The world is a weird place, and we’re just here to document it. This course is for the scribes, the armchair historians, the miners of weird information — all of you aspiring nonfiction writers who aren’t sure what to do with your ideas, or budding freelance journalists looking to turn your ideas into sellable stories.
In this workshop, students will take their bits of brilliance and turn them into finely-honed pieces of nonfiction. We’ll take an idea from start to finish: generating story ideas, discussing options for research, conducting interviews, gaining trust with subjects, writing effective pitches, outlining and playing with structure and the editing process. Discussions and lectures will focus on the building blocks of great nonfiction stories, including visceral scenes, effective interviews, interesting story structures and the almighty nutgraf. We will have short weekly writing assignments to flex your creative muscles, in addition to the one course-long assignment. We’ll read excerpts from nonfiction writers who have tons of style: Joan Didion, Nicole Chung, Ijeoma Uluo, Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah, and several more. When this class is over, you’ll have written, workshopped, conferenced and brainstormed your heart out — and you’ll come away more confident with how to sell your amazing ideas.
- One workshopped piece of nonfiction
- A journal of story ideas that you can turn into future pieces
- Renewed inspiration for finding new ideas
- One personal conference with the instructor to refine your goals, talk through ideas, and ask questions
Week 1: Introductions, Reading Discussion, Writing Assignment
Week 2: Reading Discussion + Idea Generation and Pitch Session + Writing Workshop 1
Week 3: Reading Discussion + Research Tools and Interview Basics + Writing Workshop 2
Week 4: Reading Discussion + Pitching + Writing Workshop 3
Week 5: Reading Discussion + Story Structure + Writing Workshop 4
Week 6: Reading Discussion + Editing roundtable
Leah Sottile is a freelance journalist whose features, profiles and investigations have been featured by The Washington Post, Playboy, Rolling Stone, California Sunday Magazine, Outside, The Atlantic, Vice, Willamette Week, Al Jazeera America and many others. She is the author and host of the podcast Bundyville, a four-part written story and seven-part podcast made in collaboration with Longreads and Oregon Public Broadcasting. Her essays have been featured in Moss and Portland Monthly, and her fictional works have been included in several Northwest anthologies.