What does it mean to write memoir and creative nonfiction in 2024? How to write out of our personal urgency while also asking questions about community, care, justice, survival, and power—all that is wrong with the world and all we’d like to make better? How does it feel to be alive right now?
We’ll think about those questions alongside all the matters of craft: voice, structure, aboutness, sonics, description, polarity, openings, closings. We’ll look at at least four short examples of outside work, which we’ll use as the basis for in-class prompts. Along the way we’ll work hard, look after each other, and make sure that gravity and joy share the same space.
In the process, we’ll demystify various elements of craft, including plot, narration, style, and characterization. Learn by doing, rather than following a set of rules. This course is designed for writers of any genre, and will appeal to experienced writers, and writers who are starting out. The emphasis is on treating each and every person as a storyteller, in pursuit of the deeper truths within them, and around them.
While a writing workshop’s central project is to think about craft, it can also be a room in which we’re building something together as a group, cultivating openness, reaching collectively for what we can’t yet put into language. I’ll talk about unforeseen glimmers of light in this charged space and what they might mean for how we live.
Paul Lisicky’s seven books include Later: My Life at the Edge of the World, The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship, Unbuilt Projects, and Lawnboy. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Conjunctions, The Cut, Fence, The New York Times, Ploughshares, and elsewhere. His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Rose Dorothea Award from the Provincetown Library. He is a Professor of English in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Camden, where he is editor of the journal StoryQuarterly. His seventh book, The Sky in It: A Life with Joni Mitchell, is forthcoming from HarperOne in February 2025.