Self Guided

Writing Beyond the Known: Exploring the Possible through Speculative Nonfiction

September 27 - October 22, 2021

Learn to use a variety of techniques to map the territories of inner worlds and the possibilities of the world we share.

Additional Information

In this course, you will celebrate the elastic quality of the essay form. You will explore how metaphor, speculation, and imaginative play can enliven your writing, help you examine your values, fascinations, imaginings, and capture the slippery quality of the individual writer’s passage through time and the sometimes surreal quality of existence.  Students will experiment with techniques such as unexpected figurative language; associative memory; leaps across time; combining genres and mediums; and the writing of daydreams, fantasies, dreams, and imaginings. As we proceed, our interest will be not in misrepresenting the true events of the past, but in using a variety of techniques to map the territories of inner worlds and the possibilities of the world we share.

Each week provides:

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

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

Course Schedule

Week 1 - GROUNDING YOURSELF TO THINK BEYOND

Investigate how to use the present as a jumping-off point into examining your values, fears, and ideals. Readings and writing exercises will guide you in thinking about how you might move from the concrete to the abstract in a piece of writing— for example, from the sensory realities of the now to imagined futures, or from the details of the actual to what is possible.

WEEK 2 - Beyond Genre, Beyond the Familiar

Get your creativity flowing by experimenting with genre boundaries and unconventional forms, such as letters, diaries, dream journals, commonplace books, collages, and graphic memoir.  This week, we’ll think about how these approaches can help you access new angles on the material of your life, world, and mind. We will also explore ways to “estrange the familiar” in order to give personal narratives new, compelling power (both for yourself and for the reader).

WEEK 3 - Nonfiction and Imagined Worlds

Examine work by writers exploring the utopian and dystopian possibilities of the past, present, and future. You’ll also begin examining your own hopes and values and speculating about the world you want to see in your lifetime. This week will be a time to explore how writing can sustain our values and keep alive individual and communal ideals.

WEEK 4 - The “Beyond” of Myths, Tales, and the Subconscious

Set out into your own dreams, imaginings, and speculations. You’ll be invited to use dreams as seeds of writing; to delve into the subconscious with creative meditation techniques; and to craft your own narratives in relation to pre-existing cultural material such as fairy tales and myths.

View Complete Syllabus

Course Registration

$29.99

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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.

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Testimonials

I’ve recommended Creative Nonfiction classes to several friends. Great classes!

Kathy Haaga

Education FAQs

  • 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 the course levels mean?

    FUNDAMENTALS—open to all levels.
    Our fundamentals courses are designed for those who are new to writing or new to creative nonfiction, as well as those who could benefit from a back-to-basics review on how to effectively and intentionally use elements of the writer’s craft.

    INTERMEDIATE—prerequisites suggested. 
    Our intermediate courses are designed for writers who have some experience either in the genre or CNF’s courses. Past course participation is not required, but we do recommend starting with one of our fundamentals courses, especially Foundations of Creative Nonfiction.

    ADVANCED—prerequisites for enrollment. 
    Our advanced courses are for writers who have completed two previous online courses (not including self-guided courses) with Creative Nonfiction (one must be an intermediate level course).

  • 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.