Self Guided

The Good Place: Crafting Setting & Landscape

June 7 - July 2

Whether you’re writing narrative journalism, memoir, or personal essays, a richly felt space/place can add depth or intrigue. 

Course starts June 7; enrollment is open until June 25th

Additional Information

In this generative workshop, you will write a portrait of a place, either natural or man-made, with an emphasis on depth, mood, and researched accuracy. You will use cultural or natural history resources to gather details, and learn how elements of craft can create mood and personality. Finally, in this self-guided class, you will learn techniques for incorporating settings and landscapes into prose projects.

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 ONE: Places, everyone!

You will look at how writers incorporate nature and landscape into different kinds of nonfiction and consider how the environment can work as both character and setting. Through directed prompts, you will do some preparatory/exploratory writing about place/nature from your memory or personal experience.

Week Two: Senses and sensibility

Sensory details add depth and richness to writing about the natural world. In this second week, you will experiment with active syntax and practice methods for involving all five senses in a setting. You will also explore a variety of research methods that can add an accurate and engaging "past" to your environmental writing.

WEEK THREE: Into the wild

While your own memories and research can tell you a lot about a place, sometimes you need to get into the space or place you're writing about and take some notes. If the place you're writing about is not accessible, this week will also address methods for contacting and interviewing experts. Through readings and prompts, you will explore how voice and tone can shape a piece of writing.

WEEK FOUR: Conservation/preservation

Revision is all about learning what to keep and what to let go of in an essay, and it is as essential to writing as weeding is to gardening. This week will address revision techniques, as well as best practices for submitting your work for publication.


"The Good Place" was developed by Chelsea Biondolillo. Chelsea Biondolillo is author of The Skinned Bird and the prose chapbooks, Ologies and #Lovesong. Her work has appeared in Orion, Guernica, River Teeth, Discover Magazine, Science, Brevity, Nautilus, Vela and others. She is a recipient of the Carter Prize for the Essay and fellowships from Colgate University and the NSF-funded Think, Write, Publish project. Her essays have been collected in Best American Science and Nature Writing 2016, Environmental and Nature Writing: a Writer’s Guide and Anthology, Waveform: 21st-Century Essays by Women, and How We Speak to One Another: an Essay Daily Reader. She holds an MFA in creative writing and environmental studies from  the University of Wyoming, and teaches and writes in a rural town not far from Portland, OR.

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].

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

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Testimonials

The assignments were rich and challenging and the feedback, led by the instructor was excellent.

Linda S Gibson

Education FAQs

  • 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.

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

    Flexibility
    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.

  • Will I lose access to the writing prompts and materials after the end of the self-guided class?

    The classroom will close a week after its end date, but if you register and accept the invite before the class ends, you will receive the course archive as a zip file at that time. That means, all lessons: lectures, readings, and assignments will be downloadable when you are ready to work through the course on your own. 

    If you participate while the classroom is open, you’ll be able to work with other writers enrolled in the class.

  • What day and time is my online course?

    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.