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Creative Nonfiction Assignments

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Sample Assignment: Personal Memoir

Make another list of ten events in your life that are important to you and provoke your curiosity. Often, this list contains events that are still mysterious to you in some way, and that intrigues you in a way that you can’t quite make concrete conclusions about. Write down all the questions that come to mind around these events. Make a list of questions. Essay ideas often arise out of an exploration of these questions (adapted from Dinty W. Moore).

Sample Assignment: Lyric Essay

Wayne Koestenbaum’s lyric essay, Assignments, provides good prompts for writing your own lyric essays:

  • Make a list of media you gave up (e.g. watercolors). Say why.
  • Quote from a line from a novel or a poem. Selfishly manipulate and misuse the quote.
  • From memory, describe a scene from a movie you haven’t watched in years. Then, see the movie again and write a second description of the scene.

Suggested Reading:

Becky Bradway and Doug Hesse. Creating Nonfiction: A Guide and Anthology. Bedford/St. Martin, 2009.

Phillip Lopate, editor. The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present. Doubleday, 1994.

Dinty W. Moore. The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction. Pearson Longman, 2007.

Mary Oliver and Robert Atwan, editors. The Best American Essays 2009. Mariner Books, 2009.