University of Iowa

Belonging: The Geographies of Nonfiction

Weeklong June 16 to June 21 2019

Especially during times of change and upheaval, we yearn for something called home. Whether you’ve arrived from another country, have lived in one Iowa farmhouse your whole life, or you relocate to a new city every year, this class is about the places we inhabit. How have they changed us (for better or for worse)? Why do they transform us—yet again—when we write about them? And why do some houses or landscapes offer us a sense of belonging? This is a generative week, and we’ll do lots of writing in and out of class. We will also explore contemporary writers’ work, such as Sally Mann, James Galvin, Brian Doyle, Hillary Mantel, and refugee stories collected by Viet Thanh Nguyen and learn how to conjure a sense of place with scene, reflection, and summary. We’ll also explore how certain settings might demand an inventive structure and why the five senses come into play. Participants will leave with a working draft of an essay or chapter of a memoir—and a deeper sense of what it means to “dwell.” Both novice and experienced writers are welcome. Expect to be surprised.


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts.