A collage of three book covers. On the left: Seinfeldia. In the middle: When Women Invented Television. On the right: Pop Star Goddesses.

Writing Nonfiction: Turning Facts Into Gripping Scenes


This course was available in the past and may be presented again as part of the Open Enrollment curriculum.

Led by New York Times best-selling author Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, whose narrative nonfiction works include Seinfeldia, When Women Invented Television, Sex and the City and Us, and Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted. We will learn, step-by-step, how to conduct research to craft rich, novelistic narrative nonfiction that readers can't put down—and how to turn those raw facts into riveting scenes, whether you're working on a journalistic piece or a book. We'll discuss interview techniques for getting those telling details that will make your scenes jump off the page, and we'll go over the many other treasure troves available to you, from archival research to weather records and photographs. We'll also discuss how to fill in the inevitable gaps in your research without fudging the facts. At the end of this class, you'll be able to research like a pro and come back home with the raw materials of a narrative that jumps off the page while staying true to the facts.

Course Outline

Course Syllabus

Required texts:

Improv Nation by Sam Wasson, paperback, ISBN 978-1-328-50800-3

Working by Robert Caro, paperback, ISBN 978-1529112030


Online registration deadline: Thursday, Sept 22 at 5 pm CT

Remote courses require you to login to Canvas to access the Zoom Classroom. You will receive an invitation to join Canvas about a week before your course begins. Please visit the Liberal Arts Student Resources page to find step by step instructions for Canvas and Zoom: Online Learning Resources