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


Out of stock

Become a Supporting Subscriber today and get up to 10% off your purchase.

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