Online Course

Pathway to the Essay Form

January 10 - November 20, 2022

Level All Levels

A yearlong structured track designed to help you explore a variety of essay forms, break out of ruts and tired patterns, and spark new creative work.

Additional Information

Starts January 10
Space is limited to 14 writers


This track begins with Shapes of Stories, a 10-week intermediate-level course that will help you expand your writer’s tool kit. You’ll experiment with a variety of structures—everything from straightforward, traditional presentations to offshoots of the lyric essay, such as braids, collages, or the many varieties of borrowed forms that we find in “hermit crab” essays.

Next, in the 5-week Writing the Lyric Essay: When Poetry & Nonfiction Play, you’ll focus on the lyric essay and the many possibilities of this flexible genre.

In the summer term, you can choose a course that best fits your specific project and writing goals.

Finally, in Advanced Flash Essay: Freedom in Structure, you will continue to explore a range of short nonfiction forms, styles, and structures. Week by week, you’ll focus on specific elements of the craft of writing, including symbolism, voice, and structure and ways to use these elements effectively within the confines of up to 1,500 words.

By the end of the year, you’ll have mastered the basics, written and revised a tremendous amount of new work in a variety of forms and structures, and grown significantly as a writer.


FUNDAMENTALS :: Jan 10 – Mar 20
Shapes of Stories :: Instructor – Nancy McCabe

INTERMEDIATE :: Apr 11 – May 15
Writing the Lyric Essay: When Poetry & Nonfiction Play:: Instructor – Joanna Cooper

SUMMER ELECTIVE ::  Jul 12 – Aug 15
Choose a 5-week summer course that is most relevant to your focus and goals.

ADVANCED :: Sep 12 – Nov 20
Advanced Flash Essay: Freedom in Structure :: Instructor – Jenna McGuiggan


  • Train your writer’s eye to see several dual perspectives: literal and figurative; past and present; big and small
  • Master techniques to write engaging openings, interesting middles, and powerful endings
  • Experiment with a variety of structures and forms
  • Engage with different literary techniques such as juxtaposition, collage, attention to sound, and associative thinking
  • Try a variety of methods for revision and editing based on personal preference, creative aesthetic, thought patterns, and work habits
  • Learn how recognizing storytelling expectations can help you dig deep into the significance of your experience and shape your work to foster connections with your audience
  • Play with a number of models, diagrams, patterns, and metaphors, many of which draw from fiction and all of which offer varied and flexible approaches to thinking about story
  • Consider the ins and outs of submitting to literary magazines


  • Interacting with other students and the broader CNF student community via the classroom, Wet Ink software, and optional video conferences
  • Discussing assigned readings and general writing topics with peers and the instructor
  • Reading and engaging with written lectures and a selection of readings
  • Writing and revising new essays
  • Receiving feedback from fellow students and instructors


  • You are ready to commit/dedicate a year to writing
  • Your writing routine has begun to feel monotonous and you’re looking for a new spark of inspiration
  • You could benefit from instructor feedback and a supportive community
  • You want to develop and practice effective writing habits
  • You are up for a challenge

What are you waiting for? Make a yearlong commitment to your craft.

Course Registration


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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].

Hear from our Students

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

Read Success Stories


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