative Nonfiction: Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality
    • Iversen, Kristen. Shadow Boxing: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction
    • Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir
    • Patsy Sims, Literary Nonfiction
    • William Zinsser. On Writing Well: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  2. Along with a textbook and sometimes as the only text, instructors often use anthologies of creative nonfiction, such as:
    • [Current Editor] BestAmerican Essays [particular year]
    • Mark Kramer and Norman Sims, eds. Literary Journalism: A New Collection of the Best American Nonfiction
    • Phillip Lopate, ed. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
    • Robert L. Root and Michael Steinberg, eds. The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction
  3. Instructors also sometimes choose books by individual writers, the choice depending upon the instructor’s tastes, inclinations, and intentions for the class.
    • Eula Biss, Notes from No Man’s Land
    • Lacy M Johnson, The Reckonings
    • William Kittredge. Owning It All
    • Roxanne Gay, Bad Feminist
    • Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams
    • Claudia Rankine, Citizen
    • Terry Tempest Williams. Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family & Place
    • Ryan Van Meter, If You Knew Then What I Know Now
    • Mary Clearman Blew, Bone Deep in Landscape: Writing, Reading and Place

Instructors new to the course should contact the chair for further information.

Course Activities and Design

The determination of teaching strategies used in the delivery of outcomes is generally left to the discretion of the instructor. Here are some strategies that you might consider when designing your course: lecture, small group/forum discussion, flipped classroom, dyads, oral presentation, role play, simulation scenarios, group projects, service learning projects, hands-on lab, peer review/workshops, cooperative learning (jigsaw, fishbowl), inquiry based instruction, differentiated instruction (learning centers), graphic organizers, etc.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Outcome #1: Read a diverse range of established creative nonfiction authors in order to learn techniques demonstrated in their work. Write critical responses discussing elements of the craft and reflecting on cultural content:

  • Close reading and analysis of a diverse range of creative nonfiction such as a combination of:
    • Works by women
    • Works by people of color
    • Works that contribute to current cultural and social conversations
    • Works that explore relationships between cultures
    • Recent publications
    • Older publications
  • Critical responses demonstrate knowledge of craft terms and awareness of cultural impacts
  • Implied thesis
  • Genres
  • Author intent
  • Consideration for impact of writer’s cultural experience on self-expression
  • Consideration of own cultural experience and bias in response to reading

Outcome #2: Employ creative writing techniques drawn from fiction, poetry, and scriptwriting. Use these techniques to write original nonfiction and to inform peer responses and critical responses to assigned reading:

  • Demonstrate, in written responses, thorough understanding of craft terms
  • Use craft terms to write effective responses to assigned reading and to peer work.
  • Use knowledge of craft terms and techniques to define and revise problems in own writing.
  • Elements which create voice:  metaphors, images, choice of dialogue to quote, quality of reflection, humor, irony, allusion, symbol
  • Methods of handling time:  flashbacks, frames, juxtaposition and interweaving, straight and reverse chronology
  • Study of other craft terms and techniques such as; Narrative voice and distance, Scene vs. summary,
  • Point of view:  first, second, third person, Structure: segmented or associative, Conflict, Tone/Language, Text/Subtext, Figurative language, Pacing, Theme, Characterization, Setting, descriptive detail, concreteness, dialogue, flashbacks, juxtaposition, metaphor, voice, tone, formality and informality, alternate narrative

Outcome #3: Write original creative nonfiction that effectively uses self-reflection and the elements of craft, leading to the development and revision of at least one complete piece.

  • Draft essays that interweave research on issue(s) facing society with personal experience:
  • Illustrate understanding of complicated subjects and consideration for varying points of view
  • Demonstrate consideration of audience/reader
  • Demonstrate ability to interrogate own bias, assumptions, and cultural influences
  • Reflect on writer’s own impact/contribution to issue
  • Writer considers consequences of proposed solutions and interrogates own position
  • Credible sources inform work
  • Local research
  • Global research
  • Revision

Outcome #4: Use critical thinking and problem solving to critique peer writing and communicate effectively about strengths and weaknesses of drafts in workshop community:

  • Close reading and analysis
  • Use of craft terms to write effective critical responses to peers
  • Sentence level revision: diction, sentence length, punctuation, unnecessary words, invisible modifiers, overuse of adverbs and adjectives, sentence structure, use of “to be” verbs.
  • Passive and active voice
  • Global revision: tense issues, balance between scene and summary, imagery, structure, voice, point of view, specific detail, tension
  • Writing as a process
  • Constructive feedback

Outcome #5: Engage with socially important issues and/or the people impacted by them throughout the writing process:

  • Directly participating in the action being written about
  • Interviews or research in community
  • Designing an experience that will be the basis of an essay
  • Writing to confront issues of significance to culture at large
  • Writing that demonstrates careful consideration of opposing viewpoints
  • Writing that interrogates writer’s own perspective
  • Research to build a knowledge base writer uses to articulate issues and solutions while effectively engaging reader
  • Sources of material:  personal experience, interview, research using resources
  • online, in print and in person (interviews), walking the ground,
  • meditation and reflection
  • Documentation
  • Paraphrasing and quoting
  • Evaluating sources
  • Multiple interpretations
  • Audience, Purpose, and Occasion
  • Satire
  • Plagiarism