Category Archives: Student Writing

[marginalia] 20 Little Essays Project in Action : : Felicia Schneiderhan

I met this sweet exercise in a summer workshop Rachel Yoder taught at the Midwest Writing Center. It reminded me of an exercise I did in my MFA program, using Milan Kundera’s structure from The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  I appreciated the freedom of leaping from one topic to the next, of not having to worry about how it all tied together or made sense. These leaps in logic opened up new possibilities that my orderly mind would never make.

Although it wasn’t timed, I felt the pressure of hitting all the prompts in the time we were given in the workshop, so I couldn’t dwell or think too much—I just had to move. As a result, the first draft felt like a thrilling trail run: first I was in the forest, then I was on a ledge overlooking Lake Superior, then I was on a rocky climb, and each part was unique to itself, yet all part of the same trail. I gained momentum as I began to see how each piece was connected on a visceral level, sprinting with glee. Continue reading

Summer School with Genji Onishi: How Beautiful One Word Can Be


The second in an ongoing series by undergraduate students in Intro to Creative Nonfiction at the University of Iowa reflecting on writing and revising. In this post, Genji Onishi draws inspiration from jazz pianist Bill Evans.

A topic brought up in our class a lot has been about how music might influence our writing, whether it’s a certain playlist or a song which through repeated plays has faded to some part of the brain that’s not really listening but helps the other parts to focus entirely on writing. Perhaps even music can affect the mood of our writing, as though when some emotional part of our brain lights up, the unconscious or zone or wherever place we write from draws from that light and smacks it onto the paper, as vividly as if the reader were hearing it. Continue reading

Summer School with Catie Malooly: The Beauty and Horror of Nonfiction

The first in an ongoing series by undergraduate students in Intro to Creative Nonfiction at the University of Iowa who reflect on writing and revising. We begin with Ms. Catie Malooly who addresses procrastination, workshop, and the beauty and horror of creative nonfiction.

I procrastinate. Hard.

I wish I didn’t, but I do, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I tell myself I write better under pressure, that those rigid deadlines are what I need to really crank out my best work. Continue reading

Summer School

My students this past semester rocked. Nine very different, very talented undergrads at the University of Iowa who enrolled in my evening Creative Nonfiction course. Their fields of study ranged across journalism, creative writing, music, and film so, lucky me, right? Right.


I tried to center the course around author Christopher Higgs‘s notion of intellectual polyamory and included this excerpt from an interview with him on the first page of the syllabus:

Become intellectually polyamorous, cultivate an insatiable curiosity for knowledge and experience in as many different guises as you possibly can, Continue reading