Body of Memory and Creative Nonfiction II: Expanded descriptions and Syllabi

I've been super grateful to be able to teach at the Hugo House, and to expand my offerings in recent years. This winter I am facilitating two creative nonfiction courses aimed at intermediate writers, Body of Memory on Tuesday nights and Creative Nonfiction II on Sunday afternoons.

Who is an "intermediate writer"? I define this loosely. This probably shouldn't be your first writing class, nor your first experience with writing on the spot and potentially sharing excerpts aloud. (I know, that sounds scary, but it's always optional and it ends up being one of the most connective parts of my classes.) But beyond that, I welcome all writers to these courses-- whether you are just tasting those first invigorating experiences of telling your truth on the page or whether you've been at this a long time. I believe that more experienced writers can learn from newer writers and vice versa.

How do these two courses differ? I've posted the full description of the classes below, as well as the general themes, topics, and authors we'll be exploring each week. But in a nutshell: Body of Memory is organized around the theme of the body (interpreted widely) and braided, innovative forms, whereas Creative Nonfiction II will take a wider look at different CNF styles, forms, and craft topics. 

(Note: I will teach Creative Nonfiction III in the spring, which would be a fine continuation for either of these courses, and which will take a deeper dive into experimentation and hybrid forms, as well as incorporating research in our work. I'll also teach a 3-week Sunday series in May focused on generating new writing around the theme of Change.) I hope to work with you!

Write on,



Creative Nonfiction II

January 30 - April 3; Tuesdays, 7:10 - 9:10 p.m.

Register here .

This class is for those looking to build upon craft learned in Creative Nonfiction I or those already familiar with the basics of the genre including points of view, scene, reflection, and form. Each week we will delve deeper into the process of generating our own vital material from in-class prompts, with the option to share aloud.

We will also read and discuss a diverse range of voices and structures found in essays and memoir excerpts by authors such as Patrica Hampl, Lidia Yuknavitch, Maxine Hong Kingston, Kiese Laymon, Joann Beard, Claire Dederer, and Ocean Vuong. In the final weeks, students may receive feedback from the instructor on a piece and have the option to workshop their piece with the whole class in a respectful, inclusive environment.


Week by Week Topics and Readings:

1.       Exploration, Vulnerability, and Breaking Silence

Introductions to each other; free-writing and generating approaches; lists

Readings: Rebecca Solnit, Patricia Hampl on memoir, Lidia Yuknavitch


2.      Truth, Memoir, and Metaphor

Why write memoir; voice; metaphor, themes, and images

Readings: Maxine Hong Kingston; Steven Harvey and Ana Maria Spagna on the essay


3.      Finding Your Form and Voice in CNF

Diversity of CNF; breaking rules; hybrid pieces/books

Readings: Kiese Laymon, Dena Landon


4.      The Classic Short Personal Essay

Scene and reflection; past vs. present tense; coming of age/out of innocence/reckoning

Readings: Joann Beard; Brenda Miller  


5.      The Long Braided or Segmented Essay

Exploring fragments and threads; looking inward and outward

Readings: Claire Dederer; Ocean Vuong; Sandra Cisneros

OR Student Papers


6.      Exploring Second Person

Writing to yourself and to others

Readings: Student Papers


7.      Hermit Crab Essays and Writing Workshop

Readings: Student Papers


8.      Writing Workshop and Final Reflections


Body of Memory: Writing Innovative Nonfiction

February 4 - March 25; Sundays, 1-3 p.m.

Register here .

Each week we will explore themes such as mindfulness, the 5 senses, body parts, desire, memory, trauma, love, and death as we write and share together from in-class prompts. We will also briefly experiment with drawing and meditation exercises paired with writing, as a way to access our senses and memories from new perspectives. (No experience with art or meditation is necessary; just come with your curiosity and an open mind.)

Readings will draw from lyric essays and memoir excerpts that utilize juxtaposition, braided structures, and risk-taking from authors such as Roxanne Gay, Sherman Alexie, Melissa Febos, Brenda Miller, and Lidia Yuknavitch. Students may receive feedback on their work from the instructor and optionally from the entire class during the final weeks in a supportive and inclusive workshop environment.


Week-by-Week Themes and Readings:

1.      Mindfulness, Vulnerability, and The Five Senses

Readings: Melissa Febos Brenda Miller


2.      Braided Essays and Body Parts

Readings: Claire Dederer and Febos


3.      Second Person, Desire, and Aging

Readings: Roxanne Gay and Elizabeth Horneber


4.      Body Maps, Shapes, and Wounds

Readings: Sherman Alexie


5.      Mothers, Memories, and Lineages

Readings: Nicole Walker and Lidia Yuknavitch


6.      The Earth Our Body and Body Violence

Readings: Student Papers or TBD


7.      The Body of Solitude and Writing Workshop

Readings: Student Papers


8.      The Body of Community and Writing Workshop

Readings: Student Papers


9.      Writing Workshop

Readings: Student Papers


10.   Writing Workshop and Final Reflections