This workshop is intended for nonfiction essayists at the beginning or intermediate level who want some practice and guidance creating “in brief” essays, a form of nonfiction with its own website: Brevitymag.com. The class will have three components: a few comparative critiques of Brevity essays with similarly-themed not-so-brief essays by well-known practitioners to help you learn the impact of going “long” versus “short;” exercises to jumpstart an essay intended for this short form; and workshop critiques of participant essays-in-progress. In our critique sessions, we’ll consider revision techniques to streamline sentences and turn wobbly structures into tight frames. Whether you come with one or two pieces that you want to “revise toward brevity,” or want to begin a piece right from the start with this form in mind, this workshop can help you understand more fully the demands of length in nonfiction essays. Sometimes, we need to “write it long” in order to make it short, and sometimes we may decide the short form doesn’t suit our subject or style. By the end of the week, you should better understand why and how an essay of 750 words achieves such long-lasting impact on readers, and be able to answer the age-old question: “How long should this essay be?”
Nancy K. Barry (Ph.D., University of Illinois) is a playwright and essayist who teaches creative writing, poetry, and nonfiction at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Her essays have appeared in Iowa Woman, the Chicago Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun. In 2010, she transformed a memoir about her year spent teaching writing and undergoing breast cancer treatment into a one-woman show, Lessons from Cancer College, produced in several theatres in Iowa and Minnesota. In 2016, she began a weekly radio broadcast (KLWC, Decorah) called “The Naked Page,” a call-in show to cultivate conversations among writers about their work and craft.