The University of Iowa

Transforming Life into Writing

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020

Transforming life into writing is an individual process, as individual as the writing we each struggle to produce. For many writers, blurring the facts until they’re not sure what is true and what is made up is an essential part of the process. But what if the life you’re trying to transform isn’t your own? And how do you transform the life materials you’ve started with and make them feel fresh and vibrant on the page, rather than just retell something that’s already happened, with the danger that it will just lie there, still and lifeless? Finally, should this life material be transformed into fiction or creative nonfiction, and how can you tell which is the better option?


This workshop is open to writers of all levels of both fiction and creative nonfiction. Class members are expected to arrive with a five-page writing sample to workshop, but we will also generate new work during the week. This will be a hands-on, nuts and bolts guide to transforming life into writing. Topics to be covered include: how to lie; how to turn “real” people into characters; whose story is it anyway? Where and how to start your story or essay. Why “it really happened” doesn’t matter.


This workshop comes out of instructor Eric Goodman’s work process on his sixth book, part historical novel, part memoir: Cuppy and Stew: The Bombing of Flight 629, A Love Story.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home.