IntroLit: CW Creative Non-Fiction

“Creative nonfiction” … tricks “the
reader into going places she would not normally – because that is exactly how I
survived and experienced my own life.” Olivia Chia-Lin Lee (formerly one of the
highest-paid call girls in San Francisco), “Pimp”

In another story, “The Truth about
Cops and Dogs,” Rebecca Skloot writes:

Eight months ago, if you’d told me I’d be obsessed with a little
old Greek guy and fantasizing about killing his dogs, I’d have said you were
nuts. If you’d said a little old Greek guy’s pack of eight junkyard dogs had
been roaming the streets of mid-town Manhattan for years attacking people and
tearing apart their dogs while city officials said, Sorry, that’s not our
problem, I’d have called you a conspiracy theorist.

So, you may be wondering, what is creative nonfiction
anyway? How is it different from regular, old nonfiction. One writer puts it
this way:

Creative nonfiction gives the
writer more artistic freedom—not in regard to the truth but in constructing the
story. Ultimately, the primary goal … is to communicate information, just like
a reporter, but to shape it in such a way that it reads like fiction. (Lee
Gutkind, 2007)

Objectives & Goals


  • To develop your skills of
    close reading of literary texts;
  • To cultivate your creative
    writing skills by modeling work on that of accomplished, more experienced
  • To help you understand
    writing as a process that involves brainstorming, drafting, revising,
    editing, proofreading, and peer-editing;
  • To make use of research

To accomplish these goals, we will read and write lots of
prose that is true to the facts while being alive and quirky, fun and gripping,
compelling and lyrical. In order to warm up and stoke our own writing fires, we
will read great writing from a wide range of artists. Class time will be highly
interactive:  lots of conversation about
the readings, as well as listening and responding, in small groups, to drafts
of each other’s writing. In addition to the actual reading, homework will
entail more dialogue vis a vis online postings of responses to the reading, as
well as thoughtful revisions to your
written work. By the end of the semester, you will have a portfolio of
‘finished’ work (20 pages or so) that you have written, revised many times, and
polished to a high gleam, thanks to our conversation, sustained effort, and the
fearless writing I will encourage you to do in this course.

Required Texts
(available at Revolution Books in Puck’s Alley)

  • Fun Home:
    A Family Tragicomic
    , Alison Bechdel
  • Brother,
    I’m Dying
    , Edwidge Dandicat
  • Mountains
    Beyond Mountains
    , Tracy Kidder
  • Born to
    Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,
    Christopher McDougall
  • The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in
    Creative Nonfiction,
    Dinty Moore
  • The
    Elements of Style
    , Strunk and

Assignments & Grades

  • Online
    Responses                                                     30%
  • Short
    Papers                                                              20%
  • Panel
    Discussions of Readings                                  20%
  • Portfolio

Course Requirements

  • Online responses:  For each assigned reading, an online response
    will be due on our class website based on guidelines handed out in class.
  • Short papers will
    consist of metacommentary, in which you reflect on your own writing in regard
    to your goals, techniques, and strategies.
  • Panel Discussions:  Based on your discussion of assigned readings
    with a small group of three or four people, your group will be asked to lead
    the one class in discussion of the day’s reading.
  • Portfolio:  This will consist of several revised, and
    polished pieces of creative nonfiction, of 15 – 20 pages or so that you will
    write during the semester.