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FICT 96 W — Crafting Fiction from Personal Experience: Tell the Truth but Tell It Slant

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 6 weeks
Date(s): Apr 1—May 10
Refund Deadline: Apr 4
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $440
Instructor(s): Larissa Pham
Limit: 50
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Apr 1—May 10
6 weeks
Refund Date
Apr 4
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Larissa Pham
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Have you always wanted to write fiction but find the thought of making everything up a little daunting? Many celebrated writers, like Alexander Chee, Marguerite Duras, and Nobel Prize-winning author Annie Ernaux, write fiction inspired by their lives. This style of writing, also called “autofiction,” is grounded in personal truth but can include surprising twists, turns, and decisions, propelling the personal into the world of fiction. No matter how fantastical the world of a short story or novel, all fiction draws its power from emotional truth. Where better to find those emotional truths than from the material of our lives?

In this course, we will learn how to take our personal experiences and emotional truths and use them to craft solid, captivating fiction. This generative writing class is intended to kickstart fiction through exercises that will invite us to reach into the rich material of our own lives—and write beyond it. Each week will consist of a generative prompt, paired with a reading from authors including Chee, Duras, and Ernaux as well as James Baldwin, Sigrid Nunez, Alice Munro, and others. Students will discuss readings with peers and share feedback on weekly writing assignments. The goal of this course is to leave with six energetic jumping-off points to new work, plus a toolkit of generative strategies for future writing.

Because of the high enrollment capacity, students will not receive weekly instructor feedback, but have the option to receive light and constructive input on two submissions of up to 1,000 words each.


Larissa Pham is the author of the essay collection Pop Song, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, and the novella Fantasian. Her essays and criticism have appeared in The Nation, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Art in America, Granta, and elsewhere. Her writing has been included in Kink, an anthology of short fiction; Wanting: Women Writing About Desire; and Critical Hits, an anthology of writing on video games. She is the 2017 recipient of the Yi Dae Up Fellowship from Jack Jones Literary Arts and the recipient of the alumni teaching fellowship from Bennington Writing Seminars, where she received an MFA in fiction.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Alice Munro, Dear Life: Stories (ISBN 978-0307743725)
(Required) Justin Torres, We the Animals (ISBN 978-0547844190)
(Recommended) Ocean Vuong, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (ISBN 978-0525562047)
(Recommended) Annie Ernaux, Alison L. Strayer (Tran), A Girl's Story (ISBN 978-1609809515 )