This class is for writers who want to bring research into their memoirs and personal essays. Incorporating research into personal nonfiction can illuminate our own experiences in rich ways—connecting our stories to larger cultural and historical moments or ideas, and helping readers make links between their experiences and what we're putting on the page.
But how do you go about the research? At what point in your writing process should you begin, and how do you know when to say enough is enough? In this class, we'll consider the uses of different types of primary and secondary sources, and examine how various published writers incorporate research into their own work. You'll learn practical approaches to conducting research, organizing your notes and sources, and finding your way back out of rabbit holes. You'll also learn how to take what you've discovered and implement it into your work without bogging down the narrative or running off on too many tangents.
The class will be most useful for writers who are ready to begin a specific project or have early drafts of work-in-progress. Sharing is encouraged but totally voluntary.
Julia Ridley Smith is the author of The Sum of Trifles (University of Georgia Press, 2021), a memoir in essays. Her short stories and essays have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Ecotone, Electric Literature, the New England Review, and The Southern Review, among other publications, and her nonfiction was recognized as notable in The Best American Essays 2019. She's been awarded scholarships, fellowships, and residencies by the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Millay Colony, the Cuttyhunk Island Residency, and the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities. After earning her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, she worked for nearly twenty years as a freelance copyeditor of academic books. She now teaches creative writing at UNC Chapel Hill. You can find her at www.juliaridleysmith.com, and follow her on Twitter at @JuliaTrifles.
"Julia is amazing, and she was so good at meeting the needs of a brand new beginner like myself."