As challenging as the completion of a draft is, the work of significant revision that follows can be equally daunting. This is not a matter of light housekeeping—dusting, polishing, tidying up. Very rarely that’s all a draft needs; normally something bigger needs to happen before a substantial piece of writing achieves its full potential. Walls might need to be knocked down and rebuilt, new powerlines connected, skylights opened up. This is deep revision, exuberant work that demands courage and honesty and is most effectively accomplished with a deliberate strategy.
Characterization—creating believable and interesting people on the page—is an absolutely essential part of successful fiction writing, and it is equally important to narrative nonfiction forms such as memoir or literary journalism. It is also one of the most complex elements of craft, with many different means of achieving it and quite a few ways in which it can fall short.
Just about every writer who travels thinks about using the experience of foreignness in a story or essay or poem, and plenty others feel compelled to at least blog about it. Travel provides us with intense, complex experiences, unfamiliar settings, interesting characters, and the heightened self-awareness that comes from dislocation. But the results are sometimes disappointing, failing to capture the distinctive emotion and vividness of being on that particular street, dealing with that particular conflict at that particular time, much less developing into a coherent piece of writing.
Having trouble getting yourself to the writing desk? Or once there, finding yourself unfocused, thwarted, or unable to achieve consistent output? These are common occurrences for writers, and we often mistakenly think the difficulty lies in the product of our writing and not the process.
While some writers might aspire to create “timeless” work, you never hear of anyone trying to make their writing “placeless.” Why is that? Without place, are one’s characters and ideas rootless and liable to tip over? What role does setting play beyond mere backdrop or window dressing to ground one’s stories, essays, or memoir? Is place-based writing regional, or communal? Over this intensive weekend, we’ll carefully look at how the rendering of place works to help establish narrative voice, credibility, and point of view.
This class will provide a supportive environment to discuss and improve stories that are in some way outside the bounds of traditional realistic storytelling or are just plain strange. The short story form offers wonderful opportunities to experiment with ideas that are a departure from your regular writing style, or that might become tedious in a novel-length work. While fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative fiction are welcome, so are pieces that are surreal, experimental, or otherwise beyond the realm of “normal” fiction.
Whether you’re in the middle of an extended writing project, suffering from writer’s block, or gearing up for a week at the Festival, this course will offer you exercises to get your brain and your pen moving in new and creative ways. Participants will complete a series of writing exercises that explore the essential elements of fiction and nonfiction writing: description, structure, characterization, plotting/pacing, and so on.
“When the image is new, the world is new.”—Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
A film is nothing more than a series of images. This course is for anyone interested in exploring and writing short films. We’ll watch and read some films by Alfred Hitchcock, Andrea Arnolds, John August, Mads Mattheisen, and Philippe Orreindy. We’ll also look at various kinds of short films: narrative, experimental, and punch-line. All the while, we will discuss how strong images enhance screenplay writing and bring the film to life from the page to the screen.
This course is for writers interested in the art of film adaptation. Participants will begin the process of adapting their own work (or someone else’s) into a screenplay. We will look at how other writers have handled adapting their own or others’ original work—from Diana Ossana and Larry McMultry’s adaptation of Annie Proulx’s Brokeback Mountain, to Charlie Kaufman’s looser interpretation of Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief, to video poems and fairy tale adaptations.
“The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it.”—Gaston Bachelard