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362994: Nonfiction: Essential Beginnings

  • Fall 2018
  • Section 1
  • 2 Credits
  • 10/24/2018 to 12/04/2018
  • Modified 10/22/2018


Sometimes the best stories are true. To help you turn your personal experiences, anecdotes from everyday life, and family stories into compelling narratives, this workshop teaches beginning writers the basic elements of good storytelling. You learn how to excavate memories and discover fresh or unexpected facets of your life stories. Through weekly exercises, you generate new material and learn an array of fictional techniques to tell your nonfiction story, including how to play with voice, focus on a small unit of time, and describe landscape and character. By the course's completion, you will have in hand a series of short sketches or a draft of a nonfiction piece.


Writing the Memoir

  • Author: Judith Barrington
  • Publisher: Eighth Mountain Press
  • Edition: 2nd Edition

This is the ONLY text required.

The weekly reading assignments will involve reading chapters of WRITING THE MEMOIR.



Page Limits will be enforced. If this seems constricting, believe me, it isn't. Think of me as an editor or agent who has requested samples of your work. And send the strongest writing you are capable of. I give your weekly assignments very focused scrutiny. You will NOT feel shortchanged.

Submitting Early: Not encouraged. I tend to lose track of student work if they're not submitted the same week as the prompt. Do inform me ahead of time if there is a very good reason for you to submit early (traveling?).

I normally send feedback no later than three days after you have posted your pieces.  If I require more time, I will let you know. The pieces are always due by 5 p.m. on Tuesday. You should receive feedback no later than the Friday immediately following.

I check the class at least once a day.  You will see me jump into the discussions at various points. The more actively you engage in the back-and-forth, the greater the benefit you will derive from this class.

You will have five writing assignments, here are the deadlines:

Assignment # 1 is due 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30

Assignment # 2 is due 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 6

Assignment # 3 is due 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13

Assignment # 4 is due 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20

Final pieces are due 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, but the class will have until Dec. 4 to leave feedback on the work of the students whose final pieces are scheduled for workshopping.  Please jot these deadlines down in your calendar, so that you can plan ahead and leave yourself extra time to do the assignments. 

Final grades will be posted no later than Tuesday, Dec. 18. You should be able to see your TOTAL POINTS for the course in the Grading Center. 

NOTE: I accept late writing assignments, but for each day past the Date Due, I deduct 1 point. For example: if you turn in a writing assignment a day late, you will receive 11.5 points credit instead of 12.5. Two days late will mean you get 10.5 points credit instead of a full 12.5. And so on.

In a course of this length, missing one assignment will have a serious impact on the final grade. It is much more advisable to submit late than not to submit at all.

Types of evaluations and related weights
Type Weight Topic Notes
Bio 4 points

posted by end of Week One: 5 p.m.

Feedback 30 points Feedback is the Heart of Any Creative Writing Workshop

Feedback to the work of your classmates (Consult the Workshop Schedule, in the Assignments section, so that you will know whose work is scheduled for feedback):  6 points each week (This assumes that there will be 3 student pieces up for workshopping each week. If it turns out that there are only 2 student pieces up that week, for whatever reason, then your feedback will be worth 3 points instead of 2. And of course, if your own piece is up for workshopping, then you have only the other pieces to leave feedback on -- for instance, if there's just one other piece up, aside from yours, you'll get 6 points for leaving feedback on the other piece. Confusing, much? You'll get the hang of it. Or e-mail me with your questions.)

4 Weekly writing exercises 50 points

Page limits will vary, but what will not change are the format requirements:

  • Number your pages.
  • Use double-space.
  • Leave 1-inch margins on each side.
  • Use 12-point font.
1 Final piece 16 points

1 Final piece (a maximum of 6 numbered pages, double-spaced, 1-inch margins on each side) : 16 points


90 - 100 points = A
80 - 89  points = B
70 - 79 points = C
69 and lower = F

Course Policies

Underage Students

As UCLA's principal provider of continuing education, the majority of UCLA Extension courses are designed for the post-baccalaureate professional-level student. Enrollment is therefore normally reserved for adult students 18 years of age and older. The Writers’ Program may consent to enroll younger students based on special academic competence and approval of the instructor. Minors who enroll in a Writers’ Program course without first receiving permission from both the department and the instructor are subject to withdrawal.  To request approval, please contact the Writers’ Program at 310/825-9415.

Institutional Policies

Student Conduct

Students are subject to disciplinary action for several types of misconduct or attempted misconduct, including but not limited to dishonesty, such as cheating, multiple submission, plagiarism, or knowingly furnishing false information to the University; or theft or misuse of the intellectual property of others or violation of others' copyrights. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with policy provisions which proscribe these and other forms of misconduct at:

Services for Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, UCLA Extension provides appropriate accommodations and support services to qualified applicants and students with disabilities. These include, but are not limited to, auxiliary aids/services such as sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices for hearing-impaired individuals, extended time for and proctoring of exams, and registration assistance. Accommodations and types of support services vary and are specifically designed to meet the disability-related needs of each student based on current, verifiable medical documentation. Arrangements for auxiliary aids/services are available only through UCLA Extension’s Office for Students with Disabilities at (310) 825-0183 or by email at [email protected]. For complete information see:


Your instructor may post the interim grade Incomplete/I if at the end of the class your overall work is of passing quality but a portion could not be submitted for understandable reasons (e.g. illness). It is your responsibility to petition your instructor for permission to submit work late and to provide an explanation, and it is his or her sole decision whether to accept the explanation. If permitted, the Incomplete/I grade will be posted and a time frame defined for you to submit the missing work, ranging from one to twelve weeks. Incomplete/I grades that remain unchanged after twelve weeks will lapse to F, NP or U. Receiving an I grade entitles you to submit only the missing work your instructor has agreed to accept late, and does not allow other work to be retaken or oblige UCLA Extension to provide continuing access to course materials via Canvas. The Incomplete/I grade is not an option for courses that do not bear credit, such as 700, 800, or 900-level courses. For complete information, see:

All Grades are Final

No change of grade may be made by anyone other than the instructor, and then, only to correct clerical errors. No term grade except Incomplete may be revised by re-examination. The correction of a clerical error may be authorized only by the instructor of record communicating directly with personnel of Student and Alumni Services.

Sexual Harassment

The University of California is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals who participate in University programs and activities can work and learn together in an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation. Every member of the community should be aware that the University prohibits sexual harassment and sexual violence, and that such behavior violates both law and University policy. The University will respond promptly and effectively to reports of sexual harassment and sexual violence, and will take appropriate action to prevent, to correct, and when necessary, to discipline behavior that violates our policy.

All Extension students and instructors who believe they have been sexually harassed are encouraged to contact the Department of Student and Alumni Services for complaint resolution: UCLA Extension, Suite 113, 10995 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Voice/TTY: (310) 825-7031. View the University’s full Policy on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence at

Additional Items

About Your Online Course Materials

Please note the following about online course components at UCLA Extension:

  • Students must have basic computer skills, including the use of word processing software, email, and the ability to use internet browsers, such as Safari, Firefox, or Chrome.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the technical requirements of Canvas and familiarizing themselves with the Canvas Learning Management System.
  • Students are responsible for keeping a copy of all assignments and work submitted, and to be aware of all assignments, due dates, and course guidelines.
  • Students are encouraged to keep and/or download a local copy of their assignment files, as access to the online environment of a specific course is limited to 30 days after the final course date, as listed in the course catalog.

    If you need assistance downloading student materials from your course, please contact Canvas Support or the UCLA Extension Learning Support Team.

UCLA Extension Canvas and Learning Support

For immediate 24/7 Canvas technical support, including holidays, click on Help (located on the menu to the left) where you can call or chat live with a Canvas Support representative.

UCLA Extension Instructional Design and Learning Support
The UCLA Extension Learning Support staff assists both students and instructors with Canvas-related technical support, as well as general and administrative questions.

Learning Support staff is available Monday through Friday, from 8 AM to 5 PM (Pacific Time), except holidays:


Course calendar and related activities
When Topic Notes

Only the Week One and Week Two Assignments are given below.

Assignments for Week Three, Week Four, and Week Five can be found in the main course shell.

Week One

1. Post a bio in the CLASS BIOS folder on the Discussion Board, so we can begin to get to know each other. (4 points) 

2. Read the WEEK ONE LECTURE and leave a response.

3. Begin a daily journal (There will be more detailed instructions about this in the Assignments section). Probably several of you already keep journals. Trust me on this: you can keep using your daily journals but you have to see them as more than just -- daily journals. Instead, you'll start using them as repositories for all the myriad sensations and details you are exposed to as you live your daily life, details that would ordinarily be lost but this time won't be because you are taking this class and are more AWARE.  As you get used to flexing those writing muscles, the writing will begin to flow more naturally.

Week Two

To Read:

1. The WEEK TWO LECTURE ("Writing and Perception").

2.  Writing the Memoir, Chapters 2 and 3: "Who Cares? And Other Thoughts on Getting Started" & "Finding Form"

3.  "Guidelines for Peer Feedback" in your Week One Module.

4.  To read and leave feedback by 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30:  Assignment # 1 of your classmates (Names TBA)

It's a little tricky: you'll submit Assignment # 1 as a reply to the Graded Discussion ASSIGNMENTS WEEK # 2, but leave feedback for each person in a Graded Discussion specifically labeled with that person's name.

To Write:

For Week Two, focus your week's journal entries around a particular topic.  It can be food; animals; phobias; dreams; moods; weather, anything.  I'm hoping you will pick up on details you wouldn't ordinarily notice if you weren't thinking of that particular theme. At the end of the week you can either:

1. Build one long sentence by using words, sentences, phrases from the week's journal entries.  Commas and parentheses are the only punctuation allowed. See how long you can keep the narrative energy going.

2. Construct a "list" piece. See which things seem to hold naturally together. A list can be written in paragraph form (like the example from Lorrie Moore below in the more detailed Assignments instructions, in your WEEK TWO MODULE) or as an actual list (numbered, if you wish. Very post-modern!).