Featured Course

Writing Documentary Nonfiction

This class is intended to teach students the basic skills of documentary nonfiction writing, give them a chance to practice in the company of people invested in their writerly development, and build their confidence in their own storytelling abilities. Students will explore the full breadth of the documentary nonfiction landscape, from literary journalism to personal essay to memoir. In the first three classes, students will read modern classics, examining how they work and why, and discuss the skills essential to the genre, including how to find original stories; research, report, interview and immerse themselves in their subjects’ worlds; write dialogue, scene and description; and explore their personal literary voice. Additionally, each student will draft a 4- to 6-page piece of documentary nonfiction.

The second three classes will consist of peer review workshops, in which students will present and receive feedback on their writing. Students will revise their drafts based on their classmates’ comments and their own new thinking and turn in a final piece two weeks after the last class meeting.

Christina Cooke is a North Carolina–based freelance writer who writes about people, places, culture, outdoor adventure, and travel for venues including the New Yorker, the Atlantic, High Country News, 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, Portland Monthly, Willamette Week, and Salt Magazine. Previously, she worked for two years as a staff writer for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, earning the paper a first-place award from the state press association and another year as the only full-time reporter for a weekly paper in Portland, Oregon. Cooke finds herself drawn to tell stories at the fringes of society, about people who are offbeat and unconventional, passionate and obsessed, and masters of their own, very specialized domains. She holds an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction writing from Portland State University and is a graduate of the nonfiction writing program at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. Find out more and view writings at www.christinacooke.com.

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