F117. Narrative Expectations in the Personal Essay

Room 208 A&B, Level 2
Friday, April 10, 2015
9:00 am to 10:15 am


All writers of narrative—fiction or nonfiction—begin with two decisions: What to put in and what to leave out, and how to order the material that stays. Typically, in nonfiction we discuss narrative structure much like fiction writers do, invoking some variation of the "narrative arc." But this is an inadequate model, especially for the personal essay, because the "tension" that drives reader expectations is different. How, then, should we talk about the structure of personal essays?



Bruce Ballenger is the author of seven books, including Crafting Truth: Short Studies in Creative Nonfiction. His essays have appeared in River Teeth, the Boston GlobeCollege English, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He teaches in the MFA program at Boise State University. 

Jennifer Sinor is the author of The Extraordinary Work of Ordinary Writing. Her essays have appeared in the Seneca Review, American Scholar, Utne, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at Utah State University where she is a professor of English.

Lad Tobin is the author of two books about teaching creative nonfiction: Writing Relationships and Reading Student Writing. His personal essays have appeared in the Sun, the Rumpus, Fourth Genre, and Utne Reader. He teaches at Boston College.

David Giffels's books include the essay collection The Hard Way on Purpose and All the Way Home, a memoir. He has written for the New York Times magazine, Esquire.com, Grantland, The Wall Street Journal, and Beavis and Butt-Head. He teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Akron and in the NEOMFA.


March 4–7, 2020
San Antonio, TX

Henry B. González Convention Center