English 311: Creative Nonfiction

Course #2163, Section 01
The College of Saint Rose
Fall 2016
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:30pm-4:12pm
Albertus Hall 402

Daniel Nester, Associate Professor of English, Instructor
E-mail: daniel [dot] nester [at] strose [dot] edu
Phone: 518-454-2812
Teaching Blog: http://nestersteachingblog.com
Office: Dolan Hall, 442 Western Avenue, First Floor #1
Office Hours: Wednesdays 1:30pm-3:30pm; Thursdays 4pm-5:30pm and by appointment
Link to this page: nestersteachingblog.com/cnf

Course Description

This course is a writing workshop in creative nonfiction.

What is creative nonfiction? We will begin with one definition from Lee Gutkind, founder of the journal Creative Nonfiction and “godfather” of the genre, and work from there. He defines creative nonfiction as “nonfiction that employs techniques like scene, dialogue, description, while allowing personal point of view and voice (reflection) rather than maintaining the sham of objectivity.”

What is a writing workshop? A writing workshop works from the premise that when a group of writers convene on a regular basis to present and help each other with their writing, the work will improve, and students will begin to see unexpected, surprising things show up along the way. Much like a traditional workshop in, say, poetry or fiction, we will present copies of our writing throughout the semester for written critique and discussion. The writing may be produced from open-ended assignments or from exercises and assignments given to you by your instructor.

We will have presentations and discussions on assigned readings. By the end of this course, you will have written some personal essay, memoir, and experimental forms, and have an idea of where in the literary landscape these pieces would be placed and published.

Course Goals

— to learn about and join the community and guild of practicing writers of creative nonfiction, and with it its traditions, influences, and histories;

— to enrich understanding of our writing by learning to place it in the various traditions and modes of other, published writing;

— to bring in 4- to 6-page pieces of writing each week—sometimes as a result of a prompt or exercise from the class, other times more open-ended—for a total of at least 40 pages of polished, publishable prose;

— to learn to offer constructive, helpful criticism of other students’ writing in the workshop as well as to work with critiques offered of one’s own work;

— to have a constructive discussion of classmates’ writing, and to encourage others’ craft of writing and revision;

— to learn to read as writers–as opposed to reading as scholars or general audiences–and discuss examples of published work that address issues of craft we encounter in our class;

— to learn about the markets, publications, and audiences for our writing, and how to submit work;

— to learn to revise work in multiple drafts over the course of a semester; and finally,

— my own personal goal, for the class to have fun as we work hard to learn about the art and craft of nonfiction writing, and in the process learn a little about ourselves.

Required Texts

Palm, Angela. Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here. Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf, 2016. ISBN: 978-1555977467. [Amazon link]

Williford, Lex and Michael Martone. Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present. New York: Touchstone, 2007. ISBN: 978-1416531746. [Amazon listing]

Copies of writing and web links will be supplied by the instructor. Do plan on printing at least 100 pages throughout the course of the semester, as well as making Xeroxes of your own drafts for others in class.  Make plans accordingly: add prints through your ITS account, if necessary, to make sure you can print out your readings or your own work for class.  Students who do not come to class with their own printed documents or copies of other students’ work will be marked as unprepared for class.

Course Requirements, Percentage of Your Final Grade

• 35% Participation: Discussions, reading reactions, presentations, Writing Center visit (if required), conferences, group work, group writing, critiques of student work;
• 35% Informal writing: Weekly writing assignments, in-class free writing and exercises, short reaction papers;
• 30% Formal writing: Essay revisions, Final Portfolio at end of semester



I use grading rubrics for many assignments. The following apply on class-by-class basis, and should give you an idea of how I assess student performance.

Participation, Collegiality, and Conduct Rubric
Persuasive Essay Rubric
Student Reading and Writing Rubric

Syllabus Statements and Policies

Attendance Policy
Snapshot from My Grade Book
Writing Format
File Format and How to Name Your Files
Conferences and Drafts
Late Work
Participation: Writing Class
Email Policy
Required Materials and Skills
Academic Integrity
Students with Disabilities
Writing Center Visits