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Creative Nonfiction

  • Join us at 12 PM ET (11 AM CT/10 AM MT/9 AM PT) to learn more about the Naslund-Mann School of Writi...

    July 16 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

    MFA Virtual Open House

Our creative nonfiction faculty are essayists, journalists, memoirists, and cultural critics. They experiment with form, to poignant and hilarious effect. They are homebodies and world travelers, seekers and skeptics. They write travel essays for The New York Times (Roy Hoffman, “Captivated by the Ganges, a River of Souls”). They unearth family secrets through a blend of journalistic digging, cultural criticism, and poetic reimagining (Erin Keane, Runaway: Notes on the Myths that Made Me). They write on music and politics (Jason Kyle Howard). They pen memoirs of intersectionality (Rebecca Walker’s bestselling Black, White and Jewish), of ill-advised marriage (Nancy McCabe’s Can This Marriage Be Saved?), of growing up in Nigeria (Elaine Orr’s Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life). Their names appear in the Best American series and in top magazines and literary journals everywhere. Visit our faculty page to read more.

Tori Murden McClure, president of Spalding University from 2010 to 2024, is a proud Spalding MFA alum. She studied creative nonfiction while writing A Pearl in the Storm, her award-winning memoir about her solo row across the Atlantic Ocean.

A statement by our faculty distills their approach to teaching:

In our creative nonfiction concentration, we embrace the full range of literary techniques and elements employed by writers of other genres, including fiction, poetry and playwriting. You will explore subject matter, voice and point of view through an expansive territory that ranges from classic forms such as the personal essay, memoir and narrative nonfiction to more innovative forms such as the graphic memoir and lyric essay.

Although CNF implies a contract with the reader as to the veracity of its prose, its attempt to communicate “real life” must always be viewed somewhat skeptically, in the light of authorial subjectivity and selectivity. Truth in its broadest sense, and not factual accuracy in its narrowest, is the goal of CNF. Our faculty members are expert guides through the unique opportunities offered by this form, and they themselves are always exploring and always learning.

This approach helps our students and alums launch themselves into the world as practicing, publishing writers of creative nonfiction. Alumni essays have appeared in publications from The New York Times to The Missouri ReviewCreative Nonfiction to Oxford AmericanSalon to O, the Oprah Magazine to Vogue. Their memoirs, narrative nonfiction books and essay collections have been published by HarperCollins, Riverhead, University of Nebraska Press, University of Alaska Press and many others. Their prizes include the Orlando Prize for Creative Nonfiction and the Frank McCourt Creative Nonfiction Prize, and their titles have been Amazon Bestsellers and Heartland Indie Bestsellers.

Upcoming and past visiting writers include:

  • New York Times contributing opinion writer Margaret Renkl (Late Migrations)
  • New York Times bestselling author Therese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries)
  • National Book Award winner Barry Lopez (Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape)
  • Molly Peacock (Paradise, Piece By Piece)
  • Phillip Lopate (The Art of the Personal Essay, editor)
  • Terry Tempest Williams (Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place)
  • Pico Iyer (The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama)
  • Scott Russell Sanders (Writing from the Center)
  • Join us at 12 PM ET (11 AM CT/10 AM MT/9 AM PT) to learn more about the Naslund-Mann School of Writi...

    July 16 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

    MFA Virtual Open House