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CNF 47 W — Memoir and Personal Essays That Matter

Quarter: Spring
Course Format: Online (System Requirements)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Apr 1—Jun 7
Drop Deadline: Apr 4
Units: 3
Tuition: $895
Instructor(s): Monique Wentzel
Limit: 17
Status: Registration opens Feb 25, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is April 4 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is April 9 at 5:00 pm (PT).
Spring
Date(s)
Apr 1—Jun 7
10 weeks
Drop By
Apr 4
3 Units
Fees
$895
Instructor(s):
Monique Wentzel
Limit
17
Registration opens Feb 25, 8:30 am (PT)
Please Note: Online courses have a new refund policy. The full tuition refund deadline for this course is April 4 at 5:00 pm (PT); 50% tuition refund deadline is April 9 at 5:00 pm (PT).
To live life is to have a story to tell. But how should we tell it? How do we make our personal stories compelling to others? How can we connect with hoped-for readers? In this course, we will begin by scrutinizing what makes autobiographical material successful. We will look to what makes a story compelling, focusing particularly on the raw honesty required for great personal writing. We will examine how Dani Shapiro, Vladimir Nabokov, Eula Biss, Christina Crosby, and Lidia Yuknavitch, among others, use frankness, compassion, humor, and elements of fiction in their memoirs and personal essays to draw their readers in and make their stories vivid. We will look closely at the relationship between specific detail and universality and how, counterintuitively, the more detail we include, the better our audience can relate to our story. Throughout the course, weekly writing exercises will allow you to explore various narrative voices, concrete detail, and story arc. We will also explore the unreliability of memory, bringing in relevant research on how memories change over time. Finally, you will try your hand at writing your own essay-length memoir and share it with the class for critical but compassionate feedback. By the end of the course, students should have a clear understanding of what autobiographical material to focus on, and can expect to have completed one essay-length work of personal nonfiction.

Monique Wentzel, Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Monique Wentzel is the author of the short story collection The Woods Were Never Quiet. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. She has served as fiction editor of the literary journal BOAAT and is at work on a novel and a series of personal essays. Wentzel received an MFA from Portland State and teaches at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir (ISBN 978-0062223074)
(Required) Tara Westover, Educated: A Memoir (ISBN 978-0525589983)
(Required) Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory (ISBN 978-0679723394)
DOWNLOAD THE PRELIMINARY SYLLABUS » (subject to change)