Writing Creative Nonfiction

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Assessing Creative Non-Fiction Writing Course Product is well produced; images are clear and sound quality is excellent. Course material is well written and nicely paced ( we’ve watched 2 of 24 chapters so far). There has been a touch of redundancy in some areas — good for complete beginners, but unnecessary for older individuals with a bit of writing experience. Only complaint is that the presenter uses a lot of dual-sided gestures rather than single-sided. I find it tends to distract, perhaps because it is somewhat rare in my experience. Info provided should be useful in the final analysis. Would generally recommend the course. [FYI: I have a university-level professional degree]
Date published: 2020-10-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from So far not very impressed. Please do not interpret this review as a personal attack on the presenter but as an honest critique of her presentation. The presenter overdoes the use of her hands to emphasize what she is saying. I noticed this right away in the very first DVD. The way she claws at the audience constantly with her arms outstretched toward the camera was a big distraction and caused me to lose concentration on what she was saying. It's alright to use one's hands for emphasis but a little of that goes a long way. With her it is an affectation that distracts rather than helps in making a point. I'm sure that she is a very good writer but her presentation skills could use some work. Perhaps a Toastmasters course would be of help to her. Again, I'm not trying to be rude or attack the presenter but I'm assuming you want an honest review I'm thinking that perhaps I should have just purchased the course guidebook without the DVDs.
Date published: 2020-08-14
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Writing Creative Nonfiction I have many courses from Great Courses and have found most are extremely valuable but this course offeres very little information. I have gone through 7 sessions and am very disappointed in this course. Sorry but this is just not up to Geeat Courses quality.
Date published: 2020-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Creative Non-fiction I have received the course and have begun my studies. Find it to be quite informative and easy to follow. It has created my interests in supplemental material pertaining to the course for example vocabulary improvements and I have found a way to satisfy my interests as I move along to write my non-fiction book.
Date published: 2020-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Creative" Helpful Suggestions Abound I am surprised about how much I am learning from these lectures (So far, I have viewed five of them.) Actually, I stopped writing my new book midstream so that I could apply what I learned from Professor Mazzeo. I also learned that I was on track when I wrote my first creative fiction book in 2014. What I don't like about these lectures is the constant distracting hand gesturing by Mazzeo. However, I think I am starting to ignore them.
Date published: 2020-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm rivetted! Okay, I'm new to the learning company and I haven't finished this course but I had to say that the teacher is fascinating and really conveys well her understanding of writing. I am working on a piece as I watch the series and I am inspired and motivated by this course. Very glad I purchased it!
Date published: 2020-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very practical Professor knowledgeable and instructive. Gave ample strategy.and excellent examples
Date published: 2020-06-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Working to Revise My Assumptions I'll reserve my final assessment until I see what changes in my work really feel like I'm moving in a better direction. The course is making me think which is why I chose it.
Date published: 2020-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very helpful I bought this course for my brother who is writing a creative nonfiction history of pirating in the 1800s Mediterranean. He immediately started the course and is very pleased with the expert guidance.
Date published: 2020-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The New World This class is helping me use my time alone during the Covid-19 pandemic with more spontaneity and enjoyment. I love to write, and am learning new ways to express myself. The teacher is very easy to understand, and I am pleased that I can manage the website well for "Great Courses", finding what I need without frustration - which I have been feeling about a lot of the new ways of communicating on my computer, now that we are unable to see others in person. This course is a treat to look forward to.
Date published: 2020-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The information I needed to make my book work. I had written the basic facts of a memoir of a certain time in my professional life and had done research, but I didn't know how to make it readable and more interesting to a wider audience. (After all, I am an engineer.) The book was at a standstill. I was itching to get back to writing but I resolved to watch all the lectures. These lectures were the inspiration and needed information that was holding me back. It is invaluable to a novice narrative writer. Professor Mazzeo is a great teacher.
Date published: 2020-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very thorough I read the entire course, too impatient for video!! The course progressed very logically, extremely thorough with some excellent exercises. I took many pages of notes for quick reference and feel like my writing has improved in many ways.
Date published: 2020-05-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Creative non fiction I am enjoying this course and learning a lot about writing
Date published: 2020-05-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Creative Nonfiction I'm an experienced writer (and supervisory editor) of biomedical science, and took this course to learn how to write with more creativity and human interest. This professor taught me storytelling tools and craft that complemented the strictly linear nonfiction writing skills I already had mastered. Other reviewers have complained about her distracting hand gestures, which I noticed immediately, but came to accept as I became absorbed by her overall style of presentation. She filled an important gap in my preparation for future writing plans, and I looked forward to each lesson. Thank you, Prof. Mazzeo!
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Treasure trove of writing tips This author has obviously made a careful, comprehensive study of good techniques that great nonfiction authors use and how to apply them to your own writing. I see some people have had been put off by her lecture voice and style, but it you move beyond that, you will find a treasure trove of insights into good writing. I typed up 12 pages of tips from these lectures...and I am going to use them!
Date published: 2020-05-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very explicit I am implementing the strategies in this course and find them very beneficial to my writing!
Date published: 2020-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting oral presentation She had an interesting way of presenting the guidelines, but the constant use of both hands was off-putting.
Date published: 2020-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well worth the work. Tilar packs a lot of information into these lectures. Being someone who wants to be a better writer, I find it very helpful to watch each lecture without pausing. This first time through gives me an understanding of the overall talk. Then, I run the video again and take notes of the main points and terms that Tilar lectures; Pausing as I go along. Professor Mazzeo is pleasant to listen to and she takes her time.
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Creative Writing nonfiction by Ms Tilar Mazzeo Just finished taking this 24 lecture course. For those who want a clear understand of how to write nonfiction thai is the course for you. Both beginners and experienced writers will gain tremendous insight into the techniques of writing. Moreover, the course, delves into how to research and how to publish. Ms Mazzeo is easy to understand and clearly gets her points across. An outstanding teacher.
Date published: 2020-04-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Writing Creative Non-Fiction I could not have chosen to take this course at a better time as we are all confined to our homes. I am truly enjoying the course. I am watching one lecture a day and reading the accompanying materials. The professor, Tilar J. Mazzeo, is very engaging and she presents the material clearly and slowly. I am making sure to complete all the assignments. This course really has me excited to take additional courses. I just found out that I can download courses for free from my local library, so I will be doing that. Based on my experience, you have a great product and your company should greatly benefit from the corona virus situation. I am telling everyone that I am taking this course and enjoying it.
Date published: 2020-03-20
Rated 2 out of 5 by from What is she dining with her hands and arms? OMG, I'm only on the first lesson, but I hope she stops the hand signals before I have a seizure.
Date published: 2020-03-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Just what I was looking for I have been doing this kind of writing for some time but I was unsure of the limitations. This course has helped with that, and much more.
Date published: 2020-02-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Prof. needs to watch a video of herself Watching her lecture is painful. She makes the same gesture with her hands during virtually every sentence, which becomes VERY distracting after a few minutes. I finally turned my laptop with the screen pointed away from me so that I could listen without seeing her. Those who create Great Courses should be concerned that their professors are more self aware of their lecture styles and correct such presentation problems before recording the lectures. Content wise, the first lecture is extremely basic, evidently designed for students with no background in the subject matter. The second lecture provides some good, basic content. I will listen to a few more lectures to see if she progresses to the point where I will actually learn something. I would not recommend this course for experienced writers seeking to improve their skill set. It is for novices, which is fine if you realize what you are getting. I really should read reviews before ordering this course!
Date published: 2020-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I thought I knew how to write... `I thought I knew how to write. Perhaps I did, but not as well as I thought. Writing Creative Nonfiction goes beyond the basics of Composition 101/102 courses taught in college, and teaches you how to write like a bestselling author. I was blessed to have learned the basics well from a wonderful composition teacher in high school. College composition courses reinforced what I learned in high school. But most of what I am learning here I had never heard before. For example, I had never learned how to write a page-turner that will keep a reader's attention on the story, even when it is past his or her bedtime. Or how to use rhetorical devices to create memorable (even iconic) prose. Although I haven't yet completed this course (I've just listened to Lesson 9), I am quite impressed. This course and a book I recently read, On Writing Well by William Zinsser (which is, not surprisingly, on her list of recommended books) are proving to be invaluable. I bought this course because I wanted to do an excellent job editing and publishing my father's stories of growing up during the Great Depression and serving in the Air Force during World War II. I'm very glad I made the decision to take this course because I can foresee that the finished product will be vastly improved. And the bonus for me is that my skills as a writer will be far superior to what they used to be. I've noticed a few critical reviews of this course, and that's a shame because the content is so good. My suggestion to anyone who wants to improve their writing for whatever reason: don't allow complaints of minor issues to keep you from gaining access to the invaluable instruction in this course. And if you are looking to publish a novel, don't let the title stop you. Most of what I have learned in Dr. Mazzeo's lessons would be extremely useful for writing fiction as well.
Date published: 2020-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a wonderful course. This is a wonderful course for aspiring writers. I have not gotten far into the course yet but I am very pleased with Professor Tilar Mazzeo and her presentation so far.Tilar gives an excellent insight into how to write creatively well. I have already learned so much more about writing than I had considered on my own and have already found the course extremely helpful.
Date published: 2020-02-16
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Annoying lecturer delivery I could only watch about 20 minutes of this course. The lecturer had a very annoying hand motion that she did every few seconds. Over the years I have purchased many courses and have always been happy with them, but I returned this one. I think the lecturer could improve. She need only watch herself on video for a few minutes to see what she is doing.
Date published: 2020-02-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from This is not a review because I'm not far enough.. ...into the course to evaluate it. I do like what I've already found and look forward to having time to get into the "meat" of it! Thanks for inquiring. Check back in a month or so.
Date published: 2020-01-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great course, need more This is a good starting course and I have learned a lot. However, It would be so much cooler if we there was access to the instructor or other classmates.
Date published: 2020-01-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Great information, poor presentation I purchased this course a few weeks ago and upon downloading the first session was immediately struck by the presenter’s arm movements. She continually “punched” her arms in front of her which was so intensely distracting that it was nearly impossible to focus on what was being said. I tried covering my screen to show only her head, but that was unsatisfactory. I am so grateful that I have the option of audio only. I would be asking for a refund but figure the information is way more valuable than the $25 discounted price of the course. If you offer a “preview” of each course, this would compel me to order more courses.
Date published: 2020-01-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The other comments are true I read the reviews before purchasing and thought the commentaries about the over-use of hand gestures was probably "nit-picky" and exaggerated. They are not. I'm only in lecture 2 and already I have resorted to listening only and not looking at the screen. The hand movement is constant to the point of complete distraction and is dizzying. The camera crew did the speaker a complete disservice by not telling her to somehow occupy her hands another way...sit behind a desk, hold something..whatever. I've never seen such overt overuse of hand gestures. It's a very unfortunate interruption throughout. Best to take as audio only
Date published: 2020-01-14
  • y_2021, m_4, d_19, h_17
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.14
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_16, tr_181
  • loc_en_CA, sid_2154, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.1
  • CLOUD, getReviews, 6.65ms
Writing Creative Nonfiction
Course Trailer
Welcome to Creative Nonfiction
1: Welcome to Creative Nonfiction

Welcome to the world of creative nonfiction. In this first lecture, investigate how something called nonfiction can be "creative," how different perspectives can provide unique ways to tell a story, and more. In addition, preview a road map for the lectures ahead and some of the exciting techniques to be learned....

33 min
Finding the Story
2: Finding the Story

Professor Mazzeo introduces you to the three things that every good story must have: a narrative arc, some kind of conflict, and character. She also guides you through two engaging exercises that help train you to recognize these elements in both short conversations and a single historical photograph....

30 min
Honoring the Nonfiction Contract
3: Honoring the Nonfiction Contract

What's the line between historical fact and interpretation? What are your responsibilities to your memories, even distant ones? How do you write about things beyond your experience and do it truthfully? Find the answers to these and other important questions on the ethical issues and dilemmas of writing creative nonfiction....

29 min
Writing Great Beginnings
4: Writing Great Beginnings

In this lecture, explore how to successfully undertake the hardest part of telling a great story: beginning it. You'll discover the characteristics of a powerful opening sentence, examine great opening lines by famous writers such as Sylvia Plath, uncover several strategies to generate ideas (including the "story starter"), and more....

30 min
Show, Don't Tell
5: Show, Don't Tell

"Show, don't tell"-it's the mantra of creative writing teachers everywhere. But what exactly does it mean? Strengthen the descriptive powers of your writing by tapping into the importance of handling verbs and using more precise words, with insightful examples of both right and wrong techniques taken from published works of creative nonfiction....

32 min
Launching a Narrative Arc
6: Launching a Narrative Arc

Plotting a narrative arc is a part of the creative process that can seem overwhelming even to very experienced writers. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here, learn basic structures-the linear, quest, and frame narratives-you can choose from to imbue your stories with drama and tension....

30 min
Cliffhangers and Page Turners
7: Cliffhangers and Page Turners

Every story needs good pacing, and that's where chapters come in. What does an effective chapter do, and what does it look like? Professor Mazzeo uses a series of examples to show how chapters can effectively deepen your story's narrative arc and-most important-keep your readers reading....

28 min
Building Dramatic Sentences
8: Building Dramatic Sentences

Unpack the technical aspects and secrets of sentences that create pacing and tension. First, investigate the importance of word order in your sentences. Next, explore the effectiveness of compound sentences. Finally, uncover how changing different sentence types in your writing can dramatically alter the impact of your work....

30 min
Rhetorical Devices and Emotional Impact
9: Rhetorical Devices and Emotional Impact

Take a closer look at more rhetorical devices that can dramatically alter the quality and impact of your creative nonfiction. Among the devices you explore: parallelism, anadiplosis (repeating the word at the end of a clause at the start of the next), isocolons (clauses of the same length), and alliteration....

32 min
Putting It All Together
10: Putting It All Together

Here, Professor Mazzeo walks you through the revision process, which is just as important as the actual writing itself. Using the skills and techniques you've learned in previous lectures, you'll take a brief story and explore numerous ways to improve and enhance its sentences, its dialogue, its perspective, and more....

31 min
Revealing Character in Words and Actions
11: Revealing Character in Words and Actions

First, learn why details are so essential to creating three-dimensional characters in creative nonfiction. Then, investigate the stylistic pros and cons of writing from three different points of view: first person, second person, and third person. Your (surprising) case studies for studying the importance of these two topics: personal ads....

31 min
Creating Compelling Characters
12: Creating Compelling Characters

Explore working with characters that don't play starring roles in your narrative (minor characters) as well as unlikable characters no one likes to deal with in real life (antagonists). How do you write about minor and flawed characters that move your narrative along while still being portrayed three-dimensionally?...

32 min
Character Psychology
13: Character Psychology

Investigate the role metaphor plays in revealing the psychological motivations of complex characters. Among the skills you learn are using metonymy (where something associated with an object is used to represent it) and deciding when to use direct discourse (directly quoted speech) or indirect discourse (attributing speech without quotation marks)....

32 min
Getting Inside the Heads of Your Characters
14: Getting Inside the Heads of Your Characters

Focus here on the unique advantages of using free indirect discourse, which provides a productive ambiguity by balancing on the line between a character's thoughts and words and those of an author-narrator. You'll see this at work in an excerpt from one of the masters of the form: Virginia Woolf....

31 min
Using Narrative Perspective
15: Using Narrative Perspective

Professor Mazzeo reveals even more different narrative perspectives you can use to frame your stories and provide your readers with an entry point into your work. After a quick review of "I" and "you" point of views, you'll zero in on three modes of the third-person perspective: omniscient, objective, and subjective....

31 min
Shaping Your Voice
16: Shaping Your Voice

What is an implied author? How do you develop one in your own nonfiction narratives? What is "purple prose," and why is it such a common error by beginning writers? How does it undermine great creative nonfiction? Get answers to these and other questions in this lecture on the power of narrative voice....

30 min
Writing the Gutter-How to Not Tell a Story
17: Writing the Gutter-How to Not Tell a Story

While it may sound counterintuitive, smart creative nonfiction writers know when not to tell something. Discover how learning when to keep quiet can actually be a storyteller's most powerful tool-creating drama, strengthening a sense of suspense, and allowing readers themselves to become active participants in your work....

32 min
Dialogue Strategies in Creative Nonfiction
18: Dialogue Strategies in Creative Nonfiction

Professor Mazzeo reveals how to recognize-and overcome-the challenges of writing dialogue in creative nonfiction, where nothing can be made up. Focus on three keys to good dialogue: using it to intensify character and propel narrative; writing it to sound realistic (but not too realistic), and making sure it's not overwritten....

31 min
Researching Creative Nonfiction
19: Researching Creative Nonfiction

Delve into research, a skill that all successful creative nonfiction writers need to master with real aplomb. You'll learn where (and where not to) look for materials for your creative nonfiction, what to do when you get stuck with your research, how to evaluate the reliability of sources, and more....

31 min
How to Not Have People Hate You
20: How to Not Have People Hate You

As a writer of creative nonfiction, you have an immense responsibility to your subject (and your readers). Investigate ways to tell your stories dramatically and truthfully-all while avoiding conflict with your subject. Two of the tips you learn here: Use comedy extremely carefully and watch out for turning living people into simple stock characters....

29 min
Revising Your Work
21: Revising Your Work

Think a bit more about the revision process. Who are the right people to read a work in progress? What are the differences between positive and negative feedback? How do you manage the complicated feelings behind and investments in your work-especially when facing constructive criticism from your peers?...

31 min
Building Your Audience
22: Building Your Audience

You've finally written the piece you've always wanted. Now what? In the first of two lectures on breaking into the world of publishing, learn how to take a realistic approach to the process, how to determine who your audience is, and how to write a solid book proposal for a potential agent....

31 min
Getting Published
23: Getting Published

Finding out where to get your work published. Deciding which publication is right for your work. Crafting a successful pitch to an editor. These are some of the topics covered in this insightful lecture on the art and crafting of marketing and showing your creative nonfiction to a world of readers....

30 min
Being a Writer
24: Being a Writer

Conclude the course with a look at the habits of effective writers. First, learn several steps you can take to silence your internal critic and survive writer's block. Then, examine seven ways you can make space in your life for writing, including setting concrete goals, reading more, and befriending other writers....

31 min
Tilar J. Mazzeo

The wonderful thing about creative nonfiction is that from the same facts, we can tell hundreds of different stories. Everyone has a different perspective; simply changing the focus on the imaginary lens changes the story.


University of Washington


Colby College

About Tilar J. Mazzeo

Dr. Tilar J. Mazzeo is the Clara C. Piper Professor of English at Colby College in Maine and the New York Times best-selling author of The Widow Cliquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It and The Secret of Chanel No. 5: The Intimate History of the World's Most Famous Perfume. Professor Mazzeo earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington. In 2008, she won the Gourmand Award for the Best Work of Wine Literature in the United States for The Widow Cliquot. She is also the author of Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma and Back Lane Wineries of Napa. Her travel, food, and wine essays have appeared in a range of national publications, including Food and Wine magazine. Professor Mazzeo held the prestigious Jenny McKean Moore Writer-in-Residence position at The George Washington University. Her lessons, exercises, and advice on the art and craft of creative nonfiction have appeared in collections including Now Write! Nonfiction: Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today's Best Writers.

Also By This Professor