Robin Hemley


Robin Hemley has published fifteen books of fiction and nonfiction. His most recent books are the autofiction, Oblivion, An After-Autobiography (Gold Wake, 2022), The Art and Craft of Asian Stories: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology, co-authored with Xu Xi (Bloomsbury, 2021) and Borderline Citizen: Dispatches from the Outskirts of Nationhood (Nebraska, 2020, Penguin SE Asia, 2021).  He has previously published four collections of short stories, and his stories have been widely anthologized.  His widely-used writing text, Turning Life into Fiction, has sold over a hundred thousand copies. His short stories have been featured on NPR’s “Selected Shorts” and his essays and short stories have appeared in such journals as Creative Nonfiction, Conjunctions, Guernica, The Iowa Review, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and many others. He is the Founder of the international nonfiction conference, NonfictioNOW and was the director of the Nonfiction Writing Program at The University of Iowa for nine years, inaugural director of The Writers’ Centre at Yale-NUS, Singapore, and is a graduate of The Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His websites are and


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Autofiction: Writing the Line Between Autobiography and Fiction

Event status
Attendance Required
In 1977, French novelist Serge Doubrovsky came up with the term “autofiction” to describe his novel, Fils. Exactly what autofiction is has been hotly debated, first in France and later in the U.S. and U.K. ever since. Autofiction is not simply another name for autobiographical fiction. Depending on who’s using the term and in what context, autofiction might come close to what some writers term memoir, or it might come closer to the ironic metafictional treatments of Self popularized by such writers in the 1960’s and 70’s as Kurt Vonnegut and John Barth and more recently, Ben Lerner and Michael Chabon. In this short course, we will sample it all, reading and writing “Fiction of strictly real events or facts” as well as fantastical and allegorical representations of ourselves, using much of our real biographical information, but not much else. If you like the idea of exploring writing that takes you to an exciting but sometimes uncomfortable spot between real and imagined versions of yourself, then this is the course for you. In advance of the workshop, I will make available to you several examples of different types of autofiction, but there will be no writing in advance of the workshop. You can expect to write in class exercises as well as approximately 500 words a day outside of the workshop. In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments.
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