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.

WEEK 2: THINKING LIKE A COLLECTOR

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

Testimonials

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

  • 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.

  • What’s the difference between Self-guided and Online Courses?



    Online courses are 5- and 10-week courses that offer firm deadlines, a flexible schedule that fits your needs, and instructor feedback to help you keep writing and improving your work. Terms start quarterly, and sections are capped at 14 students to help foster community and connection. 

    Self-guided classes are 4-week courses and differ from our other online courses in significant ways. There are no due dates, no cap on enrollment, and no instructor feedback will be provided. However, you can post questions for your peers and give and receive feedback on writing posted in the classroom.

     

  • 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 you mean by “self-guided”?

    Self-guided classes differ from our other online courses in significant ways. There are no due dates, no cap on enrollment, and no instructor feedback will be provided. However, you can post questions for your peers and give and receive feedback on writing posted in the classroom.

  • How do I find my self-guided class materials?

    After you register for a self-guided course, we manually process your information and invite you to join an online classroom where you will find the course materials. The course invite will come to your email account (please check your spam/junk folder).

    Please note: if you register before the start date, you’ll receive an invite to join your class the Friday before class begins. If you register after class begins, we’ll send you a course invite within 72 hours, and you will then have access to the previous weeks’ materials.