Toolbox: Writing Narrative Nonfiction About Sexual Assault, Abuse, & Harassment
Within the last year, writing and publishing personal narratives about sexual abuse, assault, and harassment has become a force for self-empowerment and social change. Yet many writers feel too afraid to share their stories or are marginalized due to race, gender, or other identifying characteristics. It's all too common for readers to respond to sexual violence narratives with aversion, refusing to believe accounts or responding with criticism, contempt, or personal attack. Traumatic events can cause survivors and witnesses to shut down, rendering the story unread. Without the protective veil of fiction to mitigate such experiences, narrative nonfiction writers face the challenge of crafting personal stories that engage, educate, and empower readers.
This six-hour seminar is for writers who want to explore writing narrative nonfiction about their own lived experiences with sexual assault, abuse, and/or harassment. The class will consist of three parts: first, we will address a variety of craft tools, including writing flashback, utilizing thematic threading, grounding the reader in setting, the art of pacing and reflection, the use of outside source material, and what it means when “less is more,” all with the focus on guiding the reader through experiences that many in our society turn away from. We'll explore how we can keep readers engaged by addressing audience reactions to sexual violence through understanding psychological concepts of trauma and recovery. We'll examine examples of published works from a diverse set of writers, such as Roxane Gay, Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, Melissa Griffiths, Megan Stielstra, and others. The second part of the class will consist of in-class exercises through which you will have the opportunity to apply craft tools to write your own story. Lastly, you will have the option to share your work-in-progress and receive feedback from the group (respectful and specific guidelines for providing feedback will be distributed and enforced). The seminar will conclude with an in-depth discussion about publishing challenges, pitfalls and successes, and how to cultivate a support system. You should expect to leave with a writing craft “toolbox” with which to continue writing your personal story, and a clearer view of the publishing landscape.
NOTE: As mentioned above, this class is exclusively for writers with lived experiences related to sexual assault, abuse, and/or harassment. All genders are welcome.
Thanks to the excellent literary citizenship of our donors, scholarships are available for all GrubStreet classes. To apply, click the gray "APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP" button. In order to be considered for a scholarship, you must complete your application at least one week before the start date of a class. Please await our scholarship committee's decision before registering for the class. We cannot hold spots in classes, so the sooner you apply, the better. Scholarships cannot be applied retroactively.
For more more detailed information about GrubStreet scholarships, including how to contribute to scholarship funds for other students, click here.
Previous Students Say
- In-Class Writing Prompts
- Generate New Work
- Class Discussion
- In-Class Reading
- Book-Length Memoir
- Personal Essay
- Literary Journalism
- Publishing & Promotion