Course Description

Discover 4 unique ways to tell your stories

Whether you're new to creative non-fiction -- or an experienced writer just discovering these four "outlier" forms -- this course will inspire you to tell your stories in innovative new ways.

Join a small cohort of 10 learners led by award-winning writer, Nicole Breit, for a 6-week exploration into the creative possibilities of flash non-fiction, the prose poem, lyric essay, and hermit crab essay. Students will be encouraged to read and discuss essays by diverse writers working in each sub-genre with an emphasis on craft. In addition to weekly readings, discussions in our private forum, and skill-building pre-writing exercises, learners will submit five written assignments for instructor feedback.

By the end of the course, learners will have gained experience and confidence writing in each of the four CNF sub-genres, with a deeper understanding of how form and craft work together to create compelling stories.

In this 6-week course learners will:

  • Examine the characteristics of each form and craft techniques that make our life stories powerful in course readings and assignments
  • Explore flash non-fiction, prose poems, lyric and hermit crab essays by Isaac Yuen, Mary Ann Samyn, Susan Olding, Brenda Miller, Dinty W. Moore, Randon Billings Noble, and more.
  • Learn from published CNF sub-genre authors as they discuss inspiration, challenges, and process in audio interviews and text-based Q and A's
  • Ask questions, discuss readings, and share learning discoveries in our private discussion forum
  • Complete pre-writing exercises designed to tap intuition, improve skills, and spark a first draft of each written assignment
  • Practice each form with a brief written piece submitted for instructor feedback
  • Incorporate revisions in one final piece submitted in week 6 for a more in-depth response, recommendations, and next steps
  • Find out how to prepare your work for publication in a Q and A with the editor of a CNF literary journal

CNF Outlier learning goals:

By the end of this course, learners will be able to:

  • Identify the characteristics of flash non-fiction, the prose poem, lyric essay, and hermit crab essay -- and what makes each sub-genre unique.
  • Understand the elements of craft -- including point of view, image, and voice -- that improve our writing so we can tell our stories to best effect. 
  • Continue a writing practice that incorporates new knowledge, skills, and confidence in crafting the compelling stories they want to tell. 

Learner support:

The instructor will be available for "office hours" Tuesdays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm PST and Thursdays from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm PST. At these times, students can expect the instructor to be available for "live" discussions in our forum, communication by instant message, and/or prompt email response.

Outside office hours learners can expect to receive a response to their emails within 24 hours.

Course dates and fee

Next session: June 19-July 24, 2017

Fee: $349 USD via e-transfer or Paypal*

*Please contact to make payment in CAD funds.

What students say...

"Nicole's enthusiasm for and knowledge of these "outlier" forms was inspirational, and allowed me to explore brand new avenues in my writing. I'm so excited about the creative possibilities I've found in these outlier forms. I highly recommend this course to any writer interested in pushing the limits of their creativity, and exploring all of the possibilities of creative non-fiction!"

~ Emily Kellogg

“Before I took this course I had a jumble of stories in my head that I wanted to tell, and no idea how to begin writing them. This course gave me structures to shape my stories. It gave me inspiration. It gave me very healing encouragement and confidence in my voice. It gave me direction for where to go from here so that I can carry on as a writer, not just as an aspiring writer. What a gift! Nicole Breit is just the coach I needed to help me. She's generous with compliments and unflinching with constructive feedback, a trustworthy editor. Her experience and the perspectives she shares of other writers and editors is invaluable in teaching how to proceed from creation to publication. I can't recommend the course enough.”

~ Deanna Partridge-David

“Nicole Breit’s CNF Outliers course is packed with invaluable information for the creative non-fiction writer. Each lesson is presented in a variety of formats, text, graphics, web links, audio files, Q&A with writers and editors, etc. Her feedback is prompt and thorough. The final lesson delves into revision, polishing and publishing. I enjoyed every aspect of this course. Highly recommend it.”

~ Shirley Harshenin

"Love, love this course."
~ Karen Zey

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Nicole Breit

Award-winning CNF writer, Nicole Breit, first began mentoring writers after earning her B.Ed. from the University of British Columbia in 1999. Prior to her teacher certification she graduated with distinction from the University of Victoria with her B.A. in English. In 2016 Nicole won the CNFC/carte blanche creative non-fiction prize for her lyric essay, Spectrum, and Room magazine's CNF award for An Atmospheric Pressure--selected as a notable essay in The Best American Essays 2017. Her work has been published in a number of print and online publications including Room, Hippocampus, Exhale, carte blanche, and Event.

Course curriculum

  • 1


  • 2

    Lesson 1: Introduction to 4 Forms

    • Intro to Lesson 1

    • The Flash Essay

    • The Prose Poem

    • The Lyric Essay

    • The Hermit Crab Essay

    • Lesson 1 Summary

    • Lesson 1 Exercises

    • Lesson 1 Quiz

    • Deconstructions

    • Saigon Kiss - Kelly Morse

    • Information - David Ignatow

    • 15 Year Forecast - Kristina Moriconi

    • The Heart As A Torn Muscle - Randon Billings Noble

    • Lesson 1 Discussion: First impressions, favourite readings...

  • 3

    Lesson 2: Flash Non-fiction

    • Intro to Lesson 2

    • The Flash Essay and POV

    • Lesson 2 Reading: Bear Fragments

    • Lesson 2 Summary

    • Isaac Yuen interview (audio)

    • Rhythm - Isaac Yuen (audio)

    • Lesson 2 Pre-writing exercises

    • Lesson 2 Writing Assignment

    • Lesson 2: Discussion

  • 4

    Lesson 3: The Prose Poem

    • Intro to Lesson 3

    • The prose poem and CNF?

    • Craft mini-lesson: imagery

    • Charlie - Laisha Rosnau

    • Charlie Q&A with Laisha Rosnau

    • Lesson 3 Pre-writing exercises

    • Lesson 3 Writing assignment

    • Fish-Bird-Kite: found imagery presentation

    • Lesson 3 summary

    • Lesson 3 Discussion: "Charlie"

    • Fish-Bird-Kite -- reading

  • 5

    Lesson 4: The Lyric Essay

    • Intro to Lesson 4

    • The Lyric: Fragments, Segmentation, Juxtaposition

    • "A Rake's Progress" - A Q and A with Susan Olding

    • Mini-lesson: How to make your writing more "lyrical" using sound devices

    • Lesson 4 Pre-writing exercises

    • Lesson 4 Writing assignment

    • A Good Metaphor for Something deconstruction

    • Lesson 4 Summary

    • Lesson 4 Discussion: "A Rake's Progress" and "Son of Mr. Green Jeans"

  • 6

    Lesson 5: The Hermit Crab Essay

    • Intro to Lesson 5

    • The Hermit Crab Essay: The Interplay of Form and Content

    • Voice and Tone in "The Heart As A Torn Muscle"

    • Q and A with Randon Billings Noble: "The Heart As A Torn Muscle"

    • Lesson 5 Pre-writing Exercises

    • Lesson 5 Writing Assignment

    • Lesson 5 Summary

    • Lesson 5 Discussion

  • 7

    Lesson 6: Revising & Publishing CNF

    • Intro to Lesson 6

    • Revision and the Writing Process

    • Q and A with Kristina Moriconi: Revision and "Fifteen Year Forecast"

    • Q and A with Christine Byl: Revising "Bear Fragments"

    • Lesson 6: Revision Exercises

    • Macro-to-micro revision checklist

    • Lesson 6 Writing Assignment

    • Preparing your CNF for Publication

    • Q and A with CNF Editor Greg McCormick

    • Where to publish your CNF

    • Lesson 6 Summary

    • 5 Quick Questions

    • Lesson 6 Discussion: Wrap up and shared work