Self Guided

The Curious Writer: Fitting the Pieces Together

June 6th - July 1; Enrollment is OPEN through June 24th, 2022

Level All Levels

The collage memoir—a literary assemblage or mosaic—lets us enjoy the creativity of blending various elements. The result can add up to far more than a personal story.

Additional Information

In this class, you get to ignore the limitations of traditional narrative and bring a new perspective to considering why you remember something the way you do. The process of collecting thematic bits of material—poetry, historical records, lists, and micro-essays—and finding the through-line can shape a story in unexpected and fresh ways.

Maybe you have thematic pieces you’re ready to string together, or maybe you enjoy a variety of styles and can’t land on one. In this course, you will take inspiration from authors, books, and aesthetics you may not have considered before. We’ll look at authors like Joy Harjo, Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Joan Fiset, Rebecca Brown, Kevin Sampsell, and Sarah Manguso, whose hybrid works blend poetic forms with essay and philosophy. You’ll receive a reading list and exercises that will help you continue building on your work independently. In this course, we will challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zones.

Each week provides:

  • WEEKLY PROMPTS to help you generate new writing
  • INSPIRATION in the form of written lectures and selected readings

After the course closes, you will receive a zip file containing all of the course content and the work you developed during the month. You’ll also continue to be a member of our Creative Nonfiction Writing Classes’ Community Page, where you can share writings and calls for submissions, recommend books, and stay connected with other writers.

Course Schedule

Week 1: Paying Attention

Do you have pictures or diary entries from which to draw inspiration? Is there a painting, a letter, or something hidden in the deepest bottom of a drawer that still feels consequential? Sarah Manguso said about her memoir Ongoingness: “Experience in itself wasn’t enough. The diary was my defense against waking up at the end of my life and realizing I’d missed it.” We will scavenge for documents of intimate moments that inspire to create.


Collage memoir often looks like a bunch of material that, if sorted and separated, might not seem to fit together. Birds, when they build their nests, are not overanalyzing; they are focused on what they can use to build their home. This week, you’ll practice thinking as a collector of material and seeing your work as craft. You know, like the birds—some of the mud might stay, some might go.

Week 3: Winding the Clock

A “ticking clock” (and there can be many within a story) is simply a time limit. Limits in time are not necessarily about creating high drama, the suspense of an actual ticking bomb, but about introducing tension, which we know helps move readers along. Having a day, or a month, or a season as your deadline for something in your life can cause the kind of stress that makes for compelling words on the page.

Week 4: Imitate and Repeat

It’s in classes like these that we learn how to give ourselves permission to copy another person’s writing style. We’ve read something that knocks our socks off, and we wish we could do that, too. The reality is, we will never be another person; we will only be ourselves. Imitation is a form of practice, and through it emerges clarity of self and the development of a unique style. We will look at sample readings, respond, and write a new version. By the end of the course, you will have found new and unexpected ways to tell your story.

View Complete Syllabus

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

Self Guided FAQs

  • How do I prepare for the webinar?

    We usually open the webinar 3-5 minutes prior to start time (see webinar invite) so you can check your audio settings and make sure everything is working properly on your end. The host will welcome everyone and ask you to introduce yourself and share where you’re joining from in the text-based chat. Participation in the chat is optional.

    The actual webinar program usually gets rolling five minutes after the start time. This is also when the recording starts if you watch the video afterward.

    No one can hear you or see you during the webinar. The only people who are visible and can be heard during the webinar are the instructor and host.

    Audio Settings:
    If you’re unable to hear any sound during the webinar, please look at the bottom left of your Zoom window for Audio Settings, and click the small arrow to check your settings.

    Getting familiar with the Zoom software

    There are several ways to interact with the presenter and other students during the webinar:

    *Live chat

    *Formal Q & A window

    Live Chat:
    The live chat is where you can exchange messages in real time with other students attending the webinar, as well as the instructor and host. Usually your chat visibility defaults to just the presenter/panelists. If you want everyone attending to see your chat message (and most people do), then you need to select “everyone” or “all panelists and attendees” in the chat window.

    How to banish the chat:
    We encourage you to make use of the live chat throughout the webinar because it’s one of the great benefits of joining the live event. However, some find the chat distracting and would like to turn it off. As of today, Zoom doesn’t allow students to disable the chat, but there is a way to effectively “banish” it if you do not want to see it:

    1. Click the Chat icon at the bottom of the Zoom window
    2. When the Chat appears on the side of your window, click the small arrow icon and select Pop Out, which separates the Chat into its own free-floating window
    3. Then, using your cursor, drag the Chat off the side or bottom of your screen

    Formal Q & A:

    All webinars include time for Q & A with the presenter. This will be included in the recording.

  • How can I download the webinar recording?

    In most cases, unless you see the download arrow under the recording window, you will not be able to download the recording. You will have ongoing access to the recording link to view at your leisure. You can download any supplemental materials provided by following the links in the webinar recording description. The recording will be sent to you three days after the live event.

  • I did not receive the recording for a webinar. Can you re-send it?

    Yes, we’re sorry this happened. These messages are sent from “[email protected]” and sometimes go missing. Please email us and we’ll respond with a link to the recording.

  • When will the recording be available?

    We ask for 3 days to send you the recording. If you do not receive it within that time frame, please contact us and we’ll assist you.

  • Can I still register for [x] webinar?

    If the webinar is not marked “sold out,” you can still join.