University of Iowa

Experimenting with Form: Using Creative Structures and Approaches in Our Writing

Weekend June 15 to June 16 2019

Shopping list as short story. Death certificate as personal narrative. Map as manifesto. Where once writers were expected to stay inside genre lines and adhere firmly to traditional presentation of their material, contemporary writers increasingly challenge these rigid notions, insisting that the thoughtful exploration of a subject can be enhanced by a complementary form to add additional layers of meaning. Today’s prose might therefore borrow the formats of poetry or drama to most effectively make its point. It might masquerade in the unusual form of a dialogue, resume, instruction manual, itinerary, or any of a myriad of traditionally non-literary forms. It might even use forms like comics to present literary content. In this workshop, we will discuss many of the fun and interesting ways that contemporary writers are pushing the boundaries by using unconventional forms. We will read contemporary literature that demonstrates the appropriation of other forms and look closely at how the writers’ deliberate formal choices inform their subject matter. Then we will creatively dive in and experiment with form in our own work, discussing the effectiveness and potential pitfalls of our chosen formal approach in workshop. Expect to break all of your own rules, hit upon brilliant ideas, and have a lot of fun taking your writing into new territories, producing work that you can further develop at home. This is a generative course appropriate for all levels, so bring only your open mind!


In this workshop we will generate new writing through guided exercises and prompts.

All Genres
Hybrid Forms
Short Story