Frequently Asked Questions

Questions? Start Here.

  • What day and time is my online course?

    Our courses run asynchronously; meaning, you will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a weekly basis; you should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but in most classes you will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Courses feature one live conference session, which does require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in this session is completely optional, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can accommodate most students. This is scheduled by the instructor after class begins.If you are not able to participate in the live conference you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences in boot camp courses.

  • What makes CNF’s classes different from other online programs?

    Flexibility

    Some online programs work on a “synchronous” model, which requires you to be online at an assigned time each week. The asynchronous model used in our classes means that you do not have to be online at any particular time of day, and can approach the class assignments at your own pace based on your schedule. While some optional events—such as class video conferences—do take place at a specific time, the majority of class activities can be completed according to your schedule.

    Intimate Classes

    Classes are small—limited to 14 students per section—which means you’ll receive individual attention and feedback on your work.

    Experienced Instructors

    Good writing instructors not only need to be skilled writers, but also need to have experience in teaching what they know to others. That’s why all of our instructors are professional writers with extensive teaching experience.

    Substantial and Meaningful Writing Assignments

    Many online writing programs ask you to complete short writing exercises each week, and only near the end of the class are you invited to write a single essay or chapter. At Creative Nonfiction, we recognize the value of exercises, but also believe that completing an essay or chapter is the best way for developing writers to really explore how all the elements of creative nonfiction work together. Writing complete pieces also leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and with work you can share when the class is completed. For this reason, in our classes you are invited to submit longer pieces multiple times during a course. See course syllabus for more information.

    Sense of Connection

    We realize that it is difficult to find one’s writing community—which is why we now offer every new student membership to a Community Page where you can meet with other CNF students, during and after class.

  • What are your community standards?

    Creative Nonfiction is committed to creating a welcoming and comfortable experience for all staff and participants regardless of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, disabilities, neurodiversity, physical appearance, ethnicity, nationality, race, age, or religion.

    We expect that staff and participants will treat each other with respect in all interactions. We will not tolerate discrimination or harrassment in conjunction with any of our programs. Harassment could include but is not limited to:

    • Repeated disruption of classes, lectures or discussion
    • Deliberate intimidation
    • Unwelcome sexual attention
    • Comments or displayed images that harmfully reinforce structures of oppression

    Community posts violating any of these guidelines can and will be removed from the page at any time. Anyone asked to stop harassing behavior is expected to comply immediately.

    Harassment does not include respectful disagreement or critique in good faith. Reading and writing, by their nature, include exposure to controversial, challenging, and sometimes offensive language. We encourage all participants to follow the peer review guidelines provided by their instructor.

    When you join a course you agree to…

    • respect others and respect their writing;
    • maintain the privacy of all submitted work;
    • treat others with respect;
    • not infringe on anyone’s copyright;
    • not harass, abuse, threaten or impersonate another user; and
    • not use libelous, obscene, or abusive work.


    Online Communication Guide

    Online communication happens without the benefit of body language and tone. Therefore, it can be easy to misinterpret. The following tips may help participants engage in civil, intelligent, vigorous discourse without impugning the personal dignity of others:

    1. Start from a position of generosity (i.e. assume that people mean well)
    2. Address your post to someone or to the group. Instead of “Hey” or just jumping in to your post, try “Hi All” or “Hi [Name].”
    3.  Don’t be afraid to use emoticons and/or exclamation points! 🙂
    4. Please avoid ALL CAPS whenever possible, as they tend to come off as RUDE or YELLING.
    5. Avoid harsh or offensive language of any kind. If you’re in doubt, try rewording or reconsidering your post.
    6. Sarcasm is very difficult to convey in writing — best to avoid it.
    7. When interacting with your peers, please consider that some may have limited experience with English, online education, and/or creative writing. It’s a good rule of thumb not to write anything you wouldn’t say if that person were standing in front of you.
    8. Often writers from underrepresented groups are asked to explain everything for an assumed monolithic audience (often cis/white/hetero/masculine/able-bodied, etc. etc.). As you respond to peers’ work, keep in mind that you may not be the writer’s intended audience, and leave room for the possibility that the writer is writing for a group of which you are not a member. (For more on this, listen to this episode of Code Switch for an in depth conversation.)

    See your course for additional feedback guidelines provided by your instructor.

  • How do I find my course archive?

    All course work is saved in Wet.Ink. When the course closes, you can find the archive by logging in to your account, and choosing “Past Classes.” Archives include course content (lectures, readings, writing prompts, etc.), your posts and writing submissions, and any feedback given on your writing. The course archive will not include your classmates’ writing submissions.

  • What do the course levels mean?

    FUNDAMENTALS—open to all levels.
    Our fundamentals courses are designed for those who are new to writing or new to creative nonfiction, as well as those who could benefit from a back-to-basics review on how to effectively and intentionally use elements of the writer’s craft.

    INTERMEDIATE—prerequisites suggested. 
    Our intermediate courses are designed for writers who have some experience either in the genre or CNF’s courses. Past course participation is not required, but we do recommend starting with one of our fundamentals courses, especially Foundations of Creative Nonfiction.

    ADVANCED—prerequisites for enrollment. 
    Our advanced courses are for writers who have completed two previous online courses (not including self-guided courses) with Creative Nonfiction (one must be an intermediate level course).

  • When do you offer courses? How long are they?

    Our terms include 5- and 10-week courses and run in fall (September-December), winter (January-March), and spring (April-June). In summer (July-August), we offer only 5-week courses.

  • What is the Community Page?

    Communities are forums in Wet.Ink where members can connect and interact around writing. Every online CNF student is a member of the general “Creative Nonfiction Community,” and each course includes an opportunity to join a private community with your classmates for when class is over.

  • The course I’m interested in is sold out. Is there anything I can do?

    Sometimes spaces open up as people’s schedules change. If you’d like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please contact us here.

  • What kind of feedback can I expect from my instructor?

    For each long assignment, you will receive detailed feedback from your instructor—big-picture comments about how the writing is working as a whole as well as in-line comments addressing tone, dialogue, word choice, etc. In addition to longer assignments, some instructors assign shorter weekly exercises for which they provide a brief response. Finally, students are always welcome to private message the instructor at any point during the course with additional questions.

  • I’m only interested in getting the instructor’s feedback on my work—why do I have to participate in the online discussions or the peer critiques?

    To create a better, more dynamic classroom experience for all, you are required to participate weekly in class discussions in order to receive instructor feedback on your work. If you are primarily interested in working one-on-one with a professional writer, please consider our manuscript review program.

  • I’m going to be away for part of the time that the class is in session—does this mean I shouldn’t take the course?

    If you will miss only one or two weeks of a ten-week class, this does not pose a problem; you can reach out to your instructor to submit the assignments ahead of time (or, if you choose, skip them). You should let your instructor know at the beginning of the class which weeks you will miss. If you think you will have to miss more than two weeks, it is probably best to wait for another term.

  • How much interaction can I expect to have with my instructor and with other students in the class?

    In our courses you can expect to:

    * receive personalized feedback on work from your instructor

    * comment on your peers’ writing and receive peer critiques in kind

    * discuss ideas with your instructor and peers

    * exchange writing, ideas, and book recommendations with other writers in our Community Page during and after classes are over

  • How many students are in each course?

    Our sections have a maximum of 14 students and a minimum of 6. Courses often fill up before registration ends; registering early ensures that you receive a space in the course of your choice.

  • How many hours per week will the coursework take?

    This depends largely on your own interests and dedication to the course. We ask that all students read the lecture and assigned readings and post at least once per week in the class discussion; this should take about 2 hours per week. Other commitments include submitting peer critiques and participating in (or watching) video conferences. Finally, most students wish to submit all major writing assignments for the class in order to receive instructor feedback, and here the time commitment is highly variable. Some students write only on the weekends, while others write or revise for some time each day to produce these works. Still others join the course with essays already written. Your writing time is a large part of the time commitment, and it is up to you to determine how much writing time you will need in order to produce pieces for critique.

  • Do I need to be online during a particular time or day in order to participate in a course? Does it matter what time zone I’m in?

    You will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF courses are given on a weekly basis. You should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but in most courses you will have at least a week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so courses are designed to be flexible. Courses feature one live conference session, which requires you to be online at a particular time; participation in this session is completely optional, however, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can accommodate most students. If you are not able to participate in the live conference, you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences in boot camp courses.

  • Do I need any particular software or video capabilities to be able to take an online course with CNF? Does it matter if I have a Mac or a PC?

    The only specific software/hardware requirement is a webcam for the optional video conference (does not apply to boot camps). If you do not have a webcam, you can join the meeting by phone. Aside from that, CNF courses use a web-based platform that does not require any software other than a web browser (ideally, Google Chrome). The course platform is compatible with both Mac and Windows systems and can also be accessed from a smartphone or tablet. All class materials will be posted on the class website or will be found on web pages that are linked to the class website.

    We recommend using a word processing program (e.g. Microsoft Word or Google Docs) to compose your writing; if you do not have a word processing program currently installed on your computer, you can download one here for free.

  • Do I need any particular computer skills to participate in the course?

    The program used for CNF courses is designed to be easy to use. If you can write and send emails with attachments and are generally comfortable online, you should have no problems. We’ll send you login info for your course two days before your class starts, so that you can familiarize yourself with the system.

  • Can the work I write in a CNF course be published in Creative Nonfiction or True Story?

    Creative work that is reviewed and/or commented upon by your instructor cannot be submitted to Creative Nonfiction or True Story without substantial revision. Specifically, our editors will not consider a submission for publication if more than 25 percent of the work has been read by Creative Nonfiction’s online instructors. You are welcome to submit work to the magazines that meets the above conditions, but you will not be given preference over authors from the general submission pool.

  • Can I submit work I have already written for instructor feedback?

    Yes. We ask only that you stick to the word limit for each assignment. Additionally, please try to make sure that the writing you submit for feedback fits the course; for example, an Experimental Forms course might not be the best place to submit the first chapter of your traditional book-length memoir.

  • What is your refund policy?

    We understand that life can get in the way of your plans. We want you to be able to get the most out of your course, and our refund policy is designed to balance your need for flexibility with our deadlines and obligations to our teachers.

    By 5pm EST on the Monday before courses begin (one week prior to start date):

    You may request a refund (less a $50 application fee) or request a transfer to another course in the same term or future term (no fee). Transfer credits must be applied within two years of your cancellation date.

    By 5pm EST on the Friday at the end of the first week of classes:

    You may transfer your enrollment credit to a future course (less a $95 processing fee for 10-week courses or a $75 processing fee for 5-week courses). Transfer credits must be applied within two years of your cancellation date. You may switch to another course in the same term (subject to availability) for a $25 fee.

    No refunds or transfers will be offered after 5 pm on Friday of the first week of classes.

  • I’ve enrolled in a class. What happens now?

    Two days before your course begins, you’ll receive an invitation with instructions on how to log into Wet Ink, our online platform. At this time, you can become familiar with the classroom, read your instructor’s announcements, set your avatar, and meet with others in the Community Page. On the first day of class, you’ll receive a welcome announcement and access to Week One’s materials.

    Below is the structure of a typical online class. Please note that some classes (such as CNF Boot Camp and self-guided courses) follow a different format. More details are available in individual class descriptions.

    Each week provides:

    *written lectures and a selection of readings


    *discussions of assigned readings and other general writing topics with peers and the instructor

    Some weeks also include:

    * writing prompts and/or exercises

    * opportunities to submit full-length essays for instructor and/or peer critiques

    * optional video conferences during Week 2

    Aside from the live conference, there is no need to be online at any particular time of day. To create a better classroom experience for all, you are required to participate weekly to receive instructor feedback on your work.

    After your course closes, you will receive a zip file of your content from this class as well as the lesson materials. You’ll also continue to be a member of our Creative Nonfiction Writing Classes’ Community Page. With this membership, you will be able to share writings and calls for submissions, recommend books, and, generally, stay connected. You can decide how frequently you want to receive notifications by changing the settings in your Wet Ink profile.

  • Do you offer any scholarships?

    Unfortunately, we do not offer scholarships at this time.

  • Do you offer any discounts?

    We currently offer two discounts, which may be combined: a $50 early registration discount and a $25 “refer-a-friend” discount.

    Refer-A-Friend Discount:

    You and your friend do not have to enroll in the same course, but you must enroll in the same term. To receive the discount, each student must enter their friend’s name in the “Order Comments” section of the checkout page when registering. Once both friends have registered, each student will receive a $25 refund. If you have any questions, email [email protected]

  • I am new to writing; where should I start?

    We highly encourage you to start with one of our Fundamental-level courses.

  • Do I need to have work already written in order to take any of the courses?

    Except for Advanced courses, you do not have to bring prior writing to the course; however, you can certainly submit prior writing as long as it fits the assignment criteria.

  • Do I need to be online during a particular time or day in order to participate in a class?

    You will NOT need to be online at any particular time. Assignments for CNF classes are given on a weekly basis; you should submit each assignment by a given deadline, but in most classes you will have at least an entire week to complete the assignment. We realize that our students live in many different areas and have different work schedules, so classes are designed to be flexible. Courses feature one live conference session, which does require that you be online at a particular time; however, participation in this session is completely optional, and instructors make an effort to offer times that can accommodate most students. This is scheduled by the instructor after class begins.If you are not able to participate in the live conference you will still be able to view a recording of it during the remaining weeks of the class. Please note that there are no video conferences in boot camp courses.

  • How many students are in each class?

    Our classes have a maximum of 14 students and a minimum of 6. Class sections often fill up before registration ends; registering early ensures that you receive a space in the class of your choice. If you know for certain that you wish to take a particular class, we recommend registering early. If you’d like to be added to a waitlist for a sold-out class, please email our Director of Education, Sharla Yates, at [email protected].

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