University of Iowa

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

In our workshop, we will look at some effective ways to begin a short story, novel, or personal essay. It is often the case that a single sentence in the opening paragraph of a story contains the seeds of the whole. This is because narrative is a reiterative form where the themes contained in a core sentence are repeated time and again throughout the work. We will see how an effective opening lends importance to other key elements of prose narrative, namely setting, conflict, physical detail (image and symbol), and the ending.

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

Some essays look inward; others look out, drawing attention to disturbing social concerns. Through writing, the author gives witness to an injustice, bringing it to light so that readers will become more aware and more likely to respond. In the 1930’s George Orwell described a Burmese man being hanged, exposing the failure of the colonial British system. In the 1990’s Terry Tempest Williams wrote about cancer in her Utah family as a way to expose the damages of U.S. nuclear testing.

One of the most common questions memoir and personal essay writers have is how to structure writing about life experience. An easy answer is to start from the beginning and write down events in chronological order. That can work, but writers of all experience levels know there is more to it—that telling one’s story involves more than a mere list of events. Life writing also must have drama and meaning.

While there are numerous elements of a novel, it would be difficult—if not quite impossible—to write a successful novel without these five elements in particular: plot, character, dialogue, point of view, and theme. And while of course the elements intertwine, we’ll spend one day focusing on each of them, discussing how to develop each one deeply and successfully in our novels, and doing in-class writing and exercises.

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

Contemporary fiction and creative non-fiction often leave the reader to decide what a story means. Think: complex characters, morally ambiguous situations, judgment-free (or unreliable, or multiple) narrators. Themes are suggested, never imposed; moral emotions are awoken, but not necessarily resolved. The modern reader wants to be moved without being preached at. Such literary effects demand a delicate coherence.

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

“If we spend our lives remembering what we love/to be sure who we are…” begins a Richard Hugo poem. The poet goes on, partly recovering and partly fabricating a distant memory of place and time. The combination of recovery and creativity, the shaping, re-shaping, recalling and revising that constitutes memory, is, perhaps not coincidentally, very much the process of poetry. How much of the poetry of memory relies on fact, and how much depends upon the creative imagination?

This is an advanced novel writing workshop. It is designed for writers who are fairly far along or perhaps have finished a draft of a novel. Each participant will submit up to twenty pages—preferably the first twenty, but not necessarily—to be considered by the class. We will discuss, as a group, how to go from rough draft to final draft. What needs to be done? What’s the best way to do it? How do you know when you’re finished? How do you prepare your manuscript to submit to an agent or publisher?

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

This workshop will begin with life experience, but we’ll use what we remember as a springboard for imaginative verbal adventures. The moment we give our attention to form, whether that be in the music and repetition we associate with poetry or the structure and narrative progression we associate with fiction, what we thought was only a memory can take on new and unexpected life.

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

In his The Art of Time in Memoir, Sven Birkerts writes, “The manipulation of the double vantage point is the memoirist’s single most powerful and adaptable technique.” Our workshop will emphasize the “then” and “now” of this double vantage point, focusing on how writing a memoir begins with a compilation of many pieces—research material or anecdotes or stepping-stones or moments held in memory.

You’ve finally carved out some time in your life to write. You have great ideas, maybe even a new computer. But when you sit down to write, your muse refuses to speak. Or worse, the muse gets you started, and then disappears for weeks at a time. Should you give up? Move on to a different project? Are you just not talented enough? Or is there some way to coax your muse back?

 

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

Poems might begin in isolation, but we put them out into the world hoping for connection—a making and creation towards others, a message in a bottle that might wash ashore and affect the hearts and minds of finders and keepers (perhaps our first form of social media). How can a diverse range of work (from poets including Herbert, Donne, Yeats, Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, Miguel Hernandez, Larry Levis, Tyehimba Jess, Tracy K.

Characterization—creating believable and interesting people on the page—is an absolutely essential part of successful fiction writing, and it is equally important to narrative nonfiction forms such as memoir or literary journalism. It is also one of the most complex elements of craft, with many different means of achieving it and quite a few ways in which it can fall short.

Weeklong June 24 to June 29 2018

In this workshop, participants will write a complete short story in five days. Come armed with a character sketch, concept, or brief plot outline that you’d like to explore through fiction, and we’ll work together to craft the first draft of a story by the end of the week. (To be clear, this could simply be an idea for a story that can be expressed in a couple of sentences, so don’t despair if you’re signing up at the last minute; there will be plenty of time to adjust and refine your idea as the week progresses).

In today’s market, the romance genre is one of the strongest and most enduring forms of fiction, with 2013 sales of over one billion dollars. Readers return again and again to lose themselves in the immersive world of romance. What brings them back and why do they remain loyal to this genre?