Jo Ann Beard

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

Graduate Program

MFA Writing Program

BFA, MA, University of Iowa. Essayist and creative nonfiction writer; author of the novel In Zanesville and The Boys of My Youth, a collection of autobiographical essays, as well as essays/articles published in magazines, journals, and anthologies. Recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. SLC, 2000–2005, 2007–

Current undergraduate courses

The Brief Essay

Spring

In this class, we will focus first on close reading and then on close writing—developing small essays that encompass something very large. We will do much of our work on the micro (as opposed to macro) level, distilling ideas and language into perfect sentences, one after another, until we have created tiny, beautiful works of art. We’ll study short, powerful pieces by Annie Dillard, E. B. White, Virginia Woolf, Tobias Wolff, Abigail Thomas, Joan Didion, Anne Carson, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Ian Frazier, and others. Much of the workshop will focus on sentence work, discussing grammar, artistry, and ideas.

Faculty

Previous courses

Essay Workshop

Fall

In this course, we will study the form of the essay, dividing our time between reading and interpretation of literature (nonfiction, fiction, and what falls between) and the creation and critiquing of new work. These essays, both formal and informal, will be generated through loosely structured in-class exercises and outside assignments. We will work on crafting short, perfect pieces—so come prepared to think about your writing at the sentence level. Conferences will encompass a highly enjoyable reading list and several truly great documentary films chosen to complement the work that we do in class to broaden our understanding of narrative structure.  

Faculty

Issues in Nonfiction

In this craft class, we will discuss what it means to be a creative nonfiction writer in terms of truth (and sometimes the lack thereof) and in terms of the ethics involved in depicting real events and real people. Students will write for this craft class, mostly informal exercises designed to illuminate how these issues pertain to their own work and the work of their peers. It will also be fun—because, along the way, we’ll be reading controversial works by some of our best (and worst) contemporary writers and documentary filmmakers.

Faculty

Personal Essay Workshop

In this yearlong course, we will study the form of the personal essay with the goal of creating literary works that emphasize the universal meaning inherent in each personal story. This is a course in which to experiment with narrative techniques—developing ideas through character, voice, structure, and story. The first semester will be devoted to reading and analyzing literature (nonfiction, fiction, and what falls between) and to writing short informal essays; the second semester will be conducted as a workshop, and students will write longer and more layered essays with a focus on metaphor and meaning. Students will be asked to meet once a month in small groups to discuss books the first semester and films the second semester.

Faculty

The Brief Encounter Workshop

Fall

In this class, we will focus first on close reading and then on close writing—developing small essays that encompass something very large. We will do much of our work on the micro-, as opposed to the macro-, level, distilling ideas and language into perfect sentences, one after another, until we have created tiny, beautiful works of art. We’ll study short, powerful pieces by Annie Dillard, E. B. White, Virginia Woolf, Tobias Wolff, Abigail Thoams, Joan Didion, Anne Carson, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Ian Frazier, and others. The essays will be generated through writing exercises designed with specific topics and goals in mind.

Faculty

Writing for Magazines

Fall

In this course, we will use The New Yorker, Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, and other periodicals to study narrative techniques of reporters, essayists, critics, cartoonists, poets, and fiction writers. Students will practice writing for a mass market, experimenting with a variety of styles and topics. Conferences will focus on submitting work for publication. Hard copies (no digital versions) of The New Yorker, Harper's, and the Sunday issue of The New York Times are required texts for the class.

Faculty