The University of Iowa

The Cross-Section Workshop for Stories and Essays

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020

In the traditional creative writing workshop, individual stories and essays are critiqued one at a time. This means in a weeklong session such as ours the writer will be thinking of herself or himself as a writer for one period of, say, 45-60 minutes and the rest of the time will be attending the workshop as a critic of others’ work. In the cross-section workshop, we will look at all our pieces at the same time. We will take “cuts” through each work, beginning with our titles and the theory behind titling. Then we’ll move on to first lines, first paragraphs, first pages, etc. The discussion will be more about process than product, more strategic than tactical, and will focus both on the pieces in front of us as well as the larger issues of the genre in all its parts. The traditional “gag” rule where the writer of the work is asked to listen and not speak during the critique will be relaxed. In this workshop, all writers will be asked to talk at all times, focusing on the aesthetic choices that operate behind and before the performance on the page. We will try to collect as many choices and possibilities as possible as well as examine where our choices, our likes and dislikes, come from, attempting to de-familiarize our habits of composition, uncover our unconsidered habits and ticks.


I will also ask you to bring in a little bit of writing that we will discuss right at the start. I’d like you to create an example of bad writing—the worse the better. Think about it. We attend classes and workshops in order to get better, yes? So, that implies that we are bad naturally. I ask simply that we be ourselves! An example of bad writing, 200-300 words that you are willing to share with the group.


In our one-on-one conference, I am happy to talk with you about anything you would like concerning your writing.


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home.


Hybrid Forms
Short Story