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Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Essay

Instructor

Melissa Matthewson

Melissa lives and writes in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. She holds degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA), University of Montana (MS), and Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA). Her essays, poetry, and book reviews have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Guernica, Mid-American Review, Bellingham Review, River Teeth, Sweet, Defunct, Numero Cinq, Wildness, Kindred Magazine, Terrain.org, Pithead Chapel, This Magazine, Literary Mama, Prime Number, Under the Gum Tree, and Cobra Lily Review among other publications. She teaches writing workshops, Zumba dance classes, and runs an organic farm. She is currently at work on a collection of lyric essays that focuses on themes of desire, marriage, landscape, and freedom. She has taught writing for many years.

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Overview

 

ABOUT THE COURSE

In this course, we will investigate, discover, explore, and study the craft of writing personal essays in all forms: memoir, contemplative, lyric, etc. Each week, a new lecture will be posted at the course site on a variety of topics including: creating persona, image and detail, borrowed and hybrid forms, short nonfiction, lyric essay, etc. Weekly writing assignments will also be posted with the accompanying lecture. Each Monday night we will meet as a group through Google Hangouts for an online discussion about the week's writing and reading. Each student will turn in one longer assignment to everyone in the workshop for feedback and discussion. Readings will include work from Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, Lia Purpura, Joni Tevis, Joan Didion and other contemporary and traditional essayists. 

This course will meet for eight weeks with an optional face-to-face consultation with the instructor (if local). You will have continuous access to a shared space throughout the span of the workshop, and will receive exercises, reading, and prompts at the start of each week.

Every week, you’ll have the opportunity to turn in prose for formal feedback from your instructor, who will give you editorial comments as well as suggestions for expansion in your reading and writing. You’ll also be able to ask questions in the course space.

There will also be a forum available where you and the rest of the workshop group can communicate with one another about ideas, questions, and your favorite sources for inspiration, ideas, and motivation.

This course will:

  • provide a space in which to share work with your workshop leader and peers
  • provide 8 rounds of weekly feedback and instructive support with your workshop leader
  • inspire and generate new writing
  • introduce you to new writers
  • provide a space to discuss and learn about the craft of writing
  • introduce you to new work from contemporary and traditional authors

About the Instructor

Melissa lives and writes in the Applegate Valley of southwestern Oregon. She holds degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA), University of Montana (MS), and Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA). Her essays, poetry, and book reviews have appeared in the Mid-American Review, Bellingham Review, River Teeth, Sweet, Defunct, Numero Cinq, Terrain.org, Pithead Chapel, This Magazine, Literary Mama, Prime Number, Under the Gum Tree, and Cobra Lily Review among other publications. Her essay, “A Gathering of Then & Now” won the 2015 AWP Intro Journals Award in creative nonfiction. She has been a finalist for the Terrain.org Nonfiction Prize and the Orlando Prize for Nonfiction. She has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her essay, “As Snow Designs.” She serves as an Assistant Essays Editor at the The Rumpus as well as teaches writing workshops, Zumba dance classes, and runs an organic farm. She is currently at work on a collection of lyric essays that focuses on themes of desire, marriage, landscape, and freedom. She has taught writing for many years. 

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