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Please review the selections below. During registration you will be asked to choose one craft talk from each session.
Townes Van Zant is considered by many to be one of the greatest American songwriters of all time and yet he remains a cult figure. We will learn a bit about Townes life and times, listen to a few of his greatest works, and examine their lyrics Then we will share our own songs in a song circle. This is open to all workshop participants, not just the song-writers! Bring along a guitar and a song to share.
In this workshop, we'll take a close look at some actual items used by people who lived long ago and try to imagine the world in which they lived. Get ready to invent some characters. Bring your poetry and fiction ideas alike.
Discover and develop your authentic and creative response through improvisation and acting exercises in a safe, open environment. Improvisation is storytelling on your feet. Using theatre games and basic acting techniques students will gain a better understanding of how we communicate while developing themselves as writers and observers of human nature. We will strengthen presentation skills and explore spontaneous response to the world while having a truly delightful time.
Genre fiction (horror, sci-fi, detective, fantasy) tends to work within very narrow, pre-understood and agreed-upon boundries. So when you come to a detective story, you know that someone has been or will be killed, and the fun of the story will be working backward to isolate the killer. But the best genre fiction finds ways to innovate within those generally understood rules. So the best vampire stories find ways to add spontaneity and depth to what we all know about vampires; the best fantasy creates new beings, or adds psychological complexity and surprise to the various species that Tolkien and others have made famous. We’ll look at ways to build better monsters – to make the ones we know more complex, less predictable, and inevitably more human.
Bring pen and paper, your reddest face, your most tenuous trust and your outside voice.
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.
Pliny the Elder observed long ago that being able to explain what causes “magic” in our world (rainbows, sunsets, eclipses of the moon, the rise of opossum shrimp from a lake bottom at nightfall) does not make those phenomena less marvelous. The poet may begin work in the same place as the scientist—at the moment of wonder. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that science is not the enemy of poetry. In this session we will ransack our own book learning in science and history to see what we can bring to new works of imagination. Bring paper and pen.
This craft talk will discuss the question of why, in a world where memoirs and other creative non-fiction are bestsellers and where poetry is sexy as ever, write fiction at all. We will examine my and your life-altering stories and leave with a tool box/lunch box of ways to fuel a story idea of your own. Bring an idea for a story, a character or incident. Bring an open mind. Be prepared to move and to sit very still. and hear advice on best foods to fuel good writing.
So you like what your poem says, but it doesn’t sound the way you want it to. Or, you like the way your poem sounds, but now you want that sound to lead somewhere. Come explore the difference between the two main modes of poetry, the lyric and the narrative, and see if your voice is looking for a way to be turned inside out, or is it the other way around?
Talking animals, ghosts, zombies, and more—we’re often told that these things can’t be portrayed in “serious” literary fiction, but this isn’t strictly true. Good writers know how to make the fantastic seem 100% believable through character, setting, and language. In this craft session we’ll look at some examples, and then you’ll put your new skills to work and write the beginning to your own fantastic and literary story. Come prepared to experiment!
Zombies are everywhere…at least figuratively. You can’t swing a cat without hitting one. Why is this? Why do they own so much psychological real estate? We’ll start with a brief exploration of zombie history, make a foray into understanding their role in the contemporary zeitgeist, and then…write. While zombies are our trigger, our obsession, our muse for this workshop, we will also wrestle with poetic diction and wield an easily concealed, old-fashioned poetic weapon called the volta to create poems that are both tragically hip, and, actually, yes, probably—at least at their ends—pretty serious. Bring writing materials, a sense of humor and some emotional honesty.
The Bloody-Minded Kettle, a kind of six-line surreal-poem-generating game, is a descendant of the Victorian parlor game Consequences and the Dadist word-game The Exquisite Corpse. I invented it In England around 1978. (As for its name, the phrase “The Bloody-Minded Kettle” turned up in one of the first games ever played, and it seemed so weirdly perfect that it just stuck.) We're going to play this game and generate some of the strangest and most vivid word-combinations you've ever written.
An interesting aspect of "poetry slams" is that poems are sometimes few and far between. Because the audience only hears the writing, a work of prose has as good a chance as poetry at winning the fabulous prizes. In this workshop, we'll all create quickwrites of prose or poetry; volunteers will then perform/slam their new writing or something else they've brought to the session for gentle critique and brief discussion.
As Woody Allen said, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Great comedy is one of writing’s great mysteries, and many writers fear that, much like romantic love, the mystery gets lost the closer you look. In truth, more like a good frog, comedy can be dissected for its educational value. So sharpen up your funny bone and come on down to explore the rules and rhythms of making people laugh. Feel free to bring bits of your writing which could use a few extra yuks and guffaws.
You'll go to college, and take classes in English from a PHD. And the PHD will have you write papers on Austen and Tolstoy and use pornographic words like pedagogy. And you will take a fiction class, and the professor will ramble on about 'third person semi-omniscient vernacular narrators'. But most likely no one will tell you the secret to writing a great story, or writing fiction at all. No one will use a dark, dangerous word.
And the word is: feelings.
Nothing more than feelings. To be a writer you have to know what you are feeling, but MORE, you have to imagine what someone else is feeling.
So we'll talk about feelings. And your character's feelings. And how feelings awaken story.
Does a good, proper story start at the beginning, and end at the end? Or can you, as a narrator, mess around with your reader's mind and mix it up a bit? In this craft talk, we'll look at a few different ways to order the events of a narrative such that your essay, memoir, poem, short story or novel can pack the most plot-punch. We'll take conventional stories--fairy tales, myths, Great American Novels--and see what happens when we tell them backwards. Does the meaning of the narrative change? (It will!)
Traditionally, Mad Libs is a phrasal template word game where one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story. The game is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime. Nevertheless, as writers, we can apply the same principles to our own creative processes as an effective way of generating new material. As the saying goes: “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” In this craft workshop we will each begin with a poem by David Berman entitled, “Self Portrait at 28.” We will then proceed to mad lib our way toward the middle and toward the end of it, improvising as we go, until a new poem/story/song begins to emerge. By the end of the workshop, you will have THIEVED IT, re-shaped it, transformed it entirely. In other words, you will gift yourself a self-portrait. For your self’s birthday. Happy birthday.
Atmosphere: a death-like party with bloated wallpaper. Atmosphere: purple lips and tight shorts. Atmosphere: a neon cemetery, sign in to send your ashes here and win a new coffee maker! Atmosphere: the picture, slightly ajar in the hallway, of the cat you had in third grade. Atmosphere: on(click)line, a virtual revolution in three flashing parts. Atmosphere: how writers convey emotion. Otherwise known as description. It feeds our senses.
Atmosphere: most places have one. Does your story?
Sometimes a story, a play, a poem can come from a single moment in our lives, something we saw or heard or experienced. But when pressed, it's sometimes hard to find it. This session will have folks do some fast thinking, fast writing and sharing in pairs to help draw out a story. Participants will then choose one of the unearthed stories and write it. And then share, if you wish. We’ll have some focus on use of detail, starting from the head of a pin, action and other tricks that make a story good.
Why does some writing sizzle, smoke, or burst into flames, while other work seems to smolder and go cold? Whether it’s for poetry, prose, song lyrics, or the stage, dramatists think they know a trade secret or two for making things happen on the page. And it ain’t snappy dialogue! We’ll take a crash course in what makes something dramatic, add a few theories of our own, then try our hands at building fires big and small. Come play with matches!
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."