Creative Nonfiction 101

GUIDE TO NONFICTION COURSES
Nonfiction Pathways
Foundation
If you’re not sure what kind of nonfiction to write...
If you know what kind of nonfiction to write...
Or...
If you want a rather short course...
Next Steps
After completing a Level I ten-week course...
After completing Memoir II, if you want to write a book...
Selling Your Work
If you hope to get published somewhere...
Creative Nonfiction 101

Creative Nonfiction 101 is a 6-week class, which includes a mixture of lectures and exercises. It’s for beginners or anyone who wants a refresher. Farther down, you can view a syllabus for this course.

Creative nonfiction encompasses prose pieces that spring from the real world, which are told with the finesse and fizz of fiction. The truth is shaped into stories that embrace all styles, from straight to zany to brainy to lyrical, encompassing every topic imaginable from schoolyard memories to a trek in Nepal to the creation of the universe. You’ll see such pieces everywhere: books, magazines, newspapers, websites, blogs, newsletters.

Here you will gain an introduction to six major forms of creative nonfiction— memoir, personal essay, feature articles, profiles, reviews, and travel writing. You’ll learn what they are and how to create them. It’s a sampler platter, with no pressure to work on a specific project or settle on which type of nonfiction you prefer.

If you’re eager to explore the endless possibilities of nonfiction, your guided tour begins here.

About Creative Nonfiction 101
Creative Nonfiction 101

A very good intro to creative nonfiction with helpful prompts and exercises that will get you thinking about your writing in a new way.

Laura McCabe

legal assistant

Notes

The 101 courses do not include workshopping of student projects, but students write and receive feedback on writing exercises and assignments.

Upcoming Classes

To ensure everyone's good health, students in NYC classes must provide proof of full Covid vaccinations (the initial series of Covid vaccines plus at least one booster). We will accept your Covid vaccine card (or a digital scan), a NY State Excelsior digital card, or another form of government-approved proof. We will contact you before class begins about showing us proof. Also, we will require masks in the classrooms and Gotham premises.

More Covid details

Price

Registration fee $25, paid once per term

6-Week

Syllabus

This course explores the major types of creative nonfiction, and the techniques that go with them. Course components:
     Lectures
     Writing exercises

New York City/Zoom classes
Week 1
Introduction to Creative Nonfiction: What is Creative Nonfiction? The difference between articles and essays. The role of the angle. Imagination in nonfiction writing.

     Focus: Feature articles.

Week 2
Characters in Nonfiction: Transforming flesh-and-blood people into characters in a story. Using angles to define characters. Using character sketches to craft angles.

     Focus: Profiles.

Week 3
Being Subjective: The art of description in nonfiction. When to be subjective. How to be opinionated but fair.

     Focus: Reviews.

Week 4
Sense of Place in Nonfiction: Setting descriptions. Finding and re-creating the mood. Use of observation. The difference between travel articles and travel essays.

     Focus: Travel writing.

Week 5
Personal Narratives: Differences between forms of personal narrative. Structure of essays vs. articles. Use of reflection and point of view.

     Focus: Personal essay.

Week 6
The Life of the Writer: Drawing from your own life for your stories. Making room in your life for storytelling. Persistence and perseverance.

     Focus: Memoir writing.

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.

Online classes 
Week 1
Memoir: An aspect of life. Mining your memory. Telling a real-life story.

Week 2
Personal Essay: Any topic goes. Make it personal and universal. Shape and voice.

Week 3
Feature Articles: Telling a journalistic story. Feature structure. Feature ingredients.

Week 4
Profiles: Selecting someone to write about. Interviewing. Capturing a person on the page.

Week 5
Reviews: Purpose of a review. Facts and opinion. Playing to your audience.

Week 6 
Travel Writing: Travel Articles. Travel Memoir. What’s next on your nonfiction journey?

Note: Content may vary among individual classes.

Teachers

Angie Chatman
Angie Chatman

Angie Chatman is a contributor to Business Insider and iPondr, and her short stories have been anthologized in Dine (Hippocampus Books), and appeared in Literary Landscapes, Pangyrus, the Rumpus, Blood Orange Review, Hippocampus magazine, fwriction:review, and the blog Slice of MIT. She has performed stories for The MOTH, the RISK! podcast, StoryCollider, MassMouth, Tell-All Boston, and the TV series Stories from the Stage (WGBH). She has taught for the University of Hartford, Tunxis Community College, and Des Moines Area Community College. She holds a BS from the Illinois Institute of Technology, an MS in Economics from MIT Sloan, and an MFA in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction from Queens University of Charlotte.

Read more
Anni Irish
Anni Irish

Anni Irish has published nonfiction in the Art Newspaper, Bomb, Brooklyn Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Good, Hyperallergic, Men’s Health, Observer, the Outline, Racked, Salon, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Business Insider, Vice, and the Village Voice. She has taught at the School of Visual Arts. She holds a BFA from Tufts University, an MA in Gender and Cultural Studies from Simmons College, and an MA in Performance Studies from New York University.

Read more
N. West Moss
N. West Moss

N. West Moss is the author of the memoir Flesh and Blood (Algonquin), the short story collection The Subway Stops at Bryant Park (Leapfrog Press), and the middle-grade novel Birdy, (Christy Ottaviano Books/Little Brown Books for Young Readers, forthcoming). Her short stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Stockholm Review, Blotter Magazine, and Westchester Review. Her nonfiction has appeared in Salon, the New York Times, Brevity, River Teeth, Dorothy Parker's Ashes, and Ars Medica. She has taught at William Paterson University, Montclair State University, and Passaic County Community College. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, a Master of Secondary Education from Mercy College, an MFA in Creative Writing from William Paterson University, and a CPA in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University.

Read more
Shahnaz Habib
Shahnaz Habib

Shahnaz Habib is the author of the nonfiction book Airplane Mode (Catapault, forthcoming), and the translator of the novel Jasmine Days, for which she and the author Benyamin won the JCB Prize, India's most valuable prize for literature. Her short stories and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker online, Creative Nonfiction, Agni, Brevity, The Guardian, and Afar. She has been awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Artists' Fellowship in Nonfiction Literature, and her work has been cited in the Best American Essays series. She holds a BA from Mahatma Gandhi University, an MA in English Literature from the University of Delhi, and an MA in Media Studies from the New School.

Read more