University of Iowa

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

Writing a book is a lot of work. Often, after investing years on a project, writers fail to find a publisher for their finished work. Others struggle to find their way to the page as they juggle day jobs and writing time. What if you could sell your idea for a book long before you’ve finished writing it, secure in the knowledge that it will be published? What if you received an advance for your idea that helped buy you the time you need to write? This happens all the time in the publishing world, when books are sold on proposal.

Free-writing is an essential tool, the way most writers honor the impulse to sit down and write, and the act during which that impulse either catches fire or peters out. Yet this fundamental skill is seldom taught or engaged in with very much awareness or refinement. Put another way, there are as many ways to free-write as there are to dance, but most are stuck doing the frat boy two-step, and wind up filling space on the page the same way every time, no matter the subject.

 

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

You’ve been working on this thing for...how long? Months? Years? It’s supposed to look like a novel, but now that you’ve got it in front of you, it looks more like a six-legged cow or a bus with wings. You’ve begun to wonder what, exactly, a “novel” is. Maybe you’re not writing one. You might be writing a cycle-of-stories-as-novel, or a faux memoir, or a “modular” novel with some unifying structural element. In this class, we’ll look at ways of structuring novel-length narratives to create a variety of fully-engaging, satisfying works.

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

Likely we’ve all sat through relatives’ long-winding journeys through photo albums full of long-forgotten second cousins; we all have our own quirky great uncles and larger-than-life forefathers; we’ve all heard of the romance of Granddaddy and Mamaw, of the old homeplaces full of closets of skeletons. But how does one take these passed-around stories and move them beyond family reunions? How do we, as writers, determine what is the stuff of artful literary nonfiction and what is best relegated to family history?

Judith Barrington once said that her best work emerged “from between the scaffolding of a known form.” This is the joy and paradox of writing in form: the formal poem’s “rules” provide a safe framework and often force us to write things we couldn’t have written without the form’s parameters.

Weeklong July 15 to July 20 2018

Sometimes a short story can be drafted in a great surge of inspiration, but a novel is a different kind of literary beast. How do we prepare ourselves to keep a story going over several hundred pages? What do we need to know in advance, and what might we hope to discover along the way? In this workshop, we will think about the journeys our characters take over the course of the novel and look at how those journeys drive the narrative action.

This workshop assumes that you have been developing your novel for a while. You may have a draft or an outline completed. Either way, you should have an overview of the story and several chapters that you are ready to revise. The goal of the week is to develop an understanding of revision strategies, and to practice, with feedback.

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.

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?

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.