Nonfiction

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

What innovator John D’Agata calls an oddball genre—the lyric essay combines elements of poetry and essays, relying on the former for its insistence of compression, form and thinking and the latter in its devotion to the process of discovery of fact. How these two things come together is in the eye of the beholder, so in this workshop we’ll spend our first session attempting to define the genre ourselves by reading what others have to say about the form.

Memoirists face two essential tasks: First, to craft the episodic story of what happened in the past, and second, to reveal the story of one’s own change and growth over time. That second story is where the author’s larger message is conveyed, elevating one person’s experience from the unique and personal to the universal and shared. It reveals what your story is about. But how do we extract that deeper message from a story, and articulate it to readers in a meaningful way?

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

T.S. Eliot once said, “Every moment is a fresh beginning.” In storytelling, this couldn’t be more true as we face new moments and fresh beginnings over and over whenever we start a new story, a new chapter, or even a new scene. And fresh beginnings mean questions. Where should this novel begin, with a prologue or in medias res? How should I open my memoir? Where should this next chapter or scene pick up to smoothly transition from the scene before it?

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

I love the personal essay and want to help you write one. Or at least begin to write one. This workshop is about generating new material. In a week of exercises that will help us tap our memories, find our form, and begin to revise, we will write a draft of an essay, and find the material and techniques that will help us write many more. I’ll lecture some about various kinds of essays, you’ll write and read a bit each night, and we’ll workshop our drafts.

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

A first draft is a wonderful thing, but it only begins the process, for writing is mostly revising. Proofreading, copy-editing, and polishing are necessary, but they are not revision. Revision is re-envisioning. It’s about getting out of your computer and working with a hardcopy. It’s about digging deeper to find out what your essay is really about, and then what else it’s about.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

Have you ever wondered if the stories you’ve grown up hearing about your family would make for a powerful written work? Have you ever considered bringing the story of your own life to the page? If so, this weekend workshop is right for you. Writers will learn the difference between an engaging anecdote and a compelling work of art by experimenting in a variety of forms: short stories, literary essays, and poems.

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

As any writing instructor worth her salt will tell you, the key to developing as a writer is devoting your time and energy to the craft. But, as any busy budding writer might attest, that time can often be difficult to come by in the hustle and bustle of modern life. In this workshop, writers will learn strategies for cultivating a healthy daily writing practice.

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

We all lead multiple lives, so no wonder it’s difficult to write a single memoir. And when our own lives are the subject, we have far too many subsidiary characters and subplots and know way too many details about all of them. This makes wrestling our memories into coherent literary form a bit like trying to organize an overstuffed closet, except in literature we don’t have plastic tubs or garage sales.

 

Annie Dillard famously said, “The writer of any work, and particularly any nonfiction work, must decide two crucial points: what to put in and what to leave out.” If you have a nonfiction or memoir project in progress, you probably agree. But you may be asking: how do I decide? I have all this material, but how do I shape it? Where do I begin and end? Which parts do I put in and which do I leave out?

 

Imagine a story about people who lack depth, or characters who lack emotional lives. Imagine these lusterless characters in hollow dialogue, in a setting so generic it fails to rise even to blandness. Imagine a story that blatantly ignores the richness our senses deliver. Insipid work is what we produce when we don’t utilize five basic tools that unleash soul and spirit into our writing.