University of Iowa

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

We all know that writing poems is a solitary activity, but it’s often exhilarating and useful to generate work toward new poems by responding to “no-fault” prompts and exercises together in a supportive and energizing group of fellow poets. We’ll spend our week doing just that: freewriting together in class in response to proven prompts designed to inspire new poems or new ideas for poems on which we’ve been working.

Many of us have either a digital archive or a paper-weighted box of letters we have written that capture our voice, our daily dramas (large and small), and sometimes even our most fully-articulated selves. Indeed, sometimes when we read essays, we feel intuitively that they capture the spirit and style of a great letter. In this workshop, we will work to transform the “best bits” of letters we have written (or even received) into essays that transcend the particular time and place of their origin.

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

W. Somerset Maugham has said that there are three rules to writing a novel but that, unfortunately, no one knows what they are. We might safely assume though, that one of these rules might have something to do with plot: Maybe we should have one in our novels? Maybe it would be helpful to plan the plot out ahead of time?

 

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

The first few pages of a memoir are the most critical ones. They determine whether readers become invested in your story, and whether they’ll follow it into Chapter Two. This course is for students of all levels who want to write a book-length memoir or have started one already and hope to “hook” readers from the start.

 

Pet peeves, love spells, jealousies, invented ideals: character-driven fiction is an invitation to move beyond consistency. An ill-advised whim can grow into a ruling passion. The bad guy, superstitious, rushes to establish a charity. Loyalties shift. A desire may leap from the heart of one character into the heart of another. After the king’s death, the queen dies not of grief, but because she glimpses her double leaving the funeral. Possibilities unfold in all directions.

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

“Frangible” has two meanings: able to be broken up into many parts and bullets that disintegrate upon impact. We’ll be approaching the memoir this week in both senses of the word—looking at memoir and memory in terms of fragmentation, writing brief snippets of memoir in a series of exercises, and creating little explosions on the page, brief bursts that suggest more than they state explicitly. This class is designed for the both poets and prose writers who are drawn less to narrative and more to suggestion and metaphor.

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

Writing can be a solitary and frustrating endeavor. It’s one reason many writers enroll in M.F.A. creative writing programs: to be part of a vibrant literary scene. Of course, not everyone can drop everything to pursue a multi-year M.F.A. With that in mind, this workshop is designed to give you a concentrated version of the close reading and community you might find in a creative writing graduate program.

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

Think of your favorite contemporary novel: Cloud Atlas, Dept. of Speculation, The Tiger’s Wife, The Truth About Celia, Vanishing Point, The Orchardist. Think of how that novel might have started: a dream, a memory, an image, a crisis, a letter, an obsession, a scrap of gossip. No doubt the novelist did a lot of pacing or smoking or eating or praying or crying or laughing or planning or cutting and pasting.

Like virtually everything else in our era, poetry has gotten sharply political these days. Writers are responding to this turbulent moment in the country’s history with a tsunami of poems that address issues like immigration, global warming, institutionalized racism, and health care. In this generative poetry workshop, we will read from a wide variety of protest and political poems and write as if our pens were on fire.

In an effort to answer the cardinal question of memoir—who cares?—this workshop/seminar zeroes in on what’s most compelling about our life stories. What about you is potentially interesting to others? Can a personal essay stand alone as a complete mini-memoir?

 

“The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors. I can tell a story in the third person or in the first person, and perhaps the second person singular, or in the first-person plural, though successful examples of these latter two are rare indeed. And that is it. Anything else probably will not much resemble narration; it may be closer to poetry, or prose-poetry.”