Online Course

Flash Essay

January 10 - February 13, 2022

Level Intermediate

Distill experiences, big or small, into their purest essence.

Additional Information

Some experiences beg us to write about them, but we often feel overwhelmed when trying to capture the whole story at once. In this class, we’ll explore the art of flash nonfiction and short essays. Life is made up of moments: big showy ones and small quiet ones—many of them infused with deeper meaning. Sometimes we can easily articulate a moment’s meaning, but often we can only make sense of it peripherally. In a flash essay, the moment and the meaning must be distilled to their purest essence. Through a series of writing exercises, you will generate a list of potential essay ideas and identify key details and imagery to help you dig into the heart of those stories. You will also write several flash pieces of varying lengths.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Inspiration (Find Your Flash)

What is a flash essay? More importantly: What makes a flash essay sizzle and spark? This week, we’ll dive into the fray with a brief history of the genre and an exploration of what makes an essay part of the “flash” genre. We’ll read a selection of flash essays to get a taste of the form—and to explore our own aesthetics related to the genre. We'll kick off the course with writing exercises designed to give you a list of potential “jumping in” points for the essays you’ll write throughout this course (and beyond).

Week 2: Distillation (Follow It Down)

This week we’ll follow the advice of Annie Dillard: “Push it. Examine all things intensely and relentlessly. Probe and search each object in a piece of art; do not leave it, do not course over it, as if it were understood, but instead follow it down until you see it in the mystery of its own specificity and strength.” We will examine a variety of writing craft techniques that can be used to distill a story into the small and powerful space of flash. We’ll look at framing your subject matter, choosing and shading details, and using imagery to support meaning.

Week 3: Exploration (Come at It Sideways)

Beyond length, there is nothing about the flash essay that mandates its form or contents. This week we’ll look beyond the narrative- and personal-essay forms to other kinds of short essays, including lyric, collage, braided, “hermit crab,” meditative, and micro- essays. This exploration of forms will also broaden the way we think about our own memoir-based subject matter by enabling us to come at our work “sideways.”

Week 4: Realization (Make It Burn)

We will discuss techniques to revise and sharpen a flash essay to make it ready for publication. We’ll build upon the last three weeks and dive deeper into the nitty-gritty of how every single decision (from word choice to punctuation) counts in a flash piece.

Week 5: Distribution (Send It Out)

Once you have a flash essay, what do you do with it? And what happens if you end up with a flash essay that wants to become something else? This week we'll explore sending our work out into the world for publication, as well as how to expand a flash into a longer piece. We'll look at some publications that feature flash essays and cover the basics of how to submit your work to literary journals. We'll also discuss if and when it's a good idea to transform a flash essay into something else, such as a longer essay or a collection of flash-sized pieces.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Instructor

Course Registration

$260.00

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Please Note

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].

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Creative Nonfiction’s online writing classes have helped more than 3,000 writers tell their stories better.

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Testimonials

I liked having a structured way to engage with my own writing process, and I liked reading works-in-progress by other writers. I also appreciated the lectures and readings that the instructor put together. Everything was curated with great care.

Ryan

Education FAQs

  • 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).

  • What makes CNF’s online courses 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 throughout the week 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 that you can share when the class is completed. For this reason, in our classes you are invited to submit longer essays 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 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.

  • 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.