Course Syllabus

Finding Your Voice(s)

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Writers, like all people, use more than one voice: we adjust our tone for different situations, borrow rhythms and patterns and phrases from each other, and retool them for different purposes. Rather than settle on a singular voice, we should consider how employing a constantly evolving set of voices is an opportunity to explore what more we can say. 

This will be our element of play—and our challenge—in this course. The writers we will read are all engaged with voices as a way to arrive at deeper meaning. We’ll ask: What do these different voices bring to each essay? How can voice help us deal with difficult issues, both as readers and as writers? How does voice relate back to how we see the narrator of the essay?

On the micro level, we’ll pay close attention to what makes one voice different from another, focusing on the patterns of sentences, specific and telling word choice, and what each voice is comfortable revealing. More broadly, we’ll think about how these tonal shifts affect the way we express ideas, make arguments, and expose larger truths.

Each week provides:week 3

  • 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.

Week 1: Voice As Form

In our first week, we’ll look at writing that moves between two very distinct voices. We’ll look closely at the language: where are the boundaries of these voices, and why does the writer use each? You, too, will practice this move, leaning into a discrepancy between two voices and using it to serve your content.

Week 2: Trying ON Voices

This week, we’ll play with trying on someone else’s voice. We’ll look at writers who slip into the voice of their character in one way or another, and ask questions about what is lost and gained in this approach. As an exercise in voice, you’ll compose something in a similar vein, borrowing language from someone else and blending it with your own.


In week 3, we’ll  look at how different voices interplay within a single writer. Writers often move between different voices that represent parts of their own psyche, blending them together to express ideas or experiences that are particularly trying. You’ll work now in this vein—finding different voices not from without, but rather parsing the voices you already have within.

Week 4: The TExtures of Meaning

For week 4, you’ll bring together the different skills you’ve been practicing throughout the course in a final exercise. You may draw from the voices of the people you’re writing about, phantom public voices, voices from other forms or texts, or voices within yourself. You should, however, go beyond quoting. In some way, these voices should be embodied by you, the writer, or embody the issues you’re considering.

“Finding Your Voice(s)” was developed by Katie Booth for the Creative Nonfiction Foundation. Katie Booth’s work has appeared in The Believer, Catapult, Harper’s Magazine, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, WHYY’s The Pulse and Vela. Her work has been highlighted on Longreads and Longform, and “The Sign for This” was a notable essay in the 2016 edition of Best American Essays. She has earned fellowships and residencies from the Edward Albee Foundation, the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Blue Mountain Center and was a 2017-18 John W. Kluge fellow at the Library of Congress. She was raised bilingual and bicultural in a mixed hearing/ Deaf family. Her first book, The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2021, was a New York Times editors’ choice, and is a 2022 finalist for the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography.