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 2017-2018

Writing

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

Graduate Courses

Writing 2017-2018

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

Previous Courses

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

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-, as opposed to macro-, level, distilling ideas and language down into perfect sentences, one after another, until we have created small 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.

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

Essay Workshop

Open , Seminar—Year

We will study the form of the essay, dividing our time between the reading and interpretation of literature (nonfiction, fiction, and what falls between) and the creation and critiquing of new work. These essays 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 be focused around a reading list and some documentary films chosen to complement the work that we are doing in class and to broaden our understanding of narrative structure.

Faculty

Writing for Magazines

Workshop—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