Writing Creative Non-Fiction

Purpose: To impart all the literary techniques involved in crafting memorable essays. Personal essays are all about exploration and discovery: of the self and the world that surrounds the self. Personal essays celebrate and make sense of experience; they form intimate relationships with readers.

Creative Non-Fiction uses the techniques of fiction to report on actual persons, places, ideas or events. The form includes nature and travel writing, biography, memoir, as well as humorous writing and cultural commentary.

Its assets have been described as offering “flexibility and freedom while adhering to the basic tenets of reportage. In creative nonfiction, writers can be poetic and journalistic simultaneously. Creative nonfiction writers are encouraged to utilize literary and even cinematic techniques, from scene to dialogue to description to point of view...to write about themselves and others, capturing real people and real life in ways that can and have changed the world. What is most important and enjoyable about creative nonfiction is that it not only allows but also encourages the writer to become a part of the story or essay being written.”

Here’s what Annie Dillard wrote about the form: “When I gave up writing poetry I was very sad, for I had devoted 15 years to the study of how the structures of poems carry meaning. But I was delighted to find that nonfiction prose can also carry meaning in  its structures, can tolerate all sorts of figurative language, as well as alliteration and even rhyme. The range of  rhythms in prose is larger and grander than it is in poetry, and it can handle discursive ideas and plain information  as well as character and story. It can do everything. I felt as though I had switched from a single reed instrument  to a full orchestra.”

In this course, the student will learn how to discover strong topics, shape them into meaningful drafts and revise them into polished and moving prose. Personal essays require the skills of the storyteller and the research ability of the conscientious reporter. This workshop will provide students with just such abilities.


Finding Good Topics

Emotional Truth

Writing Scenes



Details & Imagery

Memory & Imagination 


Viewpoint, Voice/Style

Language, Symbol & Rhythm


Literary Tradition