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COURSE NAME: "Creative Writing Workshop: Creative Nonfiction "
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Elizabeth Geoghegan
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 6:00-7:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN 110 with a grade of C or above

This creative writing workshop is designed to help students develop their writing and editorial skills, as well as the reading habits necessary for the production of works of creative nonfiction. The class will focus upon the creative process and the generation of several different forms within the nonfiction genre including the personal essay, the memoir, travel writing, and the journalistic or magazine profile. Through the examination of superior examples of creative nonfiction, discussions, and critiques, students will become acquainted with the techniques and tools used to build an excellent portfolio of literary and journalistic pieces within the creative nonfiction genre.
Classes will move between traditional lectures, discussions of the assigned readings, and “writing workshops” or peer reviews.  Born of the philosophy that all writing benefits from careful critique and thoughtful revision, the workshops will aid students in the development of critical thinking and editorial skills, helping to foster an aesthetic sensibility about their own writing, the writing of others, and ultimately a more thorough understanding of creative nonfiction.
--Through the examination of superior examples of creative nonfiction, discussions, and critiques, students will become acquainted with the techniques and tools used to build an excellent portfolio of literary and journalistic pieces within the creative nonfiction genre.

--Students will become proficient in taking their writing projects/assignments through several stages -- including drafts and peer-reviews in workshop, before the revision phase. These steps will aid students in the necessary skills of close reading, editing, offering critiques, as well as revising, polishing, and restructuring a given piece of writing.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary NonfictionPhillip LopateFree Press, 2013ISBN-10: 9781451696325 Available at ANGLO AMERICAN BOOKSHOP. Students must bring PRINTED EDITIONS to class. No e-books as substitutes.
Best American Essays 2018Series ed. Robert Atwan, Series ed. Hilton AlsBest American PaperISBN-10: 0544817346 Available at Anglo American bookshop. STUDENTS MUST BRING PRINTED EDITION TO CLASS. NO e-books as substitutes.

Participation & Homework Students participate is of the utmost importance; this means having read the assigned material and being prepared to discuss it in an articulate fashion, even to write about it in class. Homework assignments will vary during the term.15%
Conscientiousness of Peer Reviews During workshop students will offer peer reviews (critiques) of the works produced by their colleagues in class.15%
Conscientiousness of Self-EditingStudents will be required to take their work through various drafts until they produce a polished, professional piece of writing for the portfolio. Self-editing will include a written process analysis for each piece. 20%
AttendanceStudents who are more than 15 minutes late will be counted as absent. Students who use their phones or other devices during class may be counted as absent. See the JCU attendance policy for further information on excused and unexcused absences. 10%
Final Portfolio The final portfolio will include the revisions of all the pieces produced during the semester. Portfolios may also include homework assignments, in-class writing, and other pieces. Detailed Guidelines TBA. 40%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.



You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam period is TBA; students should not make plans to be away during exam week. 

Phones and laptops are not allowed in class without special permission; students caught on their phones will be counted as absent. 

Any student who is more than 15 minutes late may be counted absent for the day.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Please note that this is an overview of the class lineup and the units covered. Due dates and assignments are subject to be changed and/or added to. A more detailed breakdown will be provided in class.  Textbook is  TO SHOW AND TO TELL by PHILLIP LOPATE & BEST AMERICAN ESSAYS 2018, edited by Hilton Als. Additional readings & guidelines will be posted on Moodle.


Reading Assignments & Homework

Week One

UNIT ONE: Exploring creative nonfiction, descriptive writing, and the Micro-Essay

Intro to Creative Nonfiction; in class writing

Buy textbook (Almost Corner Book store)

Bring text + handouts to class; Read “The Fox Who Came to Dinner” (Auvinen) & “Untamed” (Sedaris), choose an image, line or scene from each and be prepared to discuss why you chose them and how the two authors handle like material differently.

Week Two 


Guidelines for Microfictions; Read BAE Into (Jamison,) p. xvi & “The Weight of James Arthur Baldwin” (Buzzfeed). Prepare your assigned paragraph and be prepared to do a close reading with class.

Micro-essays due + bring copies (see guidelines, Moodle)  Workshop Order TBD

Week Three

Workshop, Continued

Workshop, Continued (if nec.)

Readings TBD

Week Four


UNIT TWO: The Personal Essay: voice-driven writing, mining the memory, and incorporating character & dialogue

Week Five

Readings TBD

Week Six

Essays due; see guidelines (Moodle) + copies due

Workshop order TBD

Week Seven


Week Eight

UNIT THREE: Exploring a single topic & research-driven essays; reading TBD

Week Nine

Essays due; Workshop order TBD

Week Ten


Week Eleven


Unit Four: Exploring culture through travel & food;

Week Twelve 

Spring Break:  April 2-7 No class Mon 4/2 & Wed 4/4 

Week Thirteen

Travel Essays due; Workshop Order TBA

Week Fourteen

Workshop, continued

Week Fifteen


Wed 4/25 


(Italian holiday)

Exam Week

(no exams on 5/1) INFO TBA