Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

English teachers host non-fiction workshop

Two UA English teachers will be telling it straight and slant as part of a national creative writing celebration.

The celebration, happening on Saturday, is called Dzanc Day because of the Dzanc Books, the non-profit Michigan-based company dedicated to publishing innovative writing and advancing literary readership and advocacy.

UA teachers Brian Oliu and B.J. Hollars will be teaching a non-fiction workshop titled “Telling it Straight/Slant and Everything in Between.”

“What fascinates me about non-fiction is that there aren’t any particular rules except you have to tell the truth,” Oliu said. “Certain works have that element of artistic freedom and allows the reader to understand some really neat stuff.”

Matt Bell, an editor at Dzanc Books, said Dzanc Day started last year as a way to raise funds for charitable efforts and to provide low-cost creative writing to communities across the nation. Bell said the first annual Dzanc Day was a success, with great feedback from participants.

“One of the benefits to the community of events like this is that they tend to cross normal social boundaries, by bringing in writers from different backgrounds and experience levels,” Bell said. “It’s also a way for writers without access to traditional methods of instruction to improve their skills and recharge their enthusiasm.”

Oliu and Hollars offered to host a workshop and Dzanc Books happily got them on board. Bell called the University’s MFA program one of the best in the country and said Dzanc is lucky to have them as volunteers. Both writers have been published in Dzanc’s The Collagist online literary journal, as well as magazines across the country.

“Both of these guys are fantastic writers who are already succeeding out in the world but who are also very near the beginnings of their careers,” Bell said. “For aspiring writers, it could be really enlightening to get to work with people who would love to share their experiences.”

Hollars said workshops are important to writers because it is a place to develop one’s craft alongside other writers.

“Workshops not only improve one’s writing skills, but signify a kind of solidarity; a place where people can come together and say, ‘We’re all in this together,’” Hollars said.

Oliu said there is a need in Tuscaloosa for a writing community, not just within the University. At the workshop, he said he and Hollars will speak on non-fiction in general, ideas, and the crafting process. They will also spend one-on-one time with writers, providing personal feedback on their work.

“Everyone’s trying to find a group of readers for our work who are trying to understand what we are trying to accomplish,” Oliu said, who is more interested in the poetic end of non-fiction. “I think it’s nice to make it public for a little bit.”

Hollars said non-fiction can be as artistic as a writer wants to make it. He said after game day he will ask his students to describe the football game, and no two students ever describe it the same way.

“Non-fiction is just another way of telling the truth,” Hollars said. “But the hard part is trying to figure out which version of the truth we’re willing to believe.”

Bell said the workshop is open to writers of all experience levels. It costs $30 to participate and will be held in Morgan 301 Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. For more information, visit


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