Writing the Tough Stuff

Self-Guided // 4-Week Online Course

Writing the Tough Stuff

April 20 - May 15th

It’s never too late to start!
Enrollment is OPEN through May 11th

Refund and cancellation policies

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Writers often find that we want to write about loss, trauma, or other major life changes in order to both understand how our personal narrative is changing, and to relate our changed self to the world.

Everyone is experiencing some sort of personal difficulty right now. This self-guided course will present strategies for strong creative nonfiction writing about these subjects. Each week will include a written lecture, specific reading recommendations tied to the lecture, and a writing assignment.

Each week provides:

  • WEEKLY PROMPTS to help you generate new writing
  • INSPIRATION in the form of written lectures and selected readings

After the course closes, you will receive a zip file containing all of the course content and the work you developed during the month. You’ll also continue to be a member of our Creative Nonfiction Writing Classes' Community Page where you can share writings and calls for submissions, recommend books, and stay connected with other writers.

What we mean by "Self-Guided."


Complete Syllabus

Week 1: Why Write About Grief, Loss, and Trauma
In this first week we’ll look more closely at what motivates us to write about trauma and other difficult experiences that have changed us. We’ll discuss how writing can be a powerful vehicle for self-discovery, personal transformation, and social change. Which writers do we admire and why? What are some vivid examples of creative nonfiction that has influenced public conversation and “made a difference"? We will discuss our “right to write.” Each week will include a writing prompt.

Week 2: Writing the Tough Stuff
We’ll talk about how we choose moments for material (and how these moments sometimes choose us). Following this, we’ll talk about our purpose for writing, and theme. How can we make our stories relevant to our readers, and more than simply about us? We’ll consider the idea of “positionality,” and alternate points of view. 

Week 3: So What?
Having trouble organizing your material? This week ought to help. We’ll talk about plot, and the elements of a narrative including scene, summary and reflection. We'll consider the role of detail in creating compelling scenes on the page. We’ll also delve deeper into what motivates our central character, define the concept of Major Dramatic Question, and find our answer to the question: so what? Lastly, we’ll define the elements of an essay, and consider a handful of mentor texts with effective ledes. Participants may revise their first submission as this week’s assignment, or write something new.

Week 4: Publishing, Practice & Everything Else
During this final week, we’ll discuss what we’ve learned so far about ourselves through our writing. We’ll talk about what our writing practice currently looks like, and what more we could do to support our work. We’ll talk about what steps to take next, and explore the option of publishing our writing. We'll finish with one last writing prompt.


Course designed by Melissa Petro. Melissa Petro is a freelance writer and writing instructor living in New York City. She has written for  Marie Claire, NY Magazine, Pacific Standard Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Esquire, Salon, Daily Beast, The Guardian, Al Jazeera America, Jezebel, Narratively, New Inquiry, The Establishment, Rumpus and many other places. In 2015, she was one of three finalist for the PEN America / Fusion Young Emerging Writer's Prize judged by John Freeman, Roxane Gay, and Cristina Henrique. She is the founder and an instructor at Becoming Writers, a community organization that provides free and low cost creative writing workshops to under heard writers. She has a BA in Women's Studies from Antioch College and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from The New School.


See schedule of all available classes »

Refund and cancellation policies

By 5pm EST, April 22nd participants can request a refund or credit transfer.Refund and cancellation policies

After 5pm EST, April 22nd no refunds or credit transfers can be issued.