Ethics Self-Quiz

The discussion of ethics in Creative Nonfiction or Memoir can feel like a static list of “do’s” and “don’ts” with little way to engage students in the active and difficult decisions writers face as they try to portray real life on the page. I start my unit on ethics in creative nonfiction by having students read about ethical choices and then giving them this “Ethics Self-Quiz,” which I stress isn’t for a grade. I ask them to mark how they feel about various ethical choices along a continuum, rather than “yes or no,” which opens up a discussion about the gray areas in each specific situation, modeling the kind of decision-making writers go through. This usually also has the added benefit of connecting to coursework in other classes and allowing students to consider their own potential writing topics in light of the ethics discussion. I ask students to share their reactions and responses as we consider each entry, and students usually change or complicate their own responses when they hear other students’ reactions and concerns.



English Professor at Fairfield University |

Sonya Huber has written five books, including three works of creative nonfiction: Opa Nobody, Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, and the new essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Thoughts from A Nervous System. Her other books include The Evolution of Hillary Rodham Clinton and a textbook, The Backwards Research Guide for Writers: Using Your Life for Reflection, Connection, and Inspiration. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post Magazine, O: The Oprah Magazine,, and elsewhere. She received the 2012 Creative Nonfiction Award from Terrain, and her essays were named notable in Best American Essays 2014, 2015 and 2017. She teaches in the Department of English at Fairfield University and directs the Fairfield Low-Residency MFA Program.


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