Workshops

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?

 

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?

 

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

This workshop is a communal effort toward deep and considered critique of original poems set before us by workshop participants. Our goal together will be a studied effort toward the powerful, mesmerizing poem, no matter what style or form the poem before us takes. The beginning half of each session will focus on a sample of masterful poems from history that might act as guides and examples of poetic techniques, including lineation, lyricism, diction, form, and figuration. We will dedicate the other half of each session to workshop.

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

In this advanced workshop, we will look at our personal narratives in the context of two central elements delineated by writer Vivian Gornick in her classic 2001 text on the art of personal narrative. We will consider the Situation: “the context or circumstance, sometimes plot” and the Story: “the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say.” In our week together, we will employ these ideas as we develop our own personal narratives.

Agency is the word for a character’s central role in pushing a story forward. Often a first draft traps us in a story with characters who are victims, who are passive, or who just can’t figure out what to do next. But responsibility for one’s own fate is a big part of making a character memorable. How do you assess your protagonist’s agency, especially if your character is in trouble?

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.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

According to art critic Herbert Read, “True art persists as an object of contemplation.” One of the reasons that it has this capacity to hold our attention—like the note of a tuning fork after it has been struck—is that it has been created out of contemplation. The contemplative essay, also called the reflective essay, is characterized by an intense and concentrated focus. The author tends to circle a subject, spiraling away and dropping back to describe it from all angles and to plumb it for further meaning.

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 16 to June 17 2018

I usually lose at poker. Part of this is because I’m no good with numbers. The other part is because it’s scary to take risks; it’s much easier to bet on a sure thing, and avoid the patience it takes to sit and study the game. While gambling and poetry have their obvious differences, the same fears/reservations that might keep us away from casinos can limit us severely as writers.

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.

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.

 

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.

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

If we think of a poem as a bird, the two wings of that bird are craft and vision. (“Vision” loosely defined as a poem’s “revelation” about some facet of experience; and craft, the vehicle to deliver that revelation.) “Craft or vision?” is often the first question I ask when I see a poem faltering—a crucial question, for no refinement in craft can fix a vision problem, just as “profundity” can’t overcome faulty craft.

 

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

How does one create a character? And more to the point, how does one create a character who is so interesting that a reader will want to spend an entire story or novel with him? In this course, which welcomes fiction writers of all levels, we will examine how to create complex and compelling characters. We will spend part of our time discussing how to build characters in the first place—how, from the get-go, to make them as credible and distinct as we can.

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.

Point of view is the underlying pedal tone, the overarching melody, and the essential rhythm of any successful piece of writing. How do we go about creating that? How do we get our readers to believe—and believe in—the person telling our story? Do the author and the narrator have to be two separate entities? How can I make my narrator(s) more powerful, effective, and believable? And where does “voice” fit into this?

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.

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

As anyone who has engaged with writing in any serious way knows, writing itself is essentially a spiritual endeavor. In order to write well it’s necessary to tap into the flow of spiritual energy inside each of us, whether we call that energy creativity or inspiration or something else.

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

You’re out of shape, bored of the same routine, or simply haven’t had the time to keep that promise you made to yourself in January. You’re stuck, in other words, in one way or in several. You need that extra push. Welcome to Essay Bootcamp. In this course, we’ll sweat our way back into the writing chair and work our way up to heavy lifting—of pencils and of thought—through a dozen new and generative exercises guaranteed to jumpstart a year of writing.

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.

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

Oh, we all have them: those well-trodden stories that are trotted out at reunions, at holiday dinners, after weddings and burials. The WWII memories, the “remember that day” memories, the “there-was-that-one-guy” tales—anecdotes we can’t help ourselves from telling, or hearing one more time. During this weekend, we will revisit the anecdote. We will ask questions of this form. Why that day? Why that person?

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

This session will offer an intensive dive into the world of poetic form. After we analyze exemplary poems from a diverse range of poets, we’ll try experiments in meter, rhyme, fixed forms, and recent kinds of adventurous prosody. We’ll also discuss the role of form in contemporary poetry and give feedback on poems that participants have previously written, paying particular attention to elements of form.

In this weekend workshop, we’ll read and write fiction that breaches the parameters of strict realism by incorporating elements of the supernatural, the shocking, and the absurd. We’ll consider the effect of using “strangeness” to draw readers in, disarm them, and reset their expectations, with the ultimate goal of more brightly illuminating the “real” conflicts we wish to explore.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

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?

 

“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.”     

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 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.

Flash fiction is fiction that tells a story in a flash—anywhere from six words (“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.”—attributed to Hemingway) to a thousand words. Print magazines and online journals love flash fictions, because they don’t take up a lot of space; readers love them, because they can read a story in the time it takes to down their morning coffee; and many writers love to revel in their challenges and rewards.

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.

 

Black or White? Nature or Nurture? Paper or Plastic? Raw or Cooked? Mind or Body? Emily Dickinson or Walt Whitman? So much in our daily lives—and in our writing practice—is presented to us in easy binaries. And yet these seemingly confining binaries are useful springboards into more complex thinking and feeling in our poems. In this generative workshop for intermediate to advanced poets, we’ll begin each session with a particular dichotomy as springboard (e.g., work vs. home; caretaking vs. independence; praise vs. lament; innocence vs.

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?

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.

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.

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

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 July 08 to July 13 2018

“…I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing every day and epic dangers.”         Sherman Alexie

 

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

Literary magazines are the first place of publication for many writers, and publishing work in a lit mag can be great preparation and publicity for an upcoming book. But many authors have no idea how a literary magazine works, what the editors want to see, or how to collaborate with an editor once a piece is accepted for publication.

The experiences we need to write about the most can be the hardest to address. In this workshop, we’ll explore ways of writing about life events that we’re still figuring out. How can you tell a story when you don’t know how it ends? What language can reflect situations that seem impossible to describe? What emerges in emergency?

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

We all have stories inside of us. Stories to tell, to share. In fact, one might argue that we are stories—creating our lives, day to day, every day. One of today’s most exciting writing forms—the personal memoir—is swiftly becoming the narrative option and publishing entry for many writers willing to embark on journeys of self.

 

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

To write a mini-memoir is to create a moment in time. During this week you will generate a series of short pieces that stand alone and/or work collectively. Turning to the work of writers like Patti Smith, Brian Doyle, Beth Ann Fennelly, Sally Mann, and Mary Karr, we will examine how limitation can be liberating, why form is crucial, and what it means to unleash an arresting voice for a listening—as well as a reading—audience. By the end of the week you will have created your own podcast and a suite of mini-memoirs.

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

This is a workshop to be enjoyed standing up. Using techniques borrowed from Viola Spolin’s Theater Games and NPR’s This American Life, we will tell stories out of our dreams, our fears, our family histories, out of happenstance. We will examine the effects surprise, freshness, and challenge have on our writing. We’ll also talk about the how and why of documenting the work we make, answering these questions and more: When we create using improvisation, how do we transcribe or recreate the work?

How do you create a strong and exciting plot in your novel? How do you connect the plot with various subplots? How do you place plot points effectively throughout your story? This workshop will help you develop or strengthen your novel’s main plot. It will also help you better understand the use of subplots and the purpose of plot points. To write a great novel it is crucial to recognize how the plot, subplots and plot points create the main sequence of events and determine the best way to use them to move your story from beginning to end.

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.

Two-Weeklong July 08 to July 20 2018

Admission to this workshop is by application only. Enrollment is limited to ten. To apply, submit twenty pages of your novel, a two-page synopsis, and a personal statement that explains what you hope to get from the workshop. All of these items—your novel excerpt, synopsis and personal statement—*must* be double-spaced and in 12-point type.

 

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.

This workshop offers you an opportunity to expand your knowledge of scene writing and enhance your ability to write more compelling scenes. Through a variety of exercises, we will explore how to use elements like color, tradition, food, music, seasons, environment, horoscopes, and more to create powerful and memorable scenes. Each day, participants will complete various scene exercises outside of class and share this new writing in workshop with the group.

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

So you’ve finished your novel! Or you’re very close. Congratulations are in order, but you also know the manuscript needs at least one rewrite before it’s ready to meet the world. How do you begin that process?

 

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 June 16 to June 17 2018

In this workshop, you will write the living daylights out of that thing that writes the living daylights out of you. What, like a fixed star, is at the center of your heart? What is your hobbyhorse, your idée fixe, your charge? What hangs you up and infatuates? Writing and reading assignments will guide you into your obsession so that you become more fluent in the parts of its landscape that mystify you. As a point of entry into this two-day workshop, begin to consider what keeps you.

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.

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.

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.

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

Getting the words down on the page is only the first step for a playwright. At some point you need to hear it read. Reading it out loud to the dog doesn’t count; you need to listen while someone else says your words. If you have at least the start of a play and are ready to take the next step and really hear what you’ve written, this week is for you. Your readers will primarily be your classmates, but when possible, we’ll have some actors in to read as well. We’ll discuss the process of submitting plays for production and publication.

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?

 

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

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?

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Maybe you have a lot of work that’s almost, but not quite, done. Maybe you think you’re done but you don’t know what to do with what you’ve finished. This workshop will help you get that story or essay ready to send out. You will bring in writing that’s close (but not yet!) done, and by the end of our weekend, you’ll have it polished and prepped for submission. We’ll spend some time looking at a range of options for publication geared to your writing style and genre.

This course is designed for writers who work in short personal essays or extended prose memoirs and sometimes find themselves stuck on the varieties of past and present verb tenses, not to mention the pesky “perfect” forms that can sabotage the best of sentences.

This fun weekend promises to stock you with enough fresh material for ten essays, stories, or even a book, to flesh out after our time together in Iowa City. In an invigorating, supportive, no-pressure environment, we’ll use tested and effective writing prompts to get some beginnings down on paper. We’ll have time to discuss and share our writing at the end of class each day and get feedback on how to proceed with the work we’ve started. You’ll also receive a list of prompts to help you generate new writing when you return home. Ten prompts.

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Most writers want to write sentences that are clear and that communicate their intended meaning well. Certainly, that’s what editors look for. This doesn’t mean that we must write in the same style, but the sentences we create should be clear and have a strong impact on the reader. Much of a writer’s creativity lies in his or her talent at choosing and arranging words imaginatively. But much of your style also depends on some technicalities about what kind of word forms you choose and where you put them in your sentences.

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

You’ve typed “The End” on the first draft of a novel in all its messy glory, and now the daunting task of revising and editing hundreds of pages sits before you. Where to start? Which problem to tackle first, and how? This class is for fiction writers with a working draft of a novel-in-progress at any stage in need of revision. The goal of our weekend is to develop some organization in revising and an understanding of particular revision strategies.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

Reflection is the nonfiction writer’s gift to the reader, offering meaning to the car crash, the encounter with a heron, that afternoon flipping burgers. Therefore, it’s crucial to know when to let a scene do the work—letting the reader live in a specific moment—and when to pull back into exposition, summary, and meaning-making. Bring a rough chapter or draft of an essay, and we will generate new scenes for your memoir or essay, then weave them with reflection. All levels welcome.

One of the most essential components of writing and selling fiction is how quickly and strongly you’re able to snare your audience. Having a strong hook is not only a good marketing strategy, it can also improve and strengthen your writing. In this workshop, we will discuss ways to sell our books to readers, agents, editors, and ourselves with highly-crafted, sharply-honed hooks and elevator pitches.

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

This class will focus on the novel-writing process. Come prepared to discuss a novel you’re already working on, even if it’s still in the planning stages. In a whirlwind week, we will work through the major issues novelists face -- the instigating event, characterization, structure, and suspense. This class is not structured as a workshop. We won’t be looking at chapters you’ve already written. Rather, you will generate new work this week both in and out of class and share these pages with your fellow writers in class.

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

When was the last time you read a story you couldn’t put down? We all want to write such stories, but how do we do it? In this class, we will workshop short stories of up to 18 pages, with the goal of helping each writer identify and build on the strengths of his/her story. In so doing, we will discuss what makes a story irresistible. Among the questions we will consider: In what ways does this story engage and move us? Does the story have a recognizable structure that serves the writer’s artistic aims?

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.

 

Whether writing fiction or narrative nonfiction, you bring to the workbench a wealth of resources—your life experience, reading, language, personality, and imagination. This workshop focuses on writing tools necessary for transforming those resources into either fiction or a nonfiction narrative such as memoir or literary journalism. The cross-over of these techniques between fiction and nonfiction will be a prevailing theme as we examine strong examples in published writing.

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

We often write short stories by the seats of our pants, with a combination of intuition and curiosity. In fact, this might be the best way to approach a short piece of prose. But a longer work is a different animal. While all writing should be a process of discovery, for many writers a novel needs a bit more planning. In this class, we will examine the structures of several (rather short) novels and discuss the choices made by the authors.

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

“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 June 16 to June 17 2018

From Melville’s white whale to Walker’s color purple. Cervantes’ windmills to Woolf’s lighthouse. Carver’s cathedral to Basho’s pond. Frost’s forked path to Naipaul’s river bend. We all recognize the precision and poignancy of these metaphors. Those crystalline choices their creators made to deeply and simultaneously etch into our minds both image and meaning.

 

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

While some writers might aspire to create “timeless” work, you never hear of anyone trying to make their writing “placeless.” Why is that? Without place, are one’s characters and ideas rootless and liable to tip over? What role does setting play beyond mere backdrop or window dressing to truly ground one’s stories or essays or memoir? Is place-based writing regional, or communal?

 

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

This workshop will examine ways to face the blank page, the blank screen, the place where psychology meets art. We will discuss the psychological aspects of starting a story, a novel, a poem or an essay. (I presume that painters, sculptors and composers all face some version of the blank page.) Many writers speak of what “triggered” their writing, what people, places or things attracted their attention—and why.

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

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).

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.

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

“Woman must put herself into the text -- as into the world and into history -- by her own movement.”     Hélène Cixous

 

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

All writers revise, but it’s not always easy. In this workshop, we will explore a range of approaches to revision. Through writing exercises and workshops, you will write and re-write the same story or essay in a variety of ways. The exercises are designed to give you fresh perspectives on your work that will help you develop and deepen your original draft. These might include rewriting from a different character’s point-of-view or in a different tense or with a new structural device.

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Once upon a time, long before the Age of Oprah, writers who had lived through something fascinating or terrible or both would turn their experiences into exaggerated works and call them fiction. Nowadays, however, these experiences equally take the form of memoir—ruminative, retrospective narratives that comprise a sub-genre of the diverse and expansive genre we typically call creative nonfiction. What does this mean?

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.

The act of writing a poem is a curious expedition. We start with a blank page—a shimmering neutral canvas laid out before us like an undiscovered country—and we slowly begin to track the rivers and valleys of our unique artistic exploration. Though we hope to end up with a map we are satisfied with, as creative cartographers we must remember an element crucial to perceived and self-appointed boundaries: there are often other ways to see them. This idea of reshaping and redrafting the borders we place around our work will guide our week together.

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.

 

Weeklong July 08 to July 13 2018

Poet and fiction writer David Huddle trusts in the power of memory. While some writers warn us to avoid writing the thinly-disguised, autobiographical story, or the confessional poem, Huddle encourages us to shape the events that shaped us.

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?

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.

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?

“Stories are either best written in one jump or three, according to length. The three-jump story should be done on three successive days, then a day or so for revision and off she goes. This of course is the ideal.”  —F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Weekend June 16 to June 17 2018

Ideas, stories, characters, and scenes emerge from our memory, from our imagination, from dreams, lived experiences, history, family and friends. Normally, we begin a writing journey by sorting through these myriad sources. But we have another source deep within and often unknown to us—a place where our inner self, our soul, the essence of who we are resides. Possibilities for writing wait there, too, though they’re not always apparent.

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.

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.

Our travels through life are unavoidably interesting. Whatever happens to us—a hike through the desert, a night stuck in the airport, a trip to Hawaii, a stay in the hospital— anywhere we go and anything we do there—becomes a fascinating adventure if we pay close attention and turn it into a story.

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.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

In this generative weekend course, we will spend the majority of each session writing from original prompts designed to wrench you out of your ruts and open you to the vast array of poetic shapes and styles. To that end, you’ll receive a selection of poems throughout the weekend that we will discuss in order to ignite our creativity toward our own new drafts. A wide variety of exercises will be practiced, with a goal of twelve new “starts” or drafts.

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?

 

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.

The profile, one of the foundations of narrative journalism, is a portrait painted in words. A profile writer serves as the eyes and ears of the reader, enabling the reader to experience the subject as palpably as one can without meeting in person.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

Not every story needs the cranked-up tension of Indiana Jones fleeing a boulder-sized bowling ball, and not every novel needs the nail-biting suspense of a murder mystery; but if a reader doesn’t care what’s happening scene to scene, or the plot doesn’t intrigue us on some level, the jig is up. In this weekend session, open to all levels, we’ll explore the basics of plotting and look for answers to perennial questions: How much information should we withhold? How off-balance do we want the reader to be and for how long? How high do the stakes have to be?

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

This weekend workshop is designed for prose writers of all levels, scribblers of fiction or creative nonfiction who would like to learn how to be funny, or in many cases, funnier, on the page. Whether a writer’s intentions are ultimately serious or light-hearted, being able to make readers laugh is a sure way to attract and to hold their attention. If you can amuse your readers, they’ll follow you straight to the cash register. Just ask Sedaris.

 

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.

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

A book proposal is your introduction to an agent or editor. It should answer two primary questions: Why will this book be successful? Why are you the best person to write it? This workshop will focus on helping participants begin the process of writing a proposal for various nonfiction genres, such as memoir, history, essays, autobiography, anthology, resource, self-help, how-to, humor, and more. Aspects of the proposal we will discuss and develop in our time together include: the title, hook, market, promotion, author bio, and outline.

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

This course will examine the rich tradition of nonfiction writing about place; however, it will immediately detour onto the road less traveled. We don’t all have stories of Paris or Kilimanjaro. Some of us care about Paducah or desolate prairies. What does a writer need to capture the tiny towns and empty spaces, the everyday Main Streets and failing factories to create engaging, layered essays that reach far-flung readers?

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.

Weekend June 23 to June 24 2018

In this workshop, we’ll confront the challenge of writing emotional scenes—or emotional moments—whether they are in fiction, nonfiction or poetry. We’ll practice bitter anger, ecstatic happiness, heart-wrenching sadness, and even hair-raising fear or horror. We’ll look at some successfully written emotional moments in published literature to see what makes them work. We’ll also look at a few clunkers to see why some attempts at writing emotions don’t work. We might even use the strategy of writing a few fake emotional scenes to warm up!

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.

One of the most effective ways of developing a story, poem, or essay is to work in layers of different narrative or thematic material. When the layers come from different realms of experience or thought (such as history, folk tales, work, religion, science, food, art, childhood memories), or when they carry different emotional charges, they complicate each other in unexpected ways.

A common intellectual fantasy is to be able to encounter pure ideas in a featureless imaginary space. But tough luck: ideas come from people, and people come with bodies. In this generative class, we will consider the implications of our embodiment on writing and look at how the body informs the mind and the art it creates. Sports, sickness, aging, beauty, pregnancy, disability, sex—when we write on these topics, what forms are best suited to say what we want to say?

Weekend July 21 to July 22 2018

No matter the genre in which you’re interested—literary, science fiction, paranormal, young adult, romance, etc.—you would probably think it ideal if your novel had many readers. If it attracted buzz. If it were, in other words, popular.

 

Weeklong June 17 to June 22 2018

The term “weird” was first used by Sheridan Le Fanu, a popular author of nineteenth-century ghost stories, and in his long essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” H.P. Lovecraft defines the genre for us: “The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule.

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.

If you are writing, want to write, or have drafted a novel, you are thinking of All Those Pages. But the secret to a novel that flies is a novel you can talk about, a novel that can be compressed to the gem it is. Learn how to capture the essence of a story in a few clear sentences; further, analyze it as a scheme of component parts. That’s your way into revising, and it’s your way into telling someone they really should read it. Then write a summary that is your play-book.