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“Fiction is about everything human, wrote Flannery O’Connor, “and we are made out of dust. If you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.” Writing Close to the Earth is a six-week online creative writing course about getting dusty. Together we will develop the habits of “earthy” writing—writing that is concrete rather than abstract, concerned with the material facts of our existence.

Writing close to the earth is, ultimately, a theological approach to writing. We believe that this world is shot through with meaning—that this world, in all its beauty and brokenness, is where God reveals himself to us. We trust, therefore, that if we are faithful to write the world as we see it, truth and meaning will find their way to the reader.

The readings for this course will all be nonfiction, but the principles we work on will be equally relevant to fiction and to creative nonfiction. An important goal of this course is to help you find and trust your own voice as a writer, your “native tongue.”

Every week we cover one component of “earthy” writing:

  • Week 1: Concrete Language and Imagery
  • Week 2: Learning to See
  • Week 3: Place
  • Week 4: Memory
  • Week 5: Character
  • Week 6: Metaphor

Each week you will read and discuss at least one essay about writing and at least one essay that models the principles we are discussing that week. You will also submit an essay of approximately 500 words (about the length of a typical blog post). I will give feedback on your writing within a week. 

Note: I hope you will share your essays with your classmates, and I will provide a forum for sharing, but sharing will be entirely optional.

We will be using the Schoology platform, which is a social media platform similar to Facebook.