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It’s easy for writers of creative nonfiction to get bogged down in telling just their own stories, leaving the reader to wonder at the end, “So what? Why should I care?” In this workshop, we will examine some of the common pitfalls of telling a personal story and learn how to broaden potential tunnel vision. We will explore the importance of grounding your story in a wider context—whether that be a present-day controversy, cultural observation, or even an existential question. After all, memoirs and essays are only meaningful insofar as the personal illuminates the universal. But, when told well, even the most sharply focused personal story can offer great insights into the larger human experience and resonate with all kinds of readers.
Please come to class prepared to talk about ideas for memoir or personal narrative nonfiction that you are either working on or would like to embark on. We will do an in-class writing exercise and possibly discuss a short reading assignment. Bring your generosity, your honesty and your sense of humor!
Meghan Daum is the author of four books, most recently the collection of original essays The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, which won the 2015 PEN Center USA Award for creative nonfiction. She is also the editor of the New York Times bestseller Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not To Have Kids. Her other books include the essay collection My Misspent Youth, the novel The Quality of Life Report, and Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a memoir. Since 2005, Meghan has been an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Times, covering cultural and political topics. Meghan has written for numerous magazines, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, and Vogue. She is the recipient of a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship and a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and is on the adjunct faculty in the MFA Writing Program at Columbia University's School of the Arts.
Meghan is currently the Bedell Distinguished Visiting Writer in the Nonfiction MFA Program at the University of Iowa.