Writing Documentary Nonfiction (online)


This course will teach students basic skills in crafting documentary nonfiction, give them a chance to practice in the company of other people invested in developing their writing, 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. During the first four 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. They will then immerse themselves in their subjects’ worlds through research, interviews, and reporting to incorporate dialogue, scene, and description and find their particular literary voice. Each student will draft a four- to six-page piece of documentary nonfiction.

During the last two classes, which will fall two weeks apart, students will participate in peer-review workshops, during which each student will receive feedback on his or her writing. Students will revise their drafts based on their classmates’ comments, and their own new thinking, and turn in a final revised piece a week after the last meeting. (12 hours/All Levels)

Please note: This course is offered in an online format and will not physically meet at CDS but will instead take place in virtual sessions.

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.

Additional information:
A late-model computer, fast internet connection, and built-in camera are recommended, though not required. Students with less than optimal hardware or internet connections are welcome to take the course, though it may be difficult to participate fully in virtual meetings.

Class will not be held on April 14.


Add Section Location Ages Grades Instructor Dates Days Times Fees Details Open