English | Writing Creative Nonfiction
W615 | 24477 | Sanders

2:30p – 5:30p T


This is a workshop in writing personal essays, personal forms of
documentary or reportage, and memoir.  The writing 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 in
light of that reading.  For texts, we will use Sam Cohen, ed., 50
Essays (2003), along with Susan Orlean, ed., The Best American
Essays 2005 (2005) and a couple of single-author works.  (For
possible authors, see the next paragraph.)  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
exercises, roughly 40 pages of finished work.  You will be expected
to read with care the manuscripts handed in by others, and to write
for each manuscript a one-page critique, a copy of which will be
turned in to me.  And you will be expected to give a brief oral
report on a book-length work of nonfiction of your own choosing.

To suggest my taste, I list a few of the writers whose nonfiction I
have found engaging:  Ed Abbey, James Baldwin, Wendell Berry, Joan
Didion, Annie Dillard, Gretel Ehrlich, Loren Eiseley, Nadine
Gordimer, Patricia Hampl, Edward Hoagland, Barbara Kingsolver,
Maxine Hong Kingston, D. H. Lawrence, Primo Levi, Barry Lopez,
Thomas Lynch, Peter Matthiessen, Bill McKibben, John McPhee, N.
Scott Momaday, Kathleen Dean Moore, V. S. Naipaul, Kathleen Norris,
George Orwell, Chet Raymo, Richard Rodriguez, Leslie Marmon Silko,
Wallace Stegner, Henry David Thoreau, Terry Tempest Williams,
Virginia Woolf, and Ann Zwinger.

The course is open to students in the Ph.D. as well as the M.F.A.
program, and to qualified writers from outside the English
Department.  I do not expect members of the workshop to have any
considerable experience of writing personal nonfiction, but I do
expect you to be able to write good prose.

By permission of the instructor:  Send me a message by email
(sanders1@indiana.edu) or leave a note in my mailbox (Ballantine
Hall 442) briefly describing your reasons for wishing to take the
course, and anything about your background that seems pertinent.
Please include your telephone number, mailing address, and email
address.  I will respond as soon as possible, to let you know
whether you have been admitted to the workshop.