Germany, Berlin

Creative Non-Fiction Workshop: City Writing

when 25 July 2016 - 2 August 2016
language English
duration 2 weeks
fee EUR 475

How to write polished non-fiction about Berlin? How to summon the desires and exhilaration of city life on the printed page? Participants workshop their own essays - conjuring the senses of Berlin - to imagine the metropolis differently through their own words.

This non-fiction city-writing workshop explores the metropolis of Berlin. The workshop is especially suited to journalists, short and long-form literary writers, bloggers, travel writers and diarists, students of essay writing, and those simply interested in producing polished written work. Workshop participants explore the city and aim to translate those experiences to the printed page in the form of the contemporary essay. Creative non-fiction is a flexible form, and students are encouraged to find their own vehicle for summoning the metropolis in words.

The workshop will pay close attention to elements such as: voice, point-of-view and perspective; scene and description; argument; style, form and register; historical and other site-specific knowledge. The first stage of the writing workshop is a close study of comparative texts by the city’s flaneurs, or city writers (such as Franz Hessel, Christopher Isherwood, or Sven Regener). Having debated comparative approaches, students will be then asked to immerse themselves in a corner of the city, and research an experience or problem in the metropolis. Based on these observations, they will produce an essay draft, paying careful attention to the elements discussed in the first part of the workshop. Praxis dominates the final parts of the program.

Students will workshop each others’ manuscripts––an intense process of exchange––in two stages: a first draft, and then a redrafting based on comments. The workshop aims to result in a polished, publication-ready, essay about Berlin. There is no template for ‘good writing’, but there is writing that better or worse meets the articulated goals of its writers. The workshop intends to help students meet their goals, acquire new skills to do so, which will help them well beyond the genre of city writing. At the same time, students will change the way they experience the city. The course is taught, and work is produced, in English. Non-native speakers with a command of the language are welcome to participate.

Course Plan

Day 1: Monday 25 July

Introduction to course, student introductions. Discussions on the elements of prose: voice, point-of-view and perspective; scene and description; argument; style, form and register. Historical introduction to Berlin City Writing, background for site-specific writing. Readings, and essay plans, are assigned for the next day.

Day 2: Tuesday 26 July

Literary introduction to Berlin City Writing: comparative authors and approaches to the City (Hessel, Isherwood, Regener, etc.). Writing exercises. Presentation of essay plans in mini-workshop setting.

Non-scheduled writing days: Wednesday, Thursday

Students write their first draft of their essays and submit their essay drafts to a Google Docs group by 4pm Thursday. Students read and comment on each other’s work before class on Friday.

Day 3: Friday 29 July

Workshop Day: We spend the entire day workshopping and exchanging comments on the first draft of each other’s work.

Non-scheduled writing days: Weekend

Students write the second draft of their essays and submit their essay drafts to a Google Docs group by 4pm Sunday. Students read and comment on each other’s work for the next class.

Day 4: Monday 1 August

Workshop Day: We spend the whole day workshopping and exchanging comments on the second draft of each other’s work. Students are required to spend the evening revising their final draft for presentation the next day.

Day 5: Tuesday 2 August

Presentation of final work. Reflection on the writing process. Reflection on Berlin.

Course leader

Joseph Pearson, a non-fiction writer based in Berlin. Born in Canada, he received his doctorate from Cambridge University, UK. His book, a portrait of Berlin, will be published by Reaktion Books / University of Chicago Press in 2016. He is the essayist a

Fee info

EUR 475: .


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