A Soft Landing at the Intersection of Creative and Nonfiction

P-38 Lightning in Greenland

Q: In July 1942, eight Lockheed P-38 Lightnings and two Boeing B-17 Bombers made a crash landing on the Greenland ice cap. Five decades later, while writing a book on a salvage operation of one of the planes, I wanted to reconstruct what happened in 1942 so readers would feel as though they were present, observing it all themselves? How would you do that?
A:  There are a slew of techniques to effectively reconstruct scenes and we spend a class exploring them in Advanced  Feature Writing, a night course at Ryerson University.

I’ll be teaching the course beginning in January 2016. Here’s what we’ll do:

  • look at inspired examples of creative nonfiction
  • develop more sophisticated techniques for generating and focusing story ideas that sell
  • fine-tune long-form reporting skills (what  Gay Talese calls “the fine art of hanging out”)
  • explore the psycho-dynamics of the interview
  • deconstruct the four most common structural models that work for most long features
  • write a long-form feature (many students have sold these to major market magazines and newspapers)

These are what are known as “transferable skills:” writing, research, critical analysis, time management. This is what employers are looking for in the corporate and non-profit sectors as well as in journalism. Convinced? Registration is open now at this link:


(The prerequisite for Advanced Feature Writing is the introductory feature writing course, CDJN 117, so without having taken it you can’t register for my course. If you’ve done some journalism, write directly to me so I can see a couple of examples. So long as I feel you know the equivalent of what you would have learned in CDJN 117, I will issue a permission slip to register. [email protected]. Register early, preferably at least a week before the first week of classes.)