Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
WR 240
Course Title:
Creative Writing - Nonfiction
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces creative nonfiction and the writing of essays using creative techniques, such as personal narrative, memoir, nature and travel writing, and literary journalism. Explores the works of established writers for forms, techniques and styles as a context for the production of creative nonfiction for class discussion and analysis. Prerequisites: WR121. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

Students who are candidates for WR 240 should possess writing skills to the degree that mechanical errors and organizational problems
 are minimal, allowing them to experiment and develop their craft from sentence level to a finished, publishable piece of writing.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion students should be able to:
*Read a wide range of established creative nonfiction writers to learn techniques demonstrated in their work.
*Employ creative writing techniques drawn from fiction, poetry, and scriptwriting, such as characterization, setting, descriptive detail, concreteness, dialogue, flashbacks, juxtaposition, metaphor, voice, tone, formality and informality; alternate narrative summary and scene.
*Use self-reflection and techniques for employing the imagination to generate new essays and then to revise the essays, using techniques for €œre-entering€ or €œre-seeing€ a piece of writing.
*Use critical thinking and problem solving to critique others' poems and communicate suggestions about strengths and weaknesses of drafts to peers.
*Engage subjects by participating directly in the action being written about, such as by doing indepth in-person interviews or designing an experience, and then pursuing the experience with the foreknowledge that the experience will constitute the basis of an essay.

Course Activities and Design

Students are expected to write several papers of 500 to 1,500 words each.  Assignments are made with broad parameters, so that students of advanced skills may take responsibility for making as many choices as possible about their writing, including the appropriate length.  The final assignment may consist of a significant revision of one essay.  Approximately one-third of class time is spent discussing essays or other writings by established writers that have been assigned from a text or from handouts.  These readings, related to assignments, illustrate contemporary techniques of creative nonfiction.  Roughly two-thirds of class time is devoted to workshop format, in which students, usually as a single large group, discuss each other€™s work, copies of which are provided to the class by the students.  Student critique also takes the form of written comments.  All out-of-class writing must be typed or keyboarded.  Other activities may include listening and/or viewing recordings of writers reading their work and/or talking about the craft of writing, guest writer visits or field trips to readings.  Students are required to attend a minimum of one hour of out-of-class conferences with the instructor.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

 The course grade is determined by appraisal of the student€™s writing and participation in the workshop process, including contribution to discussion and the quality of written comments on the work of others.  Students may be asked to demonstrate their understanding of reading assignments, technique and craft through journals, quizzes, exams or portfolios. Regular attendance and meeting deadlines for assignments are essential to the workshop process and may figure into the final grade.  Attendance policies vary with instructors:  students missing a week€™s worth of class may not expect an A; those missing two week€™s worth may not pass the course.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

Narrative voice and distance

Scene vs. summary

Point of view:  first, second, third person

Implied thesis

segmented, or associative structure

Sources of material:  personal experience, interview, research using resources

              online, in print  and in person (interviews),  walking the ground,

              meditation and reflection

Elements which create a  piece€™s voice:  metaphors, images, choice of dialogue

              to quote, quality of reflection, humor, irony, allusion, symbol

Methods of handling time:  flashbacks, frames, juxtaposition and

             interweaving, straight and reverse chronology




Figurative language





Writing as a process

Close reading and analysis


Paraphrasing and quoting


Evaluating sources

Multiple interpretations

Audience, Purpose, and Occasion



The following items are intended as descriptions of instructors€™ choices of texts in the past as an aid to choosing texts in the future.  This is not intended as a prescribed or recommended list of texts.

 1.  Many instructors use €œhow to write€ texts designed for college level creative writing courses, such as:

 ·       Lynn Z. Bloom, Fact and Artifact:  Writing Nonfiction.

·       Theodore A. Rees Cheney.  Writing Creative Nonfiction:  How to Use Fiction Techniques to Make Your Nonfiction More Interesting, Dramatic and Vivid.

·       Lydia Fakundiny.  The Art of the Essay.

·       Philip Gerard.  Creative Nonfiction:  Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life.

·       Lee Gutkind.  The Art of Creative Nonfiction:  Writing and Selling the Literature of Reality.

·       Iversen, Kristen.  Shadow Boxing:  Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction.

·       Patsy Sims, Literary Nonfifction

·       William Zinsser.  On Writing Well:  An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

2. Along with a textbook and sometimes as the only text, instructors often use anthologies of creative nonfiction, such as:

 ·       [Current Editor]  Best American Essays [particular year]

·       Mark Kramer and Norman Sims, eds. Literary Journalism:  A New Collection of the Best American Nonfiction.

·       Phillip Lopate, ed.  The Art of the Personal Essay:  An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present.

·       Robert L. Root and Michael Steinberg, eds.  The Fourth Genre:  Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction.

 3. Instructors also sometimes choose books by individual writers, the choice depending upon the instructor€™s tastes, inclinations, and intentions for the class.

 ·       William Kittredge.  Owning It All.

·       Terry Tempest Williams.  Refuge:  An Unnatural History of Family & Place

·       Mary Clearman Blew:  Bone Deep in Landscape:  Writing, Reading and Place

Instructors new to the course should contact the campus creative writing chair, creative writing SAC chair, writing SAC chair, faculty department chair, or administrative support person for further information.