New Orleans Writing Institute Course Syllabus

Spring 2016

New Orleans Writing Institute

Dr. James Nolan


In Fiction and Creative Nonfiction


Janet Burroway, Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, various editions (New York: Longman).

James Moffett & Kenneth R. McElheny, eds., Points of View: An Anthology of Short Stories, rev. ed. (New York: Mentor, 1995).

Donald Hall, ed., The Contemporary Essay (Boston: Bedford Books, 1995).

I suggest that you order used copies of the two pricey text books, Writing Fiction and The Contemporary Essay (any edition is fine), from or other Internet sites at an enormous savings. The inexpensive short story anthology can be ordered online or purchased through any bookstore.


Workshop Meetings:

Tuesdays, 6:30–9:00 p.m.

February 16 & 23; March 1, 8, 17, 15, & 29; April 5, 12, & 19; May 17 and 31

(no workshops on April 26 & May 3 during Jazz Fest, or May 10)

Place: the bookstore’s second floor meeting room


Final Manuscript Critique: May 31, 2016

I’ll be available for individual consultations on Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 p.m., usually at the café next door to the bookstore. Please make an appointment the previous week, or you may call or email me (504-949-2524; jnolan77@ to set one up.


Terms: The workshop has no grades or college credits. A refund can be obtained from the bookstore only within twenty-four hours after the first session on February 18.


Objectives: Whatever your pressing story may be, this introductory workshop is designed to lead members step-by-step through the process of writing short stories and creative nonfiction that they can publish in magazines and newspapers, as many former workshop members already have. The approach is practical, not theoretical or academic, and is geared to provide the structure, craft, and support for those just beginning to write, those returning to their writing, or those working on a specific project already underway.

The first half of the semester will be devoted to the short story. Fictional devices such as significant detail, scene-setting, dialogue, flashback, characterization, and point of view will be studied as the means to create a condensed imaginary world. The truth is told by

artfully lying. The second half of the semester will be devoted to the personal essay and other forms of creative non-fiction, in which an autobiographical narrator employs many of the same “fictional” devices to document, convince, and tell the truth. Although these two forms overlap in craft, they differ in intent and effect.

Workshop sessions will be centered around the guided group critique of writers’ work and a discussion of parallel readings. Craft assignments will be given in dialogue, scene setting, detail, narrative voice, etc., which then may be applied to work in either form. A strong emphasis will be placed on revision, and experimentation in both forms (revising non-fiction into stories, and vice versa) will be encouraged.


Procedures: All workshop submissions should be printed or photocopied in sufficient quantity to give each member a copy. It is enormously helpful if everything is typed. Brief drafts may be single-spaced to reduce bulk. Exercises, sketches, fragments, and shorter pieces may be read aloud and considered the same evening they are submitted, if there is time.

Longer pieces, however, over two pages, should be submitted double-spaced and paginated to be considered the week after every member is handed a copy. Except for the final manuscript critique, members should not email attachments to the group, thus guaranteeing everyone a week to read the piece before discussing it. This would be true for completed drafts of stories and essays, or chapters of novels and memoirs

Works in any of these genres may be submitted at any time during the semester. Workshop members are asked to read each other’s submissions for the following session, and to comment liberally in the margins. You might offer detailed advice, reactions, and corrections, record confusion or enthusiasm, draw arrows to suggest a restructuring, or big Xs for deletions. A brief signed note at the end of the piece offering your assessment might also be helpful.

After a member has presented a piece to the workshop, other members should return their marked copies to the writer. When the writer sits down to revise the piece, he or she will have varied detailed responses to work with, in addition to the oral reactions in the workshop.

The etiquette here is: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You can’t offer vague responses to others’ work and expect precise, time-consuming reactions to your own. Comments should concentrate on craft and eschew blanket judgments on personal content. Be polite, constructive, concrete, diplomatic but, above all, honest. If sections offend or bore you, confuse or irritate you, explain why—with suggestions for revision and due respect for the effort involved.


Publications of the New Orleans Writing Institute

The following is a partial list of publications by present or former members of the Writing Institute’s creative writing workshops. The list represents published or forthcoming fiction or creative nonfiction that passed through the workshops to appear in books, literary magazines, newspapers, or journals. Also included are literary prizes awarded to members based on work at one time submitted to the workshop.




Frank Durham, Cain’s Version (Nashville: Iroquois/Turner Publishing, 2008).

Vicki Salloum, A Prayer to St. Jude (Charlotte, N.C.: Main Street Rag, 2012)

Vicki Salloum, Faulkner & Friends (Los Angeles: Underground Voices, 2014)

Laura Lane McNeal, Doll Baby (New York: Viking, 2014)

Amy Conner, The Right Thing (New York: Kensington Press, 2014)

Amy Conner, Million Dollar Road (New York: Kensington Press, 2015)

Colleen Mooney, Rescued by a Kiss (2014)

Colleen Mooney, Dead and Breakfast (2015)


Joe Barbara, Celeste Berteau, Cedelas Hall, Joe Landrum, Genevieve Rheams, and Aneela Shuja, contributors to Something in the Water: Twenty Louisiana Stories (New Orleans: Portals Press, 2011).

Joe Landrum, Saints+Sinners: New Fiction from the Festival (Valley Falls, N.Y.: Bold Strokes Books, 2013).

Joe Barbara, Amy Conner, Dave Holt, Jacquelyn Milan, and Carolyn Perry, contributors to The Devils We Know: Short Stories from New Orleans (New Orleans: Grand Circus Publishing, 2014).

Short Stories:

Karen Laborde, The Gettysburg Review

Melissa Phipps, New Letters

Melissa Phipps, The Arkansas Review

Frank Durham, The South Carolina Review

Frank Durham, The Arkansas Review

Frank Durham, Hogtown Creek Review

Frank Durham, New Laurel Review

Lisa Brener, Kalliope

Cedelas Hall, The Hawai’i Pacific Review

Cedelas Hall, Calyx

Cedelas Hall, Bellowing Ark

Cedelas Hall, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

Iain Baird, Timber Creek Review (nominated for a Pushcart Prize)

Iain Baird, Oracle

Iain Baird, Cha: An Asian Journal

Iain Baird, The Berkshire Review

Mark Glover, Oracle

Marda Burton, Wild Strawberries

Susan Prevost, Farfelu

Vicki Saloum, Rockhurst Review

Maria Baisier (M.L. Davis), Women’s World

Jacquelyn Milan, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley

Maurice Ruffin, South Carolina Review

Maurice Ruffin, Apalachee Review

Terri Stoor, The Missouri Review

Don Downey, Carve Magazine




John Batty, Voices of Angels: Disaster Lessons from Katrina Nurses (New Orleans:

Pelican Press, 2015).

Jean Morgan Meaux, In Pursuit of Alaska: An Anthology of Travelers’ Tales 1879-1909

(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013).

Carolyn Perry, For Better, For Worse: Patient in the Maelstrom (Lemoyne, Pa.: Sunbury

Press, 2011).

Iain Baird, Two Storms: Prostate Cancer and Katrina in New Orleans (Tallahassee, Fl:

CyPress Publications, 2010).

Kim Sunée, Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home (New York:

Grand Central Publishing, 2008).

Sally Forman, How They Did It: Profiles of New Orleans Entrepreneurs (New Orleans:

Idea Village Press, 2009).

Sally Forman, Eye of the Storm: Inside City Hall During Katrina (AuthorHouse,


Mary Fitzpatrick, New Orleans’ Favorite Shotguns (New Orleans: Preservation Resource

Center, 2007).

Richard Deichmann, Code Blue: A Katrina Physician’s Memoir (Bloomington: Rooftop

Publishing, 2006).

Angéle Parlange: Creole Thrift: Premium Southern Living Without Spending a Mint

(New York: Regan Books, 2006).

Mary Fitzpatrick, New Orleans: Life in an Epic City (New Orleans: Preservation

Resource Center, 2006).

Maria Baisier (M.L. Davis), Pieces: Putting Life Back Together After Loss (XLibris, 2006).


Lynn Adams, Joe Barbara, Celeste Berteau, Amy Conner, Carolyn Perry, Maurice

Ruffin, and Terri Stoor, contributors to New Orleans by New Orleans, eds. Ryan

Smolar and Rachel Potucek (Books by Authors, 2012).

Maria Baisier, Katrina: Mississippi Women Remember (Jackson: University of

Mississippi Press, 2007).

Maria Baisier, Southern Fried Humor (Chattanooga: Jefferson Press, 2007).

Iain Baird, Louisiana in Words (New Orleans: Pelican Books, 2007).

Personal Essays and Articles:

David Peters, San Francisco Chronicle

Valerie Borders, St. Petersburg Times (eight personal essays)

Ellie Rand, St. Petersburg Times (two personal essays)

Jacquelyn Milan, St. Petersburg Times (two personal essays)

Terri Stoor, St. Petersburg Times

Celeste Berteau, The Chicago Reader

Celeste Berteau, Preservation in Print

Bonnie Fastring, New Orleans Review

Larry Small, Grayson County News-Gazette

Cedelas Hall, The Enterprise-Journal

Cedelas Hall, The Jabberwock Review

Mary Fitzpatrick, Homes of Color

Mary Fitzpatrick, Preservation in Print

Joseph Barbara, Preservation in Print

Aneela Shuja: Meena: A Bilingual Journal of Arts and Letters

Iain Baird, The Briar Cliff Review

Carolyn Perry, Lock Haven Express

Jacquelyn Milan, Louisiana Cultural Vistas

Grace Frisone, The Saratogian

Grace Frisone, Confrontation

Terri Stoor, West Branch

Terri Stoor, Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative

Lynn Adams, Brain/ Child

Lynn Adams, The New Orleans Advocate

Lynn Adams, Salon

Celeste Berteau, catalog essay for the Cathy Rose exhibition, “Watermark,” Seager Gray

Gallery, Mill Valley, Ca.

Carolyn Perry, The New Orleans Advocate



Kim Sunée, creative nonfiction, Gourmet Magazine Food Writing Discovery Award 2001

Mark Glover, first prize in the short story, Eugene Walters Literary Conference 2003

Maria Baisier, honorable mention in nonfiction, Eugene Walters Conference 2003

Iain Baird, second prize in the novel, Eugene Walters Literary Conference 2004

Iain Baird, finalist in the short story, Faulkner Literary Conference 2006 & 2007

Rebecca Connor, finalist in the short story, Faulkner Literary Conference, 2006

Iain Baird, first place in the short story, Eugene Walters Literary Conference 2006

Aneela Shuja, second place in the short story, Eugene Walters Literary Conference 2006

Frank Durham, ForeWord Book of the Year Finalist for Literary Fiction 2008

Frank Durham, Bronze IPPY Award in Literary Fiction 2009 for Cain’s Version

Laura McNeal, finalist in the novel-in-progress, Faulkner Literary Conference 2009

Maurice Ruffin, finalist in the short story, Faulkner Literary Conference 2009

Aneela Shuja, finalist in the short story and essay, Faulkner Literary Conference 2009

Maurice Ruffin, finalist in the short story, Country Roads Writing Competition 2011

Joe Barbara, finalist in the short story, Country Roads Writing Competition 2011

Terri Stoor, Gold Medal in the short story, Faulkner Literary Conference, 2011

Don Downey, finalist in the Open City Rofihe Trophy Short Story Contest 2011

Terri Stoor, Writers@Work Fellowship Competition for Nonfiction 2012

Kathleen Grieshaber, finalist in the essay, Faulkner Literary Conference 2014