Melissa Febos

Author of the memoir Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press). Her work has been widely anthologized and appears in publications including The Kenyon Review, Prairie Schooner, Glamour, Post Road, Salon, New York Times, Hunger Mountain, Portland Review, Dissent, The Brooklyn Rail, and Bitch Magazine. Her essays have won prizes from Prairie Schooner and Story Quarterly. Recipient of a 2013 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund artist grant, a 2012 Bread Loaf nonfiction fellowship, a 2014 Virginia Center for Creative Arts fellowship, and MacDowell Colony fellowships in 2010, 2011, and 2014. Currently assistant professor of creative writing at Monmouth University and MFA faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA); board member of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. SLC, 2011– 

Current graduate courses

Nonfiction craft -- Breaking Form: Alchemies in Creative Nonfiction


Conventional essay forms offer us familiar containers in which to pour our content. And essays are traditionally driven by content. It is a formula that works. The problem with formula, and the familiar, is that it lulls the imagination and protects the psyche. But what happens when we lead with structure? What happens to our content when it meets an unfamiliar container? In this class, we will generate work using unconventional forms, and find the hidden corners of our content. Appropriating forms from sources diverse as poetry, prayers, scales, bestiaries, lists, and etymologies—and studying texts including those of Eula Biss, Jeannette Winterson, Lia Purpura, and Jorge Luis Borges—we will surprise ourselves.


Previous courses

Personal Issues: Finding the Universal in First-Person Nonfiction

Too often the emphasis on and in personal writing fails to consider the universality broached through local examinations. As writers, we must seek to bring thoughtfulness and introspection into this confessional landscape of bloggers and tabloids; we must be artful, intellectual, and accessible. This circumspection need not exclude emotional intimacy. As Virginia Woolf said, “A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us; but it must be a curtain that shuts us in, not out.” A writer can discuss experiences of sex, addiction, violence, love, madness, and all manner of internal phenomena while avoiding pitfalls of navel gazing and insularity. In this class, students will examine the way experience, emotion, research, and intellection are integrated in the personal essay form through structure, pacing, dialogue, and other craft methods. On a weekly basis, students will attempt to artfully place the subjective in the context of the larger world through short exercises. We will examine published works that succeed at this in a broad spectrum of styles, from classic essays to recent, more experimental forms. Among these will be the work of Kathryn Harrison, Zadie Smith, Nancy Mairs, James Baldwin, bell hooks, Mark Doty, Alison Bechdel, Jamaica Kincaid, John D’Agata, Bernard Cooper, and Eula Biss.