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Writing About Others


A writer’s central and essential challenge is to create work that resonates with others, but the themes and threads of our own lives do not automatically captivate readers. Even beyond the questionable resonance of self, looking within offers a limited store of writing ideas. Searching outward—where the writer meets the world, and the world the writer—offers that writerly requisite: a limitless store of ideas. But as writers, how do we perform the imperative act of moving beyond self? Where do we look, and how do we know when we find worthwhile subject matter—topics with the minimum requirement of intricacy and complexity? Moreover, once we home in on a suitable idea, how do we know whether it lends itself to modest treatment or a work of considerable range and ambition? We will write work of limited and complex scope. For guidance, inspiration, and cautionary tales, we will read and discuss works of writing from James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Truman Capote, Calvin Trillin, and others.    At least one previous poetry class is required.