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 two course-long assignments. 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.
This class will meet over our video chat platform. You will need to use Google Chrome to join your class meetings.
- Two workshopped pieces 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
Week 2: Reading Discussion + Idea Generation and Pitch Session
Week 3: Reading Discussion + Research Tools and Interview Basics + Writing Assignment 1
Week 4: Reading Discussion + Pitching + Writing Assignment 2
Week 5: Reading Discussion + Story Structure + Profiles Group 1 Workshop
Week 6: Reading Discussion + Editing roundtable + Profiles Group 2 Workshop
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.