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CNF 52 W — Electric Essays: Writing Vibrant Nonfiction from Life Experiences

Quarter: Spring
Date(s): Mar 28—Jun 3
Duration: 10 weeks
Drop By
Drop Deadline: Mar 31
Unit(s): 3 Units
Tuition: $805
Format: Online course (System Requirements)
Limit: Limit 17
Status: Closed
Why do we read personal essays? The short answer: to be exposed to the author’s unabashed and beating heart. Personal essays remove the fetters between past and present, consciousness and soul, even reader and writer. Yet as anyone who has tried to write a personal essay knows, candor is not enough. Great personal essays reach us thanks to their authenticity and their artfulness.

This course will teach students to write “electric essays”—compelling and vibrant nonfiction from our life experiences. We will employ tools typically associated with fiction writing: characterization, conflict, and plot. We will work to master the essential dual role of the “I” in the essay form: the retrospective narrator versus the “I” in the piece’s present action. Readings will be drawn from some of the best contemporary personal essays. Each week will feature writing assignments and craft lectures. In the second half of the course, students will submit a longer personal essay for workshop. By the end of the quarter, students will have been shown all the necessary principles to forge art from their secret stash of memories and experiences.

This is an online course. For more information about the Online Writing Program, visit our FAQs.

Joshua Mohr, Author

Joshua Mohr’s newest work, We Are All Together, will be published next Fall. He is also the author of Termite Parade, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and the novels All This Life, Fight Song, Damascus, and Some Things That Meant the World to Me, an O, The Oprah Magazine Terrific Read of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. His short stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, 7x7, the Bay Guardian, ZYZZYVA, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, The Rumpus, and The Nervous Breakdown, among other publications. Mohr received an MFA from the University of San Francisco.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Ariel Levy (editor), Best American Essays, 2015, 1st Edition (ISBN 978-0544569621)