July 11 - August 14, 2022
What are the limits of creative nonfiction? At what point does an essay leave the world of fact and enter the realm of fiction or poetry? Are the borders between these genres rigid and unyielding, or are they porous? How can a writer move seamlessly between them during the course of a single essay in order to communicate more effectively the complexity of his or her experience?
In this class, you will explore a variety of strategies for innovation in nonfiction writing. You’ll study new exhilarating developments in the genre, encountering the work of many contemporary practitioners of the craft, and discuss which subjects lend themselves to these cutting-edge techniques. You will learn about experimental structures, hybrid forms, and nonstandard narrative perspectives, writing one short 500 word vignettes and one 3,000 word essay.
Most essays proceed in a linear, chronological fashion—And then we did this, and then we did that. Throughout the week, you'll talk about strategies for deviating from this standard structure in order to dramatize complex, multifaceted stories. Among other things, you’ll discuss nonstandard essay structures, including: fragmented chronology; flashing backwards and flashing forwards; braided storylines; and the bookended essay. You will practice these techniques by writing a 500-word micro-essay that deploys one of these innovative structures.
Oftentimes essayists forget that you don't have to rely solely on your memories to construct an essay. The class will overlook the other textual sources that inform your experiences—the assorted testimonies that can be in conversation with your own interpretations of events. During the week, you’ll talk about how your essays can be a collage of other genres, appropriating material from newspaper articles, poems, song lyrics, business brochures, diary entries—whatever—in order to locate the meaning of your experiences. You’ll talk about how these sources can be integrated effectively into your essays.
Writing creative nonfiction doesn’t always mean excavating the terrain of the self. There are countless examples of essayists who have done enough research and have taken enough care to tell other people’s stories compellingly and sensitively. This week, you’ll talk about strategies for writing about other people’s experiences. You’ll review narrative perspectives used by fiction writers to animate the lives of your characters—particularly, second-person, third-person-omniscience, and third-person-close—and you’ll discuss ways you can use these perspectives in nonfiction writing. You will also submit a 3,000 word essay this week. The submission should respond to one of the assignment prompts and draw on the lectures and class discussions.
Whenever you use a nontraditional approach, you must make sure that it contributes to the success of your essay. This week, you’ll talk about how you can determine whether the experiments in your essays are necessary and worthwhile, and how you can adjust your approach to best serve the purpose of the piece. You will also share your Week 3 essay with a small group of classmates for Peer Critiques.
While some experimental structures will offend classical tastes, increasingly these strategies have been accepted by major literary magazines and publishing houses. This week you’ll discuss print venues that are interested in experimental work. The lecture will also talk about matching your aesthetic sensibility with those of the right magazine. More generally, the class will talk about expectations for the submission process, as well as strategies for increasing your chances to land your work in print.
Out of stock
It is not uncommon for classes to fill up before the end of early registration, particularly in the last few days before the deadline. 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].
Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.
I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.Catherine O’Neill
I enjoyed reading other peoples work and getting feedback about my own work– the handouts/video links and class lessons were also very informative and relevantly paced to the give structural guidelines.
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.
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.
Classes are small—limited to 14 students per section—which means you’ll receive individual attention and feedback on your work.
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.
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:
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.
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:
See your course for additional feedback guidelines provided by your instructor.
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.
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).
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