HUMS 620
The Prophet and the Freak: A Creative Nonfiction Writing Workshop

Rachel Basch

Course Schedule

In addition to weekly writing exercises in the beginning of the semester, each student will be responsible for handing in three works of creative nonfiction (approx. 1500 words each) for in-class workshop discussions. The final project will consist of an extensive revision of one of those three essays. 

We will establish a fixed schedule for "workshopping" student writing at the start of the semester. Student writing will be distributed via email five days prior to the date the material is to be discussed in class. All work is to be typed, double spaced. And all student submissions are to be printed out by the members of the workshop.


In addition to the very close reading you will be doing of one another's writing, each week we will read published essays from the following collections: 

Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: I & Eye, ed. by Nguyen and Shreve, Longman, 2005, ISBN-10: 0321198174 (paperback) 

The Norton Book of Personal Essays, ed. by Epstein, W.W. Norton & Co., 1st ed., 1997, ISBN-10: 0393036545 (hardcover) 

Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, ed. by Williford and Martone, Touchstone, 2007, ISBN-10: 1416531742 (paperback) 

(These books will be on order at the bookstore. Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: I & Eye lists for a ludicrous price. Used copies of this text and the others are readily available at much lower prices through on-line booksellers.) 

Reading assignments will be given at each class meeting. If you should miss a class, please contact another student about the reading assignment. I will be in touch prior to our first scheduled class to assign the reading for our first meeting. 

Once during the semester each student will be asked to (informally) lead a class discussion of one of the published essays.


This course is a writing workshop. As a member of the cooperative, each student is entitled to a careful and considerate reading of his or her work. Along with that entitlement comes an obligation. Students are expected to come to class having read and considered the work to be discussed that day. Students are responsible for detailed written commentary on each student manuscript we read. In this course, students will function as both writers and editors.


Given the structure of this course, attendance and class participation are crucial. 

If more than one class is missed, the student's grade will be reduced by five points (e.g., a B becomes a B-). If two classes are missed, the grade will be reduced by 10 points, and so on.  If attendance is problematic for you, you could easily end up with a failing grade in this course. 

Class participation will count for 40% of the total grade.  Each student is expected to come to class ready and willing to share her/his ideas on what is to be discussed that day.


Writing can be a lonely business. As you embark on the writing assignments (and especially the re-writing) you may find yourself in need of some additional guidance. I'm always available via email and phone. Additionally, I can arrange to meet prior to class.