Creative Nonfiction: The Lyric Essay *COURSE FULL*

How do you take a bunch of facts and make them into a story that people can connect to? Is there a topic you really care about but don’t know quite how to talk about? Or do you have a personal story that you want to link to a wider world context? That good old 5-paragraph essay learned in school can feel too rigid, so let’s try something new!

Some stories are better told as lists, or in fragments, or in sharp juxtaposition. Writing such an essay means looking for unexpected pathways and relations that might otherwise be missed. John D Agata suggested it was possible to write ‘in-between the two worlds of poetry and essay’ and he called such works lyric essays.

A lyric essay can be about the history of the telephone. It can be about new fatherhood. It can be about both or neither. The subject matter is up to you. This class will explore the many possibilities of the form. It will examine how writers like Rikva Galchen, Maggie Nelson, Julio Cortárzar, and Eula Biss use language and emotion to make their essays meaningful to readers. There will be craft talk, writing exercises, a short workshop, and students should leave with the seed of something they can turn into a finished essay.

This one-day course is for writers of all levels. Perhaps you write fiction and are thinking of dabbling in nonfiction. Perhaps you want to experiment with writing a different kind of nonfiction or you’re a poet considering prose. Perhaps you want to refine a project you’re already working on. Wherever you’re at, this class aims to help you to that next step. 

And for those of you keen to do some early reading, check out the texts that will be featured in the course, including Babies In Art and Lists of things from the ‘Pillow Book’.

To sign up, email For out of town participants, stay at the gorgeous Circus Hotel and receive 10% off your stay! Ask us for our offer code.

Make sure to come see Rowan read at the Berlin launch of her latest novel, Starling Days, alongside Two Trees author Jessica Lee. Sunday, November 10th, details here.

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan is the author of Harmless Like You—the winner of The Authors’ Club First Novel Award and a Betty Trask Award. It was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and an NPR 2017 Great Read. Her short work has appeared in several places including Granta, Guernica, The Guardian, The Harvard Review, and NPR’s Selected Shorts. She is the editor of the Go Home! anthology. Starling Days, her second novel, is forthcoming in the UK July 2019. It is a book about love, Ovid, mental illness, and Japanese beer.

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