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CNF 84 W — Bird by Bird: Starting a Nonfiction Book

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 3—Jun 9
Refund Deadline: Apr 6
Units: 3
Tuition: $955
Instructor(s): Anne Zimmerman
Limit: 17
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Closed
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Apr 3—Jun 9
10 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 6
3 Units
Anne Zimmerman
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. —Anne Lamott

If you want to write a nonfiction book but feel daunted by the scope of the project, it may be helpful to recall Anne Lamott’s advice: just take it bird by bird. In this fun and supportive class, you’ll join a community of writers all focused on that same goal. Whatever your subject, this course will help articulate your creative vision and produce pages—even if you’ve never done much creative writing before.

We’ll begin with basics: sharpening premises, conducting research, and creating an outline and a narrative arc. Next, we’ll jump into the actual work of writing, with weekly creative assignments designed to push you along. Readings and discussions will illuminate the choices that all long-form authors must make: on point of view, navigating shifts of time, balancing plot versus story, deciding what to include and leave out, organizing, and pacing. We’ll also discuss the writing life: what to do with a messy first draft, when and how to revise, and how to push the project to the finish line. By the end of the course, you’ll have one completed and critiqued chapter and multiple short pieces of writing from which to build. You'll also have a better understanding of the work it will take to finish.


Anne Zimmerman’s first book was An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher. She has compiled and published two subsequent collections of Fisher’s work: Love in a Dish…and Other Culinary Delights and M.F.K. Fisher: Musings on Wine and Other Libations. She has written for Mix, TASTE, and Mother magazines, The Kitchn, Tasting Table, and Edible Communities.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Maggie O'Farrell, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes With Death (ISBN 978-1472240767)
(Required) Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (ISBN 978-0385480017)