Writing Literary Journalism
DeBartolo Hall 334
Professor: Josh Roiland
Office: Flanner Hall 1038
Phone: 574-631-2599 (office)
314-550-9156 (cell)

“People want to read factual narrative. Tell me a story. Tell me a story. That’s what this still comes down to.” —Mark Singer

Course Description
This course is about telling stories. True stories. You will report, write, workshop, and revise four distinct pieces of literary journalism, which is a genre of nonfiction that adheres to all of the reportorial and truth-telling covenants of traditional journalism, while employing storytelling techniques commonly associated with fiction. In short, it is journalism as literature. The fundamental difference between literary journalism and other types of creative nonfiction (e.g., essays and memoir) is reporting. Because our class is devoted to both the terms literary and journalism, you must find your stories outside the world you inhabit by interviewing, observing, participating, and researching people, places, events, issues, and phenomena. Please keep in mind that family and friends are not sources: do not use them or anyone else remotely acquainted with you. Such practice is not allowable in the professional world, nor is it okay in our class. Your stories need not be newsworthy in the traditional sense of the word; what is important is that your storytelling makes the subject matter relevant, even urgent. When you write your stories—sketches, profiles, explanations, features—please pay special attention to literary elements like narrative, character development, story structure, voice, symbolism, and, above all, accuracy. Any use of composite characters or fabricated scenes or details will receive an F without the possibility of revision. As Gay Talese once famously told a group of MFA students at Goucher College: “Nonfiction means NO FICTION!”

Reading & Notes
This course focuses on the practice of literary journalism. But as any good writer will tell you: to write well requires reading well. To that end, we will actively read many works of literary journalism, and you will be required to come to class with notations and explains about what makes aspects of each story “work,” that is: How does it elicit a reaction? Consider our readings models to learn from and to base your own reportage on.

Workshops & Portfolios
We will workshop every piece of writing in class. Each writer will read her work aloud and receive honest, thoughtful criticism from her classmates. You will then continue to work revisions often while starting a new story. At the end of the semester you will turn in a portfolio containing all your stories and their drafts.

Required Texts
• David Foster Wallace, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again
• Joan Didion, Salvador
• Jack Hart, Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Nonfiction
• Course Packet

Course Requirements & Evaluation
• Mandatory daily attendance & workshop participation: 16%
• Reading Notes: 12%
• Place/Character Sketch (500-1000 words): 15%
• Hard News Reimagined (1000-2000 words): 17%
• Profile (1000-2000): 17%
• Feature (2000-3000 words): 23%

As a creative writing workshop, our class will rely exclusively on classroom discussion and peer review. For this format to work successfully, everyone needs to attend class and actively participate. If you decide not to come to class or if you come to class unprepared your grade will severely reflect the consequences of your actions. Beginning with your third absence, your final grade will drop 1/3 (e.g. B- to C+). Students who accumulate five or more absences will automatically fail the course. Should you be late or absent, please have the courtesy to call and let me know ahead of time. You will be responsible for any notes and/or assignments you miss. Missing class is no excuse for not being prepared for the next class. A missed conference or guided workshop counts as a missed class.

                              Reading and Writing Schedule

                              WEEK 1
Course Introduction

                              WEEK 2
John Jeremiah Sullivan, “Upon this Rock”
Tom Connery, “Discovering a Literary Form”

Jo Ann Beard, “Werner”
George Saunders, “The New Mecca”
Mark Kramer, “Breakable Rules for Literary Journalists”

                              WEEK 3
Gay Talese, “New York is a City of Things Unnoticed”
Gay Talese, “New York is a City of the Anonymous”
Gay Talese, “New York is a City of the Forgotten”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.10 “Reporting”

Jimmy Breslin, “It’s an Honor”
Joan Didion, “Marrying Absurd”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.1 “Story”

                              WEEK 4
Jimmy Cannon, “Lethal Lightning”
Chris Jones, “The Things That Carried Him”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.6 “Scene”

Susan Orlean, “Orchid Fever”
Michael Winerip, “Holiday Pageant: The Importance of Being Bluebell”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.5 “Character”

Character/Place Sketch DUE via email by 5pm

                              WEEK 5
Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop

                              WEEK 6
John McPhee, “Travels in Georgia”
Jane Kramer, “The Last Cowboy”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.2 “Structure”

Chris Jones, “Animals”
Tom Junod, “The Loved Ones”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.7 “Action”

                             WEEK 7
Jeff Sharlet, “Jesus Killed Muhammed”
Janet Reitman, “Jahar’s World”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.12 “Explanatory Narratives”

Gene Weingarten, “Fatal Distraction”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.3 “Point of View”

Hard News Reimagined DUE via email by 5pm

                              WEEK 8
Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop

                             WEEK 9

                              WEEK 10
David Foster Wallace, “David Lynch Keeps His Head”
David Foster Wallace, “Tennis Player Michael Joyce…”
David Foster Wallace, “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”
David Foster Wallace, “Getting Away From Already Being Pretty Much Away From It All”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.4 “Voice and Style”

Joe Mitchell, “Professor Seagull”
Charles Pierce, “The Man. Amen.”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.8 “Dialogue”

                              WEEK 11
David Grann, “Trial By Fire”
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.14 “Ethics”

Pamela Colloff, “Innocence Lost”
Pamela Colloff, “Innocence Found”

                              WEEK 12
Writing Workshop

Writing Workshop

                              WEEK 13
Gene Weingarten, “The Peekaboo Paradox”
Robert Kurson, “My Favorite Teacher”
Paige Williams, “Finding Dolly Freed”

Michael Paterniti, “The Suicide Catcher”
Katharine Boo, “The Swamp Nurse”

                              WEEK 14
Joan Didion, Salvador
Jack Hart, Storycraft, Ch.9 “Theme”

No Class—Thanksgiving Break

                              WEEK 15
Jay Caspain Kang, “Should Reddit Be Blamed for the Spreading of a Smear”
John Jeremiah Sullivan, “You Blow My Mind. Hey, Mickey!”
Darcy Frey, “Something’s Got to Give”

Writing Workshop

                              WEEK 16
Writing Workshop

Last Class

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