University of Iowa

Present, Past, and Imperfect: How to Manipulate Tense in Essays and Memoir

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

This course is designed for writers who work in short personal essays or extended prose memoirs and sometimes find themselves stuck on the varieties of past and present verb tenses, not to mention the pesky “perfect” forms that can sabotage the best of sentences. To understand how time works within memoirs, we need to be able to manipulate several time zones at once: the present moment of the writer engaging with the subject; the past tense of events that happened once and only once, and the ever-present time zone in which the impact of those events continues to live on in the mind of the writer and reader. The course will use exercises and revision techniques to help us understand how to manipulate the presentation of time in nonfiction memoirs. You should plan to bring either a short personal essay or a section from a memoir in process.