Non-Fiction Series for the Weekend Student

Non-fiction writing at its best is about storytelling, probing the deeply personal and the profoundly incomprehensible questions: who are we, why are we here, what boundaries define and limit our human activities, where do our responsibilities lie?

In this intensive course, we will explore strategies and tools to craft effective non-fiction pieces for newspapers, magazines, blogs and books.

The course will be hands-on, interactive and participatory, including reading and analysis of a broad range of non-fiction writing, exercises to expand your non-fiction toolbox, workshop opportunities to give and receive feedback and the option to receive feedback from the instructor, as well as an in-class discussion on how to move towards publication.

About the instructor

  • Mark Winston

    Mark L. Winston is the recipient of the 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award for Nonfiction for his bestselling book Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive. His work has appeared in six books receiving diverse awards, including the 2015 Science in Society General Book Award from the Canadian Science Writers Association, a CBC Best Books Award (for Bee Time) and the Sterling Prize for Controversy. His 1998 book Nature Wars was also short-listed for the BP Natural World Book Prize. He has written for many outlets, including columns for the Vancouver Sun, The New York Times, The Sciences and Orion, among others. Mark is a fellow in the Royal Society of Canada, a professor and senior fellow in Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, and a professor of biological sciences.


This course is available at the following time(s) and location(s):

Campus Session(s) Instructor(s) Cost Seats available  
Vancouver 6 Eve Lazarus $540.74 20 Register
Vancouver 6 Mark Winston $540.74 20 Register

Instructional hours: 17

Registration may close up to one week before the course begins. 

What will I learn?

During the course you will:

  • Explore a range of non-fiction genres, including:
    • feature magazine articles 
    • personal memoir
    • newspaper commentary
    • full-length books
    • and others
  • Construct and develop a compelling narrative for your work
  • Adopt the mantras of non-fiction writers: brevity, clarity, focus and impact
  • Work on first paragraphs that draw in readers
  • Personalize your non-fiction to include your own experience
  • Identify your audience
  • Learn how to concentrate on critical detail
  • Give, and receive, feedback
  • Develop strategies for non-fiction publication

Course schedule

Session 1: Introduction to non-fiction genres and writing strategies

Session 2: Telling a story

Session 3: Personalizing your narrative

Session 4: Writing for your audience

Session 5: Peer writing consults

Session 6: Formal reading and feedback from participants, how to publish

How will you learn?

  • Reading/analysis of diverse nonfiction writing, in and outside of class
  • Class discussions
  • Small-group in-class exercises/workshops
  • Working on your own writing
  • Reading your work in class and receiving class/instructor feedback
  • Option of individual feedback from the instructor

How will you be evaluated?

You will be evaluated on your participation and assignments. 

Textbooks and learning materials

All materials will be provided before class via email, or in class.

For general books about writing, the instructor suggests:

  • Margaret Atwood: Negotiating With the Dead
  • Stephen King: On Writing: a Memoir of the Craft
  • Anne Lamott: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Related program(s)

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