This workshop was already conducted. (Click for upcoming workshops)

David Treuer

Hook, Line, Sinker: How to Generate Drama and Momentum in Creative Nonfiction

David Treuer, photo by Dania Maxwell
See all 2024 Workshops


(This workshop is closed)

It’s easy enough to recognize the main ingredients in compelling short stories and novels: the need to create conflict and plot that drive a story forward and keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat. But what role do conflict and plot play in various types of nonfiction—such as opinion pieces, personal essays, travel writing, profiles, historical accounts, and even journalistic articles? How do we create and sustain a sense of momentum when the “plot” of our nonfiction writing is handed to us, when we don’t make it up? In writing creative nonfiction, the problem looms large: how (and when) to give the life of the mind—our thoughts—a dramatic arc?

Students will generate new writing during the week, and we will focus largely on their work. In addition, we will read, discuss, and provide strategies for making our nonfiction more compelling.


  • This is an mixed level workshop.
  • Please submit a cover letter that briefly gives an overview of your writing background and prior workshop experience, if any. Before class meets, you will be asked to share up to ten pages of your work with the instructor.
  • The cost is $600. If you are selected to participate in the workshop, a deposit of $200 is required to register, with the balance due by September 30.
  • Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.

Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and application.


Bestselling author David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. His nonfiction book, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, was a 2019 finalist for both the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Minnesota Book Awards, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Los Angeles, where he is professor of English at USC.