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Crafting the Illness Narrative (online)


This class will be held through Creative Nonfiction. Information on registration and cost is forthcoming.

Stories of illness can be hard to write and even harder to read, asking writers to render vividly long timelines, entangled ailments, periods of disorientation, and dense, technical language—while not overwhelming readers with the grief of loss or proximity to death. And yet these stories are essential to our understanding of what it means to be human.

In this workshop, writers will craft nonfiction narratives that explore the experience of illness. We’ll open by discussing the established therapeutic value of writing about such experiences, exploring the difference between writing that primarily seeks to heal and writing that seeks to reach literary audiences. Next, we’ll explore how craft choices can help us avoid the common narrative pitfalls of illness writing, using exercises on chronology, framing, structure, research, and character-building to glimpse the different ways our stories might be told. Near the end of our time together, we’ll consider the book-length illness narrative, and clarify for ourselves why we should tell illness stories at all—what our experience has to offer the world.

Whether you are just beginning to tell the story of your own illness, or you have a written a book you know needs tightening, this workshop will provide you with the craft tools and support to critically and creatively approach unwieldy stories of illness.

Watch for the class listing in summer 2019 here.