Personal Essay & Memoir
Personal essays and memoirs are the autobiographical branches of creative nonfiction. Expressing feelings and memories is only the first step in the fascinating process of re-creating for your readership an interior world or a world lost in time. In this course students practice and master literary skills such as revision, description, observation, fact-gathering, and dialogue. The goal is work of publishable quality – which means developing the writer’s distinctive “voice” and learning how to write a deeply personal work that can attract and move an audience. We will also be reading and studying published examples of the personal essay and the memoir—and the two are not the same. Along the way we consider questions about privacy and the problems of writing from memory.
Creative Nonfiction Workshop
In this group-workshop course, students read, study and discuss examples of excellent creative nonfiction and write four drafts each of two complete essays, finishing the course with two well-crafted and highly polished examples of creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction, also called "the literature of reality," includes personal essays, memoirs, travel or nature writing, nonfiction narratives, and cultural criticism such as reviews. Individual lessons and writing exercises focus on topic selection, scene writing, observation and description, dialogue reconstruction, describing people, and research on factual material. We aim for work of publishable quality.
Adv Studies Craft of Poetry
I’d subtitle this course “How to Improve Your Poetry,” or “How to Create Poems that Move Your Readers.” After writing your first draft, which is like a pencil sketch, optimize your poem using classic and modern poetic techniques to create a memorable full-color experience for your reader. The poets who move you have skills, nerve, and techniques; you can be like them. Feedback and revision will support you in acquiring the ability to write poems of consistent quality. You will also learn the lingo. If you don’t know what syllabics or enjambments are, you will learn. Poetry exercises will encourage you to free your imagination. Teaching us via their textbooks are contemporary poets Mary Oliver and Stephen Dobyns.
The Poetry Collection
When 40 to 70 poems have been written and perfected, the poet’s next challenge is to arrange them into a book. This is too large a task for pure intuition and, we sense, too important to leave to chance. So a poetry collection is almost always carefully curated by the poet, who is mindful that its arrangement is a public act that will affect the book’s reception. A book of poems can be arranged by theme, as a journey or cycle, in order of urgency, to “teach the reader how to read me,” or even along the lines of a banquet table or a double helix. But the book’s arrangement—a pattern of speech, space and silence—should be intelligible and fit the content. The keywords unity, proportion, and radiance, plus our intuition, will give us a place to start our discussions. Our textbooks are two acclaimed and memorable poetry collections: Ted Kooser’s Pulitzer-winning Delights and Shadows and MacArthur winner Lucia Perillo’s Dangerous Life.
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