Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

How do our personal and family histories intersect with the larger collective histories of which we are a part? How are our lives shaped by those of the people who came before us and the times in which they lived? How were their lives shaped by those times? What does that imply about our own lives and times? As poets, how can we explore these questions in our work? In this generative workshop we’ll explore these questions and some of the ways in which you might summon Clio, the muse of history, for your own work.

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

Plots in stories and novels take many twists and turns, as do the plots of our lives. In this weekend, we’ll discuss the need for plot, strategies for plotting, the various kinds of plots, the use of subplots, and how our plots create our meanings.

In his book, Making Shapely Fiction, author Jerome Stern advises: “Remember the wisdom of the child: make a scene when we really want everyone’s full attention … Create an event so your readers can feel the drama of the moment.” Smith Magazine defined “The Moment” as the key experience, “a moment of opportunity, serendipity, calamity or chaos”—whose effect was revelatory, profound and life-changing.

Coincidence? Mystery? Magic? How does the white cow get away in Tres Seymour’s Hunting the White Cow? How does the crayon in Harold’s Purple Crayon come to have special powers? Some books leave us with questions, leave us wondering. And often those are the books we best remember, the ones readers of all ages think about and talk about again and again.

 

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

In this course, which is more seminar than workshop, you’ll learn the basics of novel craft, with a focus on plot, structure, and character. We’ll discuss how authors build and use dramatic tension to compel the story forward; we’ll also cover traps beginning novelists should avoid. This class will be most helpful to writers new to the novel, including beginning writers and writers wanting to attempt a new form.

You want to write. But you sit at your desk, and nothing comes. All of us need a little push now and then to get the creative juices flowing. This course will give you that push in a fun, low-pressure atmosphere. In each session, we will discuss short examples of published work to inspire us, followed by one or more specific writing prompts we’ll respond to in class. The emphasis will be on really letting go and releasing our creativity to get the words on the page.

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

The notion that some special insight or wisdom is required in order to start writing has short-circuited many a writer. Why even try? an internal voice whispers, You’ve got nothing profound to say. But insight is not what goes into a piece of writing—rather, it’s what comes out of it.

 

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

All of us encounter dramas in life that seem tailor-made for narrative. But when sitting down to pen such seeming “ready-mades,” we often find that they don’t come to life, drag, or simply seem to lose their once-brilliant shine when committed to paper. So, we ask, how do writers such as Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and Sebastian Junger write such engaging narratives? Or Tobias Wolff, Mary Karr, and Jeannette Walls?

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

What do Thomas Pierce, Lorrie Moore, Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, ZZ Packer and Haruki Murakami have in common? The answer is voice, that certain wild energy readers crave. You can read the first page of a story or novel by any of these writers and know without a doubt who wrote it. The idea of voice is a mysterious combination of writer and character. Voice is the sound of the storyteller; it’s what is in the air and on the page, a combination of speech rhythms, diction, attitude and perception.

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

Poetic pacing is a delicate balance between anticipation and knowledge: poems should create in us a desire to know, a desire to discover, and yet keep us, as Stephen Dobyns states, “on the verge of understanding.” Pacing, then, is a kind of promise, and also a kind of tension, and it often begins with the poem’s title and first line. In this workshop, we will look at a variety of poems by master poets and explore how pacing—and hence the journey of discovery the poem enacts—is controlled.

Strong feeling is often what drives us to write. We want our reader to experience the sadness or outrage, the delight or sense of betrayal we feel when thinking about a fictional (or nonfictional) situation. But how do we do that, exactly? How do we tell a story that’s not cold, but that’s not melodramatic either? This workshop will explore a variety of ways to get emotion on the page—through description, in dialogue, via what characters do, and in the way we use language itself.

Weekend July 14 to July 15 2018

“It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see,” Mark Doty has written. “But try to find the words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning—” In this workshop, we’ll take refuge in the sensory experience found in some contemporary writing as a way of thinking about a number of questions: How does description contain or convey meaning? What do we do when we describe something? Reproduce, account for, portray, trace, parcel out?

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.

 

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?