University of Iowa

From Family History to Literary Nonfiction

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

Likely we’ve all sat through relatives’ long-winding journeys through photo albums full of long-forgotten second cousins; we all have our own quirky great uncles and larger-than-life forefathers; we’ve all heard of the romance of Granddaddy and Mamaw, of the old homeplaces full of closets of skeletons. But how does one take these passed-around stories and move them beyond family reunions? How do we, as writers, determine what is the stuff of artful literary nonfiction and what is best relegated to family history? In short, how do we make readers care about these intimate and erstwhile bits of our pasts? In this workshop, we’ll examine nonfiction that successfully carries family history to general readers while we begin our own essays and book chapters that explore our family stories. Writers don’t necessarily need to have planned projects (we will write exercises and short essays together); they simply need families. Dysfunction helps.