University of Iowa

2019: The Eleventh Hour Series

11th Hour: Time & Place

Time: 11:00-12:00 noon

Place: 100 Phillips Hall, corner of Iowa Avenue and Clinton Street



11th Hour: June 10-14

Monday, June 10th

Memoir from the Middle of Things

Zach Savich

This lecture will consider memoirs and essays written about events that are still unfolding. How can you tell a story when you don't know how it will end? How can you write about yourself when your relationship to time, memory, language, the body, and the self are changing? We'll discuss memoirs from the middle of things by authors such as Laura Hillenbrand, Caren Beilin, Audre Lorde, Jean-Luc Nancy, Kazim Ali, Lily Hoang, and others. We'll ask how close attention to thresholds, brinks, and passing moments can lead to lasting discoveries.


Tuesday, June 11th

Mixed Feelings

Lon Otto

In creative writing, truth isn’t everything, but emotional truth almost is. Whatever the genre, however familiar or strange the situation or action, readers need to believe that the emotions in a piece of writing are true. And nothing conveys emotional truth more powerfully than mixed feelings. Combining different emotions, including conflicting emotions, can strengthen their intensity as well as deepening our sense of their authenticity. In this talk and conversation we will explore some of the ways in which mixed feelings work, looking at examples from various genres and considering occasions when mixing emotions might fail us.


Wednesday, June 12th

The Art of Humor Writing

Lyz Lenz

Chiaroscuro, in art, is a technique that uses bold contrasts of light and dark in painting to create vivid scenes and evoke emotion. It renders images almost three-dimensional. In writing, the bold use of light and dark has a similar effect. The balance of the serious with the humorous allows readers the chance to enter a story more fully, to laugh and cry, and connect with writing in a way that writing straight serious prose or simply humorous doesn't allow. This Eleventh Hour talk will look at examples from writing and art that perfectly balance the dark with the light to create hilarious and heart-rending work on the page.


Thursday, June 13

Poetry and Questions of Peace

Zach Savich

Is peace the absence of conflict or a state that can exist within conflict? How can writing cultivate, reveal, practice, and advance personal and shared forms of peaceable assembly? What's the relationship between peace and protest, politics and private experience? This lecture will consider diverse poems that help us think about these questions, including work by poets such as Ghayath Almadhoun, Yehuda Amichai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kenneth Koch, Hayan Charara, Jane Hirshfield, and others. We'll consider how literature can help us make peace, again and again, and what can be made from that.


Friday, June 14

Faculty Reading



11th Hour: June 17-21

Monday, June 17th

Transforming Life Into Writing

Eric Goodman

Transforming life into writing is an individual process, as individual as the art we create. Another way to think about this is how do we understand and explain the relationship of the real or actual, what some people might call, what really happened, to the stories, poems or essays we put on the page. Much of what I have to say will be a practical guide for helping writers access stories from their own lives and the lives of people they know, with pointers on bringing that material into full blossom on the page. In addition, drawing on my experience in writing a forthcoming novel/memoir, I’ll address an issue I know many ISWF students struggle with: should this be fiction or memoir.


Tuesday, June 18th

Writing About Family in Nonfiction

Mieke Eerkens

The most intimate, powerful, and fraught relationships in our lives are often with the limited inner circle we call family. For that reason, those relationships often feature heavily in our writing. However, to write about family relationships means putting its players on a public stage, and this can bring a whole set of unique issues, both practical and emotional. In this lecture and discussion, specific difficulties a writer faces in writing about family members will be addressed, including concerns about ethical treatment of your subjects, family responses to publication, the writer’s fear of repercussions, discrepancies in memory, and research challenges.


Wednesday, June 19th

The Music of Language, the Language of Music

Sands Hall

Poets and songwriters utilize aspects of language that are essential for prose writers to know. Take the slow, repeated vowels and consonants Joyce uses in “The Dead”: “…his soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe…” or the hasty sibilance alive in Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “Oh wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets!” Sound and rhythm help create sense and emotion, and by paying close and purposeful attention to the words we use—the beginnings of them, the interior sounds of them, the rhythm of them—we can evoke and ignite those senses and those emotions. In this Eleventh Hour you’ll hear (and practice) how techniques used in the sung and the spoken can help us create magic on the page.


Thursday, June 20th

The Writing Life

Christine Hemp

We’re all voyeurs when it comes to the habits and practices of other writers. Do they churn out a certain number of pages each week? Do they have a day job? A cat? A room of their own? What does the desk look like? After peeking into several artists’ practices, we’ll turn to our own—not just with our writing, but our everyday lives: doing the dishes to walking the dog; vegetable gardening to schlepping kids to hockey; playing drums to serving at the church soup kitchen. We will explore the nature of dailiness and how such activities can shape our art. What does it take to create a whole life, one that will nourish us and allow our writing to flow out of it rather than squeeze into it? Come with questions and a niggling sense of possibility.


Friday, June 21st

Faculty Reading



11th Hour: June 24-28

Monday, June 24th

Revising Like a Hack: Screenwriting "Rules" as a Guide for Rewrites

Kerry Howley

No one wants your story, essay, or poem to read like Fast and the Furious 9. But Hollywood formulae reflect a kind of science of narrative satisfaction, which can be transformative for a piece that isn't coming together in precisely the right way. We'll apply a number of hallowed screenwriting maxims to works of nonfiction and fiction, from overall structure down to the level of the scene. This session will give you resources for revising work in any genre.


Tuesday, June 25th

Refine Your Writing With Attention to Style

Sandra Scofield

However creative and brilliant you are, your work is evaluated (consciously or not) for its style. We write in different styles, but all writing needs correct grammar and appropriate punctuation. Good writing is characterized by the clarity and felicity of sentences. Almost everyone has "tics" that mar style, such as problems with noun/pronoun agreement, clumsy clauses, dangling participles, and unclear antecedents. Sometimes, passages sound like transcriptions of talk. What to do? Add style-review to your writing process. Know the rules, and develop self-consciousness. This session will give you models, ideas, and resources for improving your style.


Wednesday, June 26th

Writing and the Power of Now

Mary Allen

“The present moment is all you have,” as author and spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle says, and nowhere is this more the case than in writing. Successful narrative writing allows the reader to virtually experience a series of present moments through the magic of language and imagination. Mary Allen shares what’s she’s learned as a writer and a writing coach about how to create present moments on the page, why it’s important to do so, and what learning how to do so can teach us about living our lives.


Thursday, June 27th

The Memory Curve and Transitions

Anna Bruno

The memory curve, on a most basic level, means the reader’s attention is highest at the beginning, dips in the middle, and goes up again at the end. When putting pen to paper for the first time, most writers don’t think about a reader’s memory curve, nor should they. But when considering structure after the fact, during revision, it is of paramount importance. Structuring a story or a novel has everything to do with managing the retention dip in the middle of the curve. This requires a focus on beginnings, endings and transitions. This lecture will focus primarily on transitions, their power and how they can become intermittent beginnings and endings when used effectively.


Friday, June 28th

Faculty Reading



11th Hour: July 15-19

Monday, July 15th

Writing From the Central Channel

Diana Goetsch

The “central channel,” a somatic and energetic space well-known for centuries in contemplative disciplines, is rarely discussed in connection with writing. Understanding the central channel, and how to apply it to writing, can reveal much about us as artists, and it can open up our craft. This will be an informative, and often humorous presentation—from a poet, essayist, and editor of dharma texts—with examples from many genres, and ample space for discussion.


Tuesday, July 16th

Notan: How Visual Art Informs Writing

Sandra Scofield

As a painter, I am constantly recognizing ideas about composition in art that speak directly to what I do as a writer. One concept that is especially useful is Notan, a Japanese term that means "light-dark balance." We can also think of positive and negative space, or symmetry and asymmetry--all ideas about shapes and patterns that are the foundation of composition. Consider the ways that you, too, can utilize this ancient mindset to heighten the quality of composition in your work.


Wednesday, July 17th

Beyond Batman: Graphics Novels, Poetry Comics and Sequential Art in Literature

Lauren Haldeman

Comics are exploding in popularity, and more writers are interested in both creating and teaching them, but don't often know where to begin. How can you make your fiction, nonfiction or poetry into visual forms? Lauren Haldeman will discuss the growing genre of visual literature, as well as how to create comics, graphic novels, and visual memoirs. Over the course of this Eleventh Hour, you will learn how writers can make your own work visual and how teachers can bring comics into the classroom. Best of all: no drawing skills necessary!


Thursday, July 18th

Better Talky Talky: The Art and Craft of Strong Dialogue

Kelly Dwyer

Many book editors and agents say that they read the first paragraph of a manuscript, and if they like it, they skip ahead to read some dialogue. If the dialogue is strong, they go back to page one and keep reading. If the dialogue is weak, the editor or agent sets down the manuscript, and the chances for publication (with that particular house or agency, anyway) end there. Knowing how to write good dialogue, then, is crucial to publication—and readership (and of course, if anything, is even more crucial in the arts of playwriting and scriptwriting).


Friday, July 19th

Faculty Reading



11th Hour: July 22-26

Monday, July 22nd

Five Catch-22s of Writing Fiction and Nonfiction

BK Loren

Writing is a conundrum. We do it every day, yet turning it into art requires something different. In this Eleventh Hour, we'll discuss five Catch-22s every prose writer faces. We’ll begin with insights from brain science proving that words may not be a writer’s best tool, and make our way to the paradox that in order to write your very best work, you may have to forget everything you've ever learned about writing. Catch-22s are everywhere, and once you understand how they may be snagging your writing process, well, who knows? You could end up completing that novel or memoir after all!


Tuesday, July 23rd

Me, Myself and I: The Transformative Power of Reflection in Nonfiction

Juliet Patterson

We often think about the tool of reflection in writing as a mode of thought or tone of voice we employ when we ruminate, meditate, contemplate or explain—in short, when we provide what Phillip Gerard calls, “finished thought.” But we might also think about reflection as a turning, as a sometimes distorting, but transformational power. In this talk, we’ll look briefly at four qualities of reflection that might encourage artistic transformation in our writing and try some short exercises that will give you some practical tools to “think” about yourself differently on the page.


Wednesday, July 24th

Writing the Elegy: Challenges and Approaches

Suzan Aizenberg

Most of us who write feel the need to remember our dead in elegies, memoir, or fiction, a task that can be more difficult than we at first expect. Often our first challenge is to speak at all, to find language adequate to our grief. Then come other questions: given the injunction not to “speak ill of the dead,” and our own love for those we’ve lost, how do we avoid unrealistically idealizing them and thus stripping them of their complex humanity? How do we convey, in the short space of a poem or an essay, how our mother or grandmother or child or spouse was different from anyone else’s? How do we make the work about the person we remember and not primarily about us and our pain—should we even be trying to do so?—etc. In this Eleventh Hour we will consider these and other questions, looking at samples of successful elegies, considering how they succeed, and doing a bit of free-writing towards work of our own. Although the samples we will consider will consist primarily of narrative poems, lessons we can take from them will apply regardless of genre.


Thursday, July 25th

“Where Y’at?” Finding Your Community

Charles Holdefer

Writing is a solitary activity. But every writer is born into a community (or communities) while also entering new circles in the unpredictable course of life. Not only does the writer have the opportunity to make bridges and connect, but there is also the option to turn away and reject. In this Eleventh Hour presentation, Charles Holdefer will address vexed issues that confront every writer before the blank page. Who are you writing for? Why?


Friday, July 26th

Faculty Reading