Jo Ann Beard

BFA, MA, University of Iowa. Essayist and creative nonfiction writer; author of In Zanesville, a novel, 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–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Writing

Nonfiction Writing as Literature

Open , Seminar—Year

This is a course for students who have taken a creative writing class and are interested in exploring how nonfiction can be literary and artful. The first semester will focus on reading and interpreting outside work—essays, articles, and journalism by some of our best writers—in order to understand what good nonfiction is and how it is created. Writing will include mostly exercises and short pieces aimed at putting into practice what is being illuminated in the readings. We will look at fiction and poetry to better understand language and image and at documentary films to study narrative structure, and we will write in class and outside class. During the second semester, students will create longer, formal essays to be presented in workshop.

Faculty

Graduate Courses

Writing 2018-2019

Nonfiction Workshop: The Brief Encounter Essay

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-level, as opposed to the macro-level, distilling ideas and language into perfect sentences, one after another, until we have created concise, beautiful works of art. We’ll read and discuss short, powerful pieces by outside writers, studying their craft techniques in order to perfect our own styles and voices. Of our six conferences, four will be individual meetings and two will be group meetings held in the evening to watch and discuss documentary films; in addition, there will be four monthly peer-group meetings. (Note: This is not a class in which to work on thesis material; the essays will be generated through writing exercises designed with specific topics and goals in mind.)

Faculty

Previous Courses

Creative Nonfiction Writing

Advanced , Seminar—Year

This is a course for students who have taken a creative writing class and are interested in exploring how nonfiction can be an art form. The first semester will focus on reading and interpreting outside work—essays, articles, and journalism by some of our best writers—in order to understand what good nonfiction is and how it is created. Writing will be composed mostly of exercises and short pieces aimed at putting into practice what is being illuminated in the readings. We will look at poetry to better understand language and image and at documentary films to study narrative structure; and we will write in class. During the second semester, students will create longer, formal essays to be presented in workshop.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop: Writing About Ideas

Workshop—Spring

In this course, we will read and analyze essays that are, at most, only nominally about the person who is writing them. This will not, therefore, be a class in which the focus is on self-discovery; instead, it will be on discovery of something outside the self. In order to write meaningfully about the world around us, we must be engaged with it through thought and through other kinds of exploration. In this course, we’ll practice the art of thinking—which is harder than we might, well, think it is. It involves silence and separation from distraction and the hard work of developing a relationship with one’s own intellect. We’ll work on fluency in writing and will apply keen editing skills to our own sentences and paragraphs. It will be really fun.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop: The Personal Essay

Workshop—Fall

In this course, we will study the writings of great essayists to discover how the form works to create universal meaning from personal stories. We will discuss the process of writing and practice (through informal classroom exercises) moving thoughts and ideas from the mind to the page with fluency. From there, we will focus on elements of craft and style and work specifically on writing good sentences and then good paragraphs and, ultimately, formal, polished essays that will be submitted to workshop.  

Faculty

First-Year Studies: The Form of the Essay

Open , FYS—Year

This is a course in which writers will practice taking their own personal knowledge and experience and using them to illuminate something universal. Writers should come with ideas, opinions, and issues that they are ready to explore intellectually and journalistically. We will begin by reading works by writers who are masters in the form of the essay and will progress from there to exercises designed to help students narrow in on topics, craft their own style, and polish sentences. The first semester will be focused on learning form and style; the second semester, on workshopping essays.

Faculty

The Brief Essay

Open , Seminar—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