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Final Thoughts on The UC Berkeley Extension Creative Nonfiction Workshop

I’ve completed the workshop. A new session begins soon. The workshop (internal link) was enjoyable and I stretched myself as a writer. I’d recommend it to any writer, especially those writing personal essays or memoirs. It is to those two things the course particularly relates. My only complaint is that the course description is all too encompassing and that it promises more than it delivers.

“Learn to apply the techniques of storytelling to nonfiction prose pieces, including personal essays, features, commentaries, reviews, reports, journal entries and memoirs. Together, the instructor and other participants form your audience, offering support and critical feedback about your pieces. Weekly class discussions and writing assignments focus on story principles—such as plot, tension, scene and dialogue—that increase the readability of your work and form your material into publishable pieces.”

In reality, the course helped me little with the law office blogs I write or the 500 word newspaper articles I pen. It may help later with my magazine articles. In my writing I seek simplicity and clarity. Nuance and complexity, however, were the watchwords in many of the essays we studied. There was nothing on writing less or more simply.

I don’t want to seem negative. The course reinforced my thinking that I have already found my voice as a writer. I found out many ways I did not want to write. And the instructor feedback was extremely valuable. Class member comments were interesting, although we were all trying to be so polite that I think it muted warranted criticism.  You should definitely look into this workshop if you are a beginning writer and want to develop your personal essay skills.

Would this course lead to being published? I’d say you have a better chance but I really don’t know the memoir market. With encouragement from the instructor I am going to try to have a literary magazine publish one of my essays. But this is a new field for me and I am not terribly hopeful since I understand the market is so crowded. Best proceed with caution, applying yourself to the task of getting better. This workshop can help you with that.

Details: Creative Nonfiction Workshop, English X482, David Rompf, Instructor. Cost? Around $600 plus books. Six writing assignments, five of which are 750 to 1,000 words. Final essay is 2,500 to 3,000 words. Instructor responds thoughtfully to all his e-mails. Criticism after each writing assignment.



By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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