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ENGL 3081 Intermediate Nonfiction Workshop


Instructor: Jessica Lawson

Email:  Jessica.Lawson-1@Colorado.EDU 


According to Joan Didion, “writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.” When writing within the genre of creative nonfiction, in particular, we confront the place of our identities in our work, and endeavor to make space for a reader to have an experience in, around, despite, or through that voice. Creative nonfiction exists within a seeming paradox, purporting simultaneously to perform the kinds of literary artistry we find in fiction or even poetry, yet also to present a direct and unvarnished account of actual life events. In the texts we read, in the work we produce, and, especially, in our conversations with one another, we will uncover a plethora of stylistic choices and genre conventions that each approach, from a different angle, the question of how to describe life, and describe it well. Whether your own writing is a means of sharing personal revelations or of introducing your reader to a series of world events, in this class we will navigate the unique challenges and opportunities that come from writing an account of truth, and writing from a vantage point that is explicitly our own.


Throughout this course you will learn to:

  • Identify stylistic choices across a range of nonfiction texts and interpret their impact on the reader.
  • Collect from our discussion on these readings an array of literary tools that speak to your goals as a writer, and to practice/modify these tools for your own work.
  • Compose thoughtful, well-crafted essays in which the emotional and/or informational content of your writing is communicated to the reader with the aid of purposeful use of language mechanics, structure, and other formal elements.
  • Examine, compassionately and critically, the work of your classmates and relate ideas to help them reach their own writing goals.
  • Locate your own writing choices within the creative and cultural contexts that shape their meaning.


Yuknavitch, Lidia. Chronology of Water. Portland: Hawthorne Books, 2010.



Discussion Board Posts 20%
Short Writing Assignments 20%
Journals and Self-Reports 10%
Essays and Artist’s Statements 25%
Essay Responses 15%
Final Portfolio 10%

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