CNF 07 — The Personal Presence: Memoirs, Articles, and Essays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 12—Mar 16
Time: 6:30—9:20 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 14
Instructor(s): Lynn Stegner
Class Recording Available: No
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
No matter the subject of a memoir or essay—from short-order cooking in Omaha to opera appreciation in Vienna—the author’s personal presence not only heightens narrative credibility but also brings the experience to life for readers. This course will help students discover their own personal nonfiction voice, choose meaningful and dramatic material, sort and sift that material for composition, balance the objective with the subjective, maintain interpretive distance, and finally, understand how narrative can shape and illuminate their life stories. We will explore constructing a dramatic context for the often flat or wandering line of actualities, as well as learn how to edit out insignificant details and content that distract from underlying themes—because even nonfiction narratives are orchestrated along a thematic axis. Readings will include work by Julian Barnes, Gretel Ehrlich, Anne Fadiman, David Quammen, Joan Didion, George Orwell, Calvin Trillin, John McPhee, and others as we progress through a series of practical lessons that will take our writing from start to finish. Moving through subject selection, early drafts, revision, and final edit, students will present essays or chapters from a memoir for roundtable discussion and critique.
Lynn Stegner has published four novels and a collection of stories. Pipers at the Gates of Dawn received a Faulkner Society Gold Medal, and her novel Because a Fire Was in My Head was a New York Times Editors’ Choice. She has received an NEA fellowship and a Fulbright scholarship and has recently finished a new novel.
Textbooks for this course:
There are no required textbooks; however, some fee-based online readings may be assigned.