I know I recently came out as a crime writer – and I love crime fiction! One of my absolute favourite authors is John Sandford.
That said, I think my first love is creative non-fiction. In fact, I love it – eep! – even more than fiction, because of its basis in real-life events and facts. If you check out my list of great reads, you’ll see the majority are non-fiction.
When I started writing my first book at 14, it was a novel. But when I got ‘serious’ about writing, at age 26, I only considered writing creative non-fiction.
And while I write both fiction and non-fiction (my first book combines both), my fiction writing always begins with research into true events. So my love for non-fiction is really at the core of everything I do, artisitcally.
My favourite creative non-fiction authors include Malcolm Gladwell, David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, Tamim Ansary, Elizabeth Gilbert, Helen Garner and Samantha Irby. Even my favourite book by novelist Douglas Coupland is his biography of media theorist Marshall McLuhan.
So I feel especially lucky to get to teach Online: Creative Non-fiction, a six-week course with Writing NSW, starting 31 October.
Whether you’re writing essays or working on a memoir or other book-length project – or you’re hoping to but don’t quite know where to start – this course is for you.
I’ve just finished designing the course, and had a lot of fun putting it together. Each of the six weekly lessons includes instruction and advice on that week’s topic, essays and/or book extracts to analyse, discussion questions and generative writing prompts. Weeks 1 to 5 each include a writing assignment with a short peer feedback component.
Week 1. Delving into creative non-fiction
Week 2. Balancing scene, summary and reflective narration
Week 3. Writing the self and others
Week 4. Drawing on research
Week 5. Exploring form and voice
Week 6. Getting published
This course is entirely online, with no Zoom or scheduled meetups, which means you can enrol from anywhere in the world. The course is designed to work with your existing writing practice, or to help you develop one.
Throughout the course, we’re going to read a wide variety of essays and extracts from many of the authors mentioned here, as well as two of the godfathers of creative non-fiction, Lee Gutkind and Dinty Moore.
At the same time, we’ll consider work from award-winning emerging writers, to help you benchmark your developing skills. I think it’s important to read this sort of variety when we’re learning. It can be hard to look at, say, Helen Garner’s work and think ‘how would I improve that?’ It’s a lot easier to do this with emerging authors, whose work provides a pathway between where we are now, and what we might want to achieve.
We’re also going to learn about the fallibility of memory from Malcolm Gladwell, and consider advice from Anwen Crawford, Kate Holden, Sisonke Msimang, Lee Kofman and Ruth Ozeki. We’ll unpack ten aspects of the elusive concept of ‘voice’, and explore a variety of narrative forms.
We’ll also discuss a key question many emerging memoir writers face: What happens when you write about a family memory who really doesn’t want to be written about?
Along the way, I’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes insights and tips from my own writing journey – because a few years ago, I was enrolling in Writing NSW courses and writing, revising and submitting work with the hope of building a career as a creative non-fiction author.
In turn, I’m excited to learn about your writing and help you toward achieving your goals.
Online: Creative Non-fiction runs from 31 October to 9 December 2022. Find out more and enrol at Writing NSW.