2015 Craft Sessions

WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE
Sessions on Craft

SESSION I: Friday, 4:45 – 5:45 p.m.

 

DON’T GO IN THERE! WRITING THE WARNING SCENE

            - Nina Morrison

You have something important to tell me. What is it? Why do you want to tell me now? What does it portend? What will happen if I don't listen? A well-placed warning can build interest in your characters, what they want, what they decide to do and what will happen next. But watch out, you might just find yourself writing something that builds suspense, and don't say I didn't warn you...

 

READ, WRITE… AND PUBLISH!

           - Jenny Land

Are you working on a fiction manuscript? Curious about how to get it out to an audience and maybe even get paid for it? Come learn about the first steps of the road to publication. How will you sell YOUR book?

 

FLYING TOWARDS THE LIGHT: MOTH STORY-TELLING

           - J.C. Ellefson

During a summer fifteen years ago, poet and novelist George Dawes Green and some of his no-good friends gathered for evenings of story-telling on a back porch in Georgia. “Moths would flutter through a hole in the screen” while his bunch told true stories from their lives, no notes, no props, five-minute time limit. A year later, George launched The Moth radio hour on NPR, initiating an enormous nationwide following. In this workshop, we’ll study Moth form and function, unravel the art, appraise the technique, throw the switch, take to the stage, go public, and watch the moths flutter towards the light.

 

HOW TO BE DARK AND CREEPY JUST LIKE NEIL GAIMAN

           - KL Pereira

Do you dig the dark and creepy? In this craft course, we'll explore the work of the modern master of dark fiction, Neil Gaiman, and learn how to create all the elements of a great scary story. Through interactive exercises, we'll experiment with atmosphere, voice, and structure. Expect to leave class with several short pieces in progress and lots of creepy ideas!

 

PLAYING WITH VOICE

           - Geof Hewitt

In this writing/performance workshop, we'll each create three or four short works, exploring a different sense of voice in each quickwrite. Volunteers will perform one of their pieces, and we'll discuss how the human voice enhances the shifting tones of our writing.

 

A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR: USING JOKES TO BETTER UNDERSTAND FICTION

           - Jensen Beach

A good story, like a good joke, relies in no small part on the unexpected. Often, we laugh the hardest and feel joy or pain most acutely when we are caught off guard. But like telling a good joke, writing a good story isn’t just as simple as stringing together a bunch of unrelated sentences. As writers, one of our primary tasks is uncovering the narrative potential in our sentences and set ups as we write them. In other words, the most successful pieces of writing are at once inevitable and surprising. Writing, like joke telling, relies on pattern building and pattern breaking. We should be mindful of following our writing to where it necessarily needs to go, while still allowing our work to surprise and delight us. In this session, we’ll look at jokes (and stories) not as audience members or readers, but as writers. We’ll observe how these pieces of writing work from the inside out. We’ll identify the comedic and dramatic potential each holds. We’ll work on creating patterns that result in pleasing and artful pattern breaking. Come prepared to read, laugh and write!

 

TRANSLATING POEMS FROM ENGLISH TO ENGLISH

           - Kerrin McCadden

Translating Poems from English to English.

That’s not a typo. I hear that Gerard Manly Hopkins translated his own poems from English into English as a method of revision and reinvigoration. We’ll consider this. And then we’ll explore all the ways a poet can translate a poem inside its language of origin—how to build new poems from poems we love. Consider: boiling a poem down to its nouns and verbs and re-mixing these into a new poem. Consider: translating a poem into its opposite. Consider: writing a poem’s companion. Let’s sidle right up close to poems with our own new poems.

 

MAKING SENTENCES LIKE AN ARTIST

           - Tom Paine

Using art-school techniques, we will attempt to break down the walls of 'concept' (as in Salinger's story "Teddy') to see human beings and trees in their true glory. In short, the largest problem facing writers is not thinking or syntax, but rather how to become the imaginative Artist who "sees the world truly" and then writes the sentence in the same way a visual artist wields a paintbrush.
Writing is about learning to see like a painter.
Writing is not trigonometry (thankfully!).
Writing is an art form. It calls you to be an artist--
something many people would rather you do not become!

We’ll do some drawing, and then some writing, from visual art prompts.

 

TBA

           - Rob Arnold

 

 

SESSION II: Saturday 11:00 – 12:00 p.m.

 

MAKE IT STRANGE: METAPHOR AND THE IMAGE

           - Anna Ross

To make the unknown familiar; to make the familiar strange. We rely upon metaphor to perform these two seemingly opposing functions in our work. A metaphor allows us to define the abstract or unfamiliar by tying it to a recognizable image: love is like a rose, for instance. But when we’re writing a poem, we want to capture our reader’s ear and eye, and one way to do this is through surprise. Ezra Pound’s famous rallying cry was “Make it new!” and a metaphor allows us to do just this but providing a comparison that catches us off-guard, even shocks us into rethinking everything we thought we understood about an emotion, object, or experience: love is like a Cuban plane. In this workshop we’ll consider metaphors penned by Pound, Robert Burns, The Mountain Goats, and others. Then we’ll work in pairs and groups to create our own strange and surprising metaphors.

 

CONNIE CONVERSE / SONG CIRCLE

           - Michael Chorney

Connie Converse - an astounding artist destined for obscurity. She made one recording at a kitchen table in 1955. She may well be the first “singer-songwriter”. She vanished without a trace in 1974. Then a few years ago a trove of her astonishing songs was discovered. We will hear her story and her music.

Song Circle - bring an instrument and share a song. All are welcome and especially those musicians not in the songwriting workshop. This is a nice informal way to share some work.

 

WHOSE STORY IS THIS ANYWAY?

           - Linda Schlossberg

In school we learn how to identify different points of view: first person, third person, omniscient, etc. As writers we want to think about these different points of view as strategies for telling a better and more powerful story. In this workshop, we'll look at how different perspectives on the same event can produce unexpected storytelling possibilities that we did not see before. Most of all we'll discover how the supposed limits of certain points of view are actually advantages, allowing us to produce more sophisticated and subtle prose.

 

HILARY ENSUES: WRITING WITH HUMOR

           - Cameron Stracher

What’s funny? What makes us laugh out loud when we read? What’s the difference between laughing at a character, and laughing with him? In this craft session we will read some very funny writing, talk about how and why it makes us laugh, and then try to crack each other up with our own writing. A good time is promised for all.

 

THROWING YOUR VOICE

           - Steven Beeber

When ventriloquists make dummies speak, we’re impressed because they don’t move their lips. We're also intrigued because we see a character split into two selves. In this workshop, we’ll see how writers do something similar, throwing their voices into characters to explore facets of their lives. We’ll read examples of work by Denis Johnson and Ernest Hemingway, then we’ll write, using the voices buried inside. The page is inanimate until it's filled. We’ll bring it to life, teaching our silent characters to speak.

 

FINDING STORY

           - Geoff Gevalt

In this whirlwind session, you will explore ideas you never knew could be so fruitful -- memories, things you've noticed, snippets of conversations overheard -- to help you build a character, develop an action or problem, devise a story. Come prepared to write and write fast. Multiple prompts and discussions. Our goal? To have you walk out with an idea that you want to develop in the weeks ahead. Led by Young Writers Project director Geoffrey Gevalt (GG).

 

SAY WHAT?

           - Howard Axelrod

When dialogue works, a reader can not only hear the characters, she can see them. What characters say and what they don’t say, what they hear and what they don’t hear—these are the most unmediated glimpses of characters a reader has. How do you write dialogue that is clear yet not simplistic, revealing yet not contrived? In this craft session, we’ll read a few excerpts with these questions in mind, and write some revealing dialogue of our own.

 

IN THE MIDDLE OF THINGS: CRUSHING IT FROM THE GET-GO

           - Philip Baruth

The classical writer Horace recommended beginning an epic, or a story -- or just about anything -- in medias res, or "in the middle of things." Contemporary American translation: cut to the chase, and do it from the first line. So rather than begin your story with your main character waking up, stretching, brushing his teeth, dressing, stepping out the front door, just go ahead and begin with your character stepping out the front door, only to be hit by a bus (the "bus" being a metaphor for the actual action of the piece). In this write-on, you'll begin a new piece of fiction by making real things really happen -- and happen immediately.

 

TBA

           - Paige Ackerson-Kiely

 

 

SESSION III: Saturday 3:45 – 4:45 p.m.

 

THE STUDENT BECOMES THE TEACHER

           - Rose Gorman

Jaw-dropping poetry slams. Electric writing workshops. Pretty decent cafeteria munchies. All this makes the CCYW Conference a good time, but how do we get our fix once this amazing weekend wraps up? In this craft session, you’ll dig into the writing, techniques, and creative prompts that inspire you to keep at this crazy thing called writing all year long and walk away with the tools to start your own awesome writing groups back home. Here, you become the teacher – plus, lead the group in your own mini-workshops!

 

PLACE AS COMPASS, PLACE AS MAP

           - Liza Cochran

This craft class will investigate the notion of place and how environments can shape, guide, and pull against a narrative. Rather than setting being an afterthought, a checkbox on a revision to-do list, we will consider place as the central pillar to storytelling. As writer Rebecca Solnit said, “A sense of place is the sixth sense, an internal compass and map made by memory and spatial perception together.” Our goal is to explore the terrain of this sixth sense, inhabiting places—both fictive and real—to the extent that our minds can see, touch, and smell the very fibers, thereby inviting prose that feels authentic.

 

SEPARATING FACT FROM NON-FICTION

           - Steven Byrkman

When we think about non-fiction, we need to ask ourselves, “What is truth, anyway, if not that which we remember?” And yet our memories are always colored with nostalgia and generally inaccurate. The goal of this workshop is to create compelling non-fiction that reads like fiction. We’ll be looking at essays and stories by Nicholson Baker, Grace Paley and others in an effort to stop obsessing over factual truthiness and start writing stories that ring “true” and connect with readers with a deeper, more emotional resonance.

 

FINDING THE “FICTION-WORTHY” MOMENT IN REAL LIFE

            - Rachel Sherman

How do you know which stories are worth writing about? The "real" story might not as obvious at first: often, it is hidden within a mundane-seeming scene. We will talk about the difference between a story that we tell a friend, versus a story we put down on paper. For inspiration, we will use my collection of found photographs to discover "fiction-worthy" moments.

 

NOTHING SPECIAL

           - Tanya Larkin

It’s hard to sit down and write a poem without the enormous pressure to say something important and meaningful. After all, a poet is supposed to feel and see things normal people don’t feel and see. But what if writing a poem weren’t anything special at all? In this session, we will look at a few poems that enact this zen principle of “nothing special” and then go on to write a few poems in the same spirit.

 

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY ABOUT A FLOOD

           - Clark Knowles

In 1969, my family was caught in a flash flood and nearly killed. We were in a Ford LTD station wagon that once belonged to President Lyndon Johnson. Or did it? One day, when I was telling this story to a group of students, I had the sudden realization that I was inventing almost everything. I had no real memories of the event. My flood story had moved from true-story to fiction and I’d been calling it memory. But where is the line? How do we pinpoint the important parts of ourselves that need exploration? How do we use our imaginations to uncover the truths that our memories deny us? In this craft talk, we’ll talk about some of those questions and we’ll get busy writing. By the end of our hour, you’ll have one or more beginnings for new stories—or one or more beginnings for stories that you’ve been thinking about but haven’t yet begun. Even if you think you know what your material is, prepare to be surprised.

 

CHANGING YOUR MIND; CHANGING YOUR MEMORY

           - Ray Hudson

Forget the facts; let’s get to the heart of what really happened. Fiction, non-fiction; memoir, short story. Somebody walks onto a page and everything changes. We’ll craft sentences to create the unexpected, the unexplainable that works. Bring paper and pencil, and I’ll supply erasers.

 

FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S ORDERS: LEAP

           - J.C. Ellefson

When he raised his fin and flashed his razor sharp white teeth, mean Dr. Moss told all of us undergraduates that the worst kind of death is to be bored to death. In short, he demanded strangeness, ultimate surprise, complete and utter revelation. However, as writers, how can we deliver the goods? Well, easy. One way is to perform the leap. In this craft talk, I will metaphorically take you to the top of a 97 story building, tie a bungee cord around your writerly ankles, and then throw you the hell out the windows. Come prepared to write. Boredom be gone.

 

FIND YOUR VOICE...LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

           - Leon Marasco and Kate Harper

Take a chance. Invite your heart to speak about past and present sweethearts.

In this craft session, you will be introduced to specific journal-writing tools that will help you be with and explore your "innermost-innermost." In a private space, out of the blinding light of social media, encounter powerful emotions that affect what you think and what you do. (You won’t be asked to share what you write–but will be offered a chance to discuss how specific tools worked for you.) Express your heart’s truth and free your "voice."