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401 Creative Non-Fiction______________________

Grade Desired: A

Elizabeth Anne Hirst Sheppard

Letter to the Reader

When I registered for the class, Creative Non-fiction, I was sure that I would concentrate on long and boring term papers, footnote sources, and gruesome formality. I was not excited at all about it, but knew that I must learn it to get my certification in English and Allied Arts. Because 401 was a required class, of course I would make the most of it, I thought, but didn't expect to really learn much. In fact, I thought that my writing would probably be even worse than it was when I went into the class - more tightly wound, structured, and yawn- inspiring. What could I do? I didn't have a choice, so I told myself I would get through it somehow.

I was very surprised to learn that Creative Nonfiction is a new genre of writing which has loosened the form and structure of modern non-fiction to create a fresh and appealing style. It includes essays and journals, and takes memoir writing to a new level.

From the start of the class, I was excited about the possibilities, once I took a look at the textbook and the syllabus. For my first assignment, I put my web page online at the class website at Blackboard, and felt very proud of myself. Now I could concentrate on writing with imagination, and try my utmost to do a good job, a professional job. This was something I'd wanted to do since I was a little girl. I felt so lucky.

Learning about Creative Non-fiction

From the time the class began in January until now (April - and almost time for finals...) I went from the tightly structured compositional style I was formerly used to all the way to a stream of consciousness writing style, finally unafraid and free, which made me realize that the writing block I thought I had wasn't made of stone after all, it was the painted plastic of theater boulders, and I could throw each wrong idea and excuse out of my own way. It wasn't that I couldn't write, it was that I didn't write, and if I ever wanted to write a novel, short stories or poetry, I had to change my way of thinking. This class showed me how to do it. It was such a surprise to me that something actually happened when I wrote, and that I could actually do it. My success (modest though it was) lifted a lot of my fear of writing out of the shadows to let me look at it honestly. I had been afraid to fail, and now I was going to break out of my old beliefs and start on a real life writing journey.

Our textbook, The Fourth Genre, is full of really good stories about real-life people who can write with depth and feeling. This book explains creative non-fiction to the new creative nonfiction writer in ways he or she can understand. I learned that although there are different definitions of creative non-fiction, and different ways of looking at the truth, there also is a lot of room for creativity and imagination in the genre.

My Writing

As I wrote about other authors, and composed my own stories, I found that the writing was hard work, but it was so enjoyable to me that the hours flew by. The same thing happens to me when I work on web pages and art projects. This "getting into the flow" is something that shows me that I love to write. I have changed the way I write now, though. I used to wait until the last week before a term paper was assigned to start working on it, and that didn't allow for any revision. Now I carefully check the spelling (most times!). Also, I check for sentences that don't sound exactly right, or could be moved to another section of the story. I carefully look at every sentence now, and check each word.



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