The University of Iowa

Telling the Tale: A Nonfiction Workshop

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020

All of us encounter dramas in life that seem tailor-made for narrative. But when sitting down to pen such seeming “ready-mades,” we often find that they don’t come to life, drag, or simply seem to lose their once-brilliant shine when committed to paper. So, we ask, how do writers such as Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and Sebastian Junger write such engaging narratives? Or Mary Karr, Jeannette Walls, and Tobias Wolff? This class will examine a variety of non-fiction forms, from the memoir to the specific-subject yarn drawn from a decades-old once-hot news item. We’ll discuss the two major necessities of writing non-fiction, compression and conflation, and how to use both with integrity and confidence along with a host of powerful techniques drawn from fiction. Participants will write and share with the class a variety of exercises that develop core craft for non-fiction narrative. By the end of the class, all members will see the world of story in a fresh and inviting way, and that the story is in the telling.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home; provide feedback on writing you produce in our week.