When we talk about hybrid literary genres, what do we mean? This generative workshop will invite participants to climb the branches of genre’s family tree, seeing where hybrids originate and cross-pollinate. We will read and respond to craft essays on and examples of such hybrid forms as the lyric essay, the epistolary, poetic memoir, prose poetry, performative work, short-form nonfiction, flash fiction, and pictures made of words.
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.
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.
Any prose benefits from sharpening the tools most often associated with playwriting: monologue, dialogue, and silence. Whether it is in the compelling presence of the monologue in the radio work of NPR’s Ira Glass and David Sedaris, the sharp stylized dialogue in the plays of Harold Pinter and August Wilson, the aching humor found in the scripts of Amazon’s Transparent, or the wry poignant humor in the stories of Lorrie Moore, modern prose leans heavily on theatrical instances of people speaking to each other and to themselves.
This is a workshop to be enjoyed standing up. Using techniques borrowed from Viola Spolin’s Theater Games and NPR’s This American Life, we will write a play or theatrical monologue that can be performed on stage and in front of people. We will write in the session, generating at least four short pieces over the two days. We will examine the effects that surprise, freshness, and challenge have on how we tell stories. We will look at our dreams, our fears, our family histories, happenstance, even articles from The New York Times as sources of inspiration.
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.
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.
“The cleverer I am at miniaturizing the world, the better I possess it.”—Gaston Bachelard
David Foster Wallace once noted that, while all writers steal, the best writers are “kleptomaniacs with really good taste.” In this generative workshop, we will engage our own artistic really good taste, looking at ways writers move narrative, build momentum, and create surprise on the page. We will consider the link between pattern and plot, imitating these structures and styles to our own ends. The class will focus largely on generating new material.