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The Art of Time in Nonfiction


$190 if registered by 6/25/2018
$225 if registered after 6/25/2018

Without the passage of time, there is no story. But there are so many ways to organize, steer, and structure time in essays and memoirs. How do you write an essay that covers one hour? One day? Twenty years? How do you handle flashbacks, or multiple timelines?

During this course, you will learn how to plan the time frame of a story, manage time from scene to scene, or even slow or speed up time to suit the story you want to tell. Writing prompts, readings, and discussion will help you become more skilled in using time and structure.

During this workshop you will:

  • ACQUIRE a vocabulary for discussing structure and time in storytelling;
  • EXPLORE examples of nonfiction that employ a wide range of structures and chronologies;
  • DRAFT new writing and employ new skills;
  • SHARE your work with your instructor and peers for feedback;
  • DEVISE a plan for expanding weekly drafts into full essays; and
  • DEVELOP goals for using these skills in your writing post-workshop.

Writers of all skill levels are welcome to attend this workshop. You can bring a work in progress, but please keep in mind that this workshop will focus on generating new work and new strategies for telling your story better. Each writer will leave with a new, polished essay that uses time in a thoughtful and intentional way.

Read on for week-by-week descriptions.

Wednesdays, July 11, 18, 25, and August 1, 15
[NOTE: no meeting on Aug 8]

6:30 pm – 9:00 pm

Advance registration strongly recommended.
The workshop is limited to 12 students.


Week 1: Classic Time
Most stories take place within a predetermined time frame—an hour, a week, a year. We will explore why this is such a powerful basis for storytelling, and look at writing that uses such "classic time." We'll discuss the difference between scene and summary, and when to employ each to manage how time passes in an essay. We will brainstorm ideas for using examples of "classic time" to structure story ideas, and use writing prompts to jumpstart new writing.

Week 2: Slow Time
There are times when we want to slow down the action of an essay, so we can focus on close observation, do some thinking, or just let a story breathe. We'll look at ways to use verbs, sentence structure, and punctuation to slow time and discuss when such techniques are useful. We'll practice writing scenes that employ "slow time" and look for ways to include them in our writing or even construct a new story around slowing time.

Week 3: Switchback Time
Multiple time frames can add layers to our writing. Many of us are familiar with flashbacks, but how do you integrate them smoothly into your writing? We'll look at writing that uses flashbacks, switchbacks, and other ways of creating more than one time frame in a piece of writing. We will learn how to transition smoothly between points in time, and how to create complementary storylines in different time periods.

Week 4: Long Time
Much nonfiction writing, especially memoir, requires telling stories that occur over long periods of time—years or even decades. We'll look at how to cover long periods of time without losing focus on scene and character. We'll discuss when essays benefit from the perspective that "long time" provides and when we can focus or condense essays into shorter time frames. At this point in the course, we'll also explore which ideas students want to build upon and set goals for full drafts of essays.

Week 5: Time as Subject
Sometimes time itself—its passage, its effects—is our best subject. We'll look at writing that foregrounds time as subject and see how this approach can add drama and urgency to a work. We will also share longer pieces of writing, gather feedback on our ongoing drafts, and identify places for revision. Most importantly, we will celebrate our new knowledge, writing skills, and the material we've created together.

Location // 5119 Coral Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

The lower level of our workshop and gallery space is wheelchair accessible. Free on-street parking is available.
Coffee, tea, water and light refreshments will be provided each week.

Kevin Haworth is a 2016 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Creative Writing and the author of four books: the novel The Discontinuity of Small Things—winner of the Samuel Goldberg Foundation Prize and first runner-up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; the essay collection Famous Drownings in Literary History; the limited-edition chapbook Far Out All My Life; and a collection of essays about writing, Lit From Within: Contemporary Masters on the Art and Craft of Writing, co-edited with Dinty W. Moore. Haworth’s short stories, essays, and poetry translation have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Fourth Genre, Iowa Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Michigan Quarterly Review, and World Literature Today, among others. He has held residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Ledig International Writers House. His latest book, Rutu Modan: War, Love, and Secrets, is forthcoming in 2018.

Questions? Please call us at 412-404-2975 or email our director of education, Sharla Yates at yates@creativenonfiction.org.