Writing Creative Nonfiction is an audiobook course taught by Tilar J.J. Mazzeo. As such, I understand this review won’t interest everyone. But for me, a part-time, casual writer and author with a bachelor’s degree in business, it was a terrific foundation in nonfiction writing. I respect Professor Mazzeo’s credibility as an instructor, since she’s a Ph.D. who teaches at Colby College and authored well-regarded nonfiction books.
Mazzeo structures her lessons logically, in a way that works on audiobook. They’re part example, part theory, and part explaining the exercises. Just what I’d expect. The lessons move from how to find a story all the way to information about the publishing world and a writerly life. But this isn’t designed as an inspirational course. It’s grounded in specific, practical nonfiction writing skills.
Published by The Great Courses, a PDF summarizing the lessons, exercises, and bibliography accompanies the audiobook. It’s a valuable addition.
I took some time to complete this 12-hour course, committing to finish the exercises as I went. (Although I confess, I’m slightly behind even as I write this review.) The flow from topic to topic worked for me, and also encouraged me to incorporate functional improvements into my current work in progress.
Mazzeo shares interesting examples from her own books, particularly a few challenges she faced in story arc and character development. Obviously, these are key issues. But for me, the most valuable lessons were on rhetorical devices and dialogue. I tend to rely on metaphor, and can now employ new descriptive strategies. I’m also a newbie at crafting dialogue, so the tactics Mazzeo teaches offer me essential skills.
Because of what I’ve learned in this course, I’m also reading differently. It’s easier to clearly see a writer’s craft, as well as places the writing could be improved.
I’m just a few books into my self-directed creative writing course, which is a compilation of various books and a few audios. This is one I’ll probably revisit as I pursue my own creative nonfiction ideas. I recommend it to anyone interested in writing either fiction or nonfiction.
Pair with On Writing by Stephen King or Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.