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Writing from Photographs

Complete Syllabus

Since 2011, Creative Nonfiction’s online courses have helped thousands of writers tell their stories better. Let us help you stay motivated and inspired through our self-guided course!

Often, as nonfiction writers, we start with memories and experiences. But memories are incomplete—and can be inaccurate. For this reason, writers sometimes rely on photographs as a type of evidence or proof. But a photograph is a complicated artifact—an object, an image, a memory touchstone. Drawing on photographs that intrigue, haunt, or prompt forgotten memories, this course explores the rich possibilities of the space between photograph and experience.

This course will offer new approaches for students at all levels—from those looking for inspiration to those working through an ongoing project. Plus, writing from photographs can make the work of starting a piece of writing easier by giving you a concrete moment to describe, reflect, and expand on. Description is both showing and telling, and the process of describing can open up a whole world.

Each week provides:

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

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

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Week 1: Images and Stories
You will look at how writers find stories in photographs and consider how the simplicity of a photo can prompt a variety of writerly paths. Through directed prompts, you will experiment with low-stakes writings inspired by your own photographs.

Week 2: Incomplete Photographs
A photograph is as much about what it captures as what it leaves out. In this second week, you will explore and experiment with turning a self-selected photograph from image to scene. In this process, you will consider the particulars of description, voice, and writerly presence.

Week 3: Finding the Focus
Like the focus of a camera lens, a personal essay asks us to make decisions about the details and subject of a piece. In this week, you will explore ways of using focused and nuanced details to expand and give depth to the writing you have been developing.

Week 4: Developing the Draft
Moving from image to draft is a process of development and refinement. This week will address how to find the strengths of the essay and approaches to revision.

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Questions? Contact our Director of Education, Sharla Yates at yates[at]creativenonfiction.org.