Scott Sanders

2:30p-3:45p TR (15 students) 3 cr. Section requires permission of instructor.

This is a workshop in writing personal essays, personal forms of documentary or reportage, and memoir. You will be expected to approach this writing as a way of making discoveries about your own life, about subjects or ideas that fascinate you, and about human existence. You might deal with travels, nature, or science, with falling in or out of love, with growing up or growing old, with any subject under the sun or beyond the sun; but, whatever the subject, you must be willing to draw primarily on your own experience, reflection, and observation—as well as research, when appropriate— and to make your discoveries accessible to strangers. Therefore the workshop will not address such worthy but impersonal modes as scholarship and conventional journalism, nor such private modes as the diary, nor the freely invented modes of fiction.

We will spend the first third of the semester reading and talking about short works of nonfiction, and writing brief exercises based on that reading. For texts, we will probably use Sam Cohen, ed., 50 Essays (2004) and Anne Fadiman, ed., Best American Essays 2003 (2003), along with two or three collections of essays by individual authors. We will spend the rest of the semester discussing manuscripts produced by members of the workshop. You will be expected to write, in addition to the brief exercises, roughly 30 pages of finished work.

I do not expect you to have any considerable experience of writing personal nonfiction, but I do expect you to be able to write good prose. W103 or W203 are recommended as preparation. The workshop provides you with a group of informed, alert, and sympathetic readers. While it should also supply ideas and provocations for new writing—through class discussion, assigned readings, and exercises— the workshop is not designed to provide you with either the desire or the commitment to write. Those qualities you must bring with you. Grades will be based primarily on the quality of your writing, including revisions, and secondarily on the quality of your responses to work presented by your classmates.

By permission of the instructor: Leave a note in my mailbox (BH 442) briefly describing your reasons for wishing to take the course, along with a sample of your writing (5-15 pages). Please include your telephone number, mailing address, and e-mail address. I will respond as soon as possible, to let you know whether you have been admitted to the workshop. The names of admitted students will be given to the Creative Writing Program Secretary in BH 442. As soon as you are admitted, obtain an on-line authorization to register from the secretary. You must have an authorization in order to register.