Self Guided

The Curious Writer: Fitting the Pieces Together

May 3 - May 28

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.

Course starts May 3; enrollment is open until May 21

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


Bridgette gave me paragraphs of specific, targeted feedback on my writing each week which was fantastic for finding focus and direction in my writing.

Cara Evanson

Education FAQs

  • What day and time is my class?

    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.

  • What makes CNF’s online courses different from other online programs?

    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.

  • 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.

  • How much do education programs cost?

    Our online courses are priced according to how many weeks they run. 5-week courses cost 310.00 and 10-week courses cost 485.00. Early registration provides a 50.00 discount. Our self-guided courses are 29.99 (no early registration discount) and our webinars range from free to 25.00.

  • 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 (June-July), we offer only 5-week courses.