Nonfiction Workshop: The Personal Presence in Memoirs, Essays, and Articles

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


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Online, instructor-led
Jan 16 - Mar 19, 2024
Stanford Continuing Studies