Janine di Giovanni

Five Things I've Learned About

Writing Narrative Non-Fiction

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Join multi-award winning journalist and author Janine di Giovanni, and discover the Five Things She’s Learned about writing — and appreciating — narrative non-fiction and memoir.

Online Event Details

  • 120 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $60.00

View the archive of my two-hour class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about writing and reading great non-fiction.

I’m an author, an analyst, and — currently — a Senior Fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. But first, and always, I am a reporter. I write long-format narratives, mainly about war and the politics of conflict.

I’m a former Guggenheim Fellow, and in 2020 I was awarded the Black Dodd Prize, the American Academy of Arts and Letters highest prize in Non-Fiction. My award-winning book, The Morning They Came For Us: Dispatches from Syria, has been translated into 30 languages. I’ve written seven other books on war and conflict, served as the Middle East Editor at Newsweek reporting mainly on human rights abuses and investigating war crimes, and been a frequent writer for The New York Times, the New York Review of Books, Harpers, Granta and The Guardian. 

Some of the greatest forms of literature come in the form of narrative nonfiction – in particular memoir and essay. I look forward to leading you through five things I’ve learned about this form.

In this live, two-hour class, I’ll talk about the essential role that great non-fiction narrative plays in shaping readers’ and writers’ understanding of the world. I’ll also share the most storytelling techniques I’ve found most useful in my own work: I’ll talk about the best ways to interview sources (including family members and voices from the past), and address each of the essential components of great narrative: construction, timing, research, pace, dialogue, and recall.

We’ll also talk specifically about memoir — about how to construct a compelling and successful narrative that shares the substance of your own life and what we all can learn from specific techniques of great writers including Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Barbara Skelton, Lillian Hellman. Together, we’ll look at thematic memoirs such as Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, Mary Karr’s The Liar’s Club and Lit; and also at some populist nonfiction, including Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. (I’ll share specific readings I’ll reference in this class in advance with you via email closer to the time of our live session.)

If you’re a writer, my aim is that when this class concludes you’ll be better equipped to make your non-fiction as successful as you want it to be. If you’re a reader, I hope all we share together will increase your continuing appreciation and enjoyment of great, essential writing.

I hope you’ll join me.

Janine di Giovanni

Janine di Giovanni is a multi-award winning journalist and author, and co-founder and co-director of The Reckoning Project: Ukraine Testifies, a transitional justice organization that trains researchers in Ukraine to collect testimonies that can be used in court.

Janine was a war reporter for nearly three decades, from the first Palestinian intifada in the early 1990s to the siege of Sarajevo; the Rwandan genocide; the brutal wars in Sierra Leone, Somalia, Ivory Coast and Liberia to Chechnya, Afghanistan, Pakistan. She reported extensively in  Iraq pre and post invasion, the Arab Spring, and finally Syria. Her field work for her most recent book took her to Gaza, Iraq, Egypt and Syria.  In 2020, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded her their highest non fiction prize, the Blake Dodd. Janine served as a Senior Fellow and Professor at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs from 2018-2022. In 2016, CNN made a short video about her life and work when the International Women’s’ Media Foundation gave her their prestigious Courage in Journalism Prize.

Janine’s latest book, The Vanishing: The Twilight of Christianity in the Middle East, was published in 2022 and shortlisted for the Moore Prize for Human Rights, as well as being presented to His Holiness, Pope Francis, in Rome in March 2022. Her previous book, The Morning they Came for Us: Dispatches from Syria was translated into 28 languages and was a finalist for the Helen Bernstein New York Public Library Award for Excellence in Journalism.

As an analyst, Janine has written governmental white papers and been a Senior Consultant for projects for the UN Refugee Agency; the UN Democracy Fund; The Shattuck Center on Conflict, Negotiation and Recover; the International Refugee Commission. She is an International Board Member of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, and she is also an advisor on strategic communications.

She was a long-time Senior Foreign Correspondent for The Times of London and a Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair. She now writes for the New York Times; The Washington Post; The Guardian; The New York Review of Books; Harpers; The Atlantic; Foreign Affairs and many other publications.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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If you purchase a ticket in time to join the class live, you can view the archive as soon as it’s posted, as often as you like. Look for an email with information about how to access the course archive within 48 hours of the end of the live class. Once you get it, you’ll have all the information you need to access it as you like across any and all devices you own.

If you purchase a ticket after the live class takes place, you can view the archive immediately, and you can return to it as frequently as you like

If you’d like a refund, we can happily credit the card you used to register for the session. Please send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com , and we’ll confirm receipt as soon as we see it (We don’t need your credit card info – just your email address and date of purchase.)

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  • Unfortunately, we can only accept cancellations and refunds up to 48 hours before a scheduled session.
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For reasons we hope you’ll understand – the biggest of them the fact that we make a point of compensating the folks who host Five Things I’ve Learned classes as quickly as we can – we can’t accommodate refunds for tickets purchased within 48 of the start of a scheduled live event. We can also accommodate refund requests for the purchase of an archived session only within 24 hours from the time of purchase.

If you’ve purchased a ticket for this online class and you find that for some reason you can’t make the live session, you have two choices:

  • The first: View the session archive. You can view the session archive as soon as it’s posted – or any time, as often as you like. We’ll make an archive of this class available within 48 hours of the live session, and we’ll send every ticket holder details on how they can view it. As a ticket holder, you’re able to view this full session archive any time– as often as you like.
  • The second: Request a refund. Just send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com, and we’ll help sort things out. Please keep in mind that we can only accommodate refund requests made more than 48 hours from the start of a live session.

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