The Visiting Writer Creative Nonfiction workshop with Hope Edelman this Spring was invigorating and insightful. It was an absolute pleasure to observe Hope’s unique approach to teaching Creative Nonfiction. I look forward to the opportunity to work with many more visiting writers here at UNCW in my MFA career!
Hope’s commanding presence, her high-caliber professionalism and knowledgeable instruction all made for a fantastic experience. My peers and I mourned the loss of the “too-short” class almost as soon as it had started – it was over in a flash, four weeks felt like the fast bonds that sleep-away camp forge. The concentrated month-long structure, combined with Hope’s unique teaching style provided an enriching and memorable workshop.
The class was run in a typical workshop format, veering slightly off the beaten path by first focusing on identifying overall themes of each piece being workshopped and listing them on the whiteboard. This original approach to map themes as a jumping-off point for discussion was effective to help shape the author’s intentions for the piece. Further, the theme “brainstorm” provided a dynamic platform to delve into how the work spoke to each individual reader – and what could be improved. Each classmate I spoke to looked forward to this part of workshop, as each theme provided acute and valuable insight to reader reaction.
Hope also took the opportunity to pepper class time with “mini-lectures” on structure and craft. Topics covered included the following: how to hit the sweet spot of exposition vs. reflection, when to deploy the personal essay form vs. memoir, how to distinctly define the “narrator” in creative nonfiction and temporal narration. These mini-lectures greatly enhanced the class time from just a plain-jane workshop to a multilayered, robust learning experience.
The professionalism and poise of how the class was run was noted by me and my peers. Hope was extremely prompt and conveyed a “no-nonsense” but fair attitude – no class time was ever wasted. She was an active, attentive listener and answered all our questions on our work in a thoughtful, encouraging manner. Further, Hope communicated often and effectively through email, was thorough in her expectations for the course, and upheld her stellar standards for workshop etiquette. All in all, the professional polish that she exhibited was a power of example for all of us.
The only downside was the brevity of the course – she expressed that she wished she were here for a whole semester to get to know us and our work. I, for one, was inspired by Hope Edelman’s extremely valuable approach to teaching creative nonfiction, and I look forward to the possibility of a future workshop where UNCW and Hope’s paths cross again.
1st-Year MFA Student