Domenica Ruta

Undergraduate Discipline


Graduate Program

MFA Writing Program

BA, Oberlin College. MFA, University of Texas-Austin, Michener Center for Writers. Author of With or Without You, a memoir published in 2013. Her short fiction has appeared in Epoch and Indiana Review. Her novel, The Last Day, is forthcoming in spring 2019 from Spiegel & Grau. SLC, 2017–

Graduate Courses

Writing 2018-2019

Nonfiction Workshop


This memoir workshop will follow the traditional format of manuscript exchange and evaluation with a particular emphasis on Kaula, or community building. Constructive criticism is not constructive; the only helpful "critiques" meet each individual author exactly where they are, on their own unique terms, and offer support and encouragement of what we, as readers, perceive, from our highest selves, are the author's intentions for the work. This can only be achieved in a safe and mutually respectful community. In conference, students will complete an intensive structural analysis of a book-length, published work of personal narrative (either memoir or "collected essays," aka memoir) and will take turns presenting to the class an excerpt of the book that they have chosen for conference study. Please come to the first class with a vague idea of which book you are interested in studying on a deeper level this semester.


Previous Courses

Creative Nonfiction: Beyond the Truth

Open , Seminar—Fall

Writers and readers of creative nonfiction constantly wrestle with questions about truth: How much of this story is perfectly, purely true? Is there any such thing as perfect truth? What is the writer’s responsibility to the truth? What I’d like to do in this class is move beyond these debates and ask: What if we assume what we are writing and reading under this (unnecessarily?) dubious genre listing is true? Or true enough? What if we decide, as an experiment for this semester, that it actually doesn’t matter what is true/based-on-truth and what isn’t in a work of nonfiction? What kind of questions could we ask then, and what do we have to learn from them? In this course, we will examine a few book-length works of creative nonfiction (Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, Miranda July’s It Chooses You)—as well as selected stories and excerpts from James McBride, David Sedaris, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Maggie Nelson, Phoebe Robinson, and Rob Delaney—with a focus on the craft of storytelling and examining the creative choices that each author makes and does not make. Student groups will do informal presentations of each author/book to provide temporal/cultural context; then we will let the discussion unfold from there. We will also do short, in-class exercises, as well class discussion of longer student work, in a supportive spirit that seeks to evaluate a story on its own terms. Individual conferences will be spent preparing, honing, and discussing student essays before and after they are presented to the class. By the end of the course, students should have a substantial portfolio of short and long pieces, a keener editorial eye, and a more comfortable relationship with truth and storytelling.