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WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE
Sessions on Craft
- Nina Morrison
Great stories are built on characters who want something desperately, right now - and are willing to take action to get what they want. Discover your own dynamic characters who will make a story come to life in this session on how to write impassioned people.
- Kerrin McCadden
A sentence can explode like a firecracker, spending itself in only a few words. This is cool. Also, though, a sentence can take us on a road trip—a sweet, lulling one, or an argumentative one, or a wild country joy ride. We will see how far we can push the sentence, one sentence. I want you to write a poem—a long poem—built of only one long sentence. We’ll look at some samples, and we’ll look at some of the language tools that help us expand sentences. Remember when your teachers said your sentences were too long? That you were writing “run-ons”? Well, Grasshopper, what used to be considered a mistake will soon be your best new Kung Fu move. Walk out the door of this workshop with a new poem.
- Jenny Land
Ready to reinvigorate your poetry? Or want to make the most of your white space on the page? Not sure where to put in those stanza breaks, or if to use stanzas at all? In this workshop, we'll look at stanza breaks used by some of the modern masters of free verse and semi-formal poetry. Bring a new poem along that you'd like to work on, or write a new one on the spot. Then we'll take out the scissors and play with all the lines.
- 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.
- Tim Brookes
This short Dadaist literary form is a cross between a Victorian parlor game and the famous Exquisite Corpse exercise, and is guaranteed to produce dazzling, original images and word-combinations that will blow your mind. Warning: last year several people suffered minor injuries from laughing too hard.
- KL Pereira
Myths are integral to the works and worlds of writers such as Margo Lanagan, Angela Carter, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, and George R.R. Martin. These writers and many others draw on the elements of fairy tale and myth traditions of diverse cultures to give their prose texture, energy, and meaning beyond the page. In this craft session, we’ll discuss how to use old tales to create some new magic in our writing so that we can speak our truths to generations beyond our own. Please come to class with a copy of your favorite myth or fairy tale and a sense of adventure!
- Geof Hewitt
The best writing often surprises the writer as it emerges on the page. That’s what we’ll hope to have happen in this interactive writing workshop. No planning, certainly no outlines. We’ll all write for seven minutes in response to a surprise writing prompt, then we’ll use another surprise to write again for seven minutes. We’ll also consider the surprises that come during revision. By this point, we’ll have only twenty minutes left, and will spend that listening to volunteers from the group reading their new pieces.
- Jeffrey Carver
Suppose you woke one day and found the world changed. Not drastically, like waking up as an insect, but subtly. In fact, just one thing has changed in the world around you—and you might not even notice it at first. But that one thing is enough to alter the course of your life (or, better, the life of your protagonist). Come equipped to combine your imagination with your analytical skills--and explore how you might portray such a transformation in the life of your favorite character.
- Tom Paine
In this class I will explain how after ten years, by following a simple recipe, my first story was accepted for publication. After I explain the recipe, and we build a story together, you will write the recipe for your own story. Please bring to class some gossip worthy of texting a friend at 2 am.
- Ryan Walsh
We cannot think our way into poems, not with logic anyway. In this craft session, we’ll focus on the mystery of metaphors—their primacy, speed, and intuitive meanings. And we’ll consider how the urge to claim wild similarities can lead to discovery, surprise, and epiphany by exploring a handful of poems and by writing. We'll trust Emily Dickinson, who reminds us that when we break through the floorboards of reason, we may drop "And hit a World, at every plunge." Let's take the plunge.
- Paige A-K
We're going to talk some serious trash. Bring an ordinary object you've never paid much attention to, a pen, paper, etc.
- Michael Chorney
We will begin the session with a short introduction to the great and unknown songwriter Judee Sill. Sill, whose contemporaries were Joni Mitchell and Crosby Stills and Nash, was a highly respected and influential singer-songwriter in the late 60's and early 70's and is now nearly forgotten. Then we will share our own songs in a song circle. This is open to all workshop participants, especially those not in the song writing workshop!! Bring along a guitar and a song to share.
- Lewis Robinson
Writers are willing to confide. Fake secrets, true secrets, secrets small
and large. In confidence we assert what is beautiful, what is terrifying,
what is heartbreaking, what disgusts us, what we dream to be. In this
workshop we will practice writing fictional secrets and how to make them
- Sarah Braunstein
Stories can be told in many (many) ways, and the possibilities can be baffling. As author, you’re ruler of the universe. Yet all this power can be a little paralyzing, no? So many choices: First-person? Second? Third? Limited? Omniscient? Objective? We’ll sort it out. We’ll familiarize ourselves with various narrative strategies and try our hand at some of them. The goal: to become more mindful readers, and to gain the confidence to approach our stories in fresh ways, with open eyes. What happens when we look closely at POV, when we really and truly understand all the options at our disposal? A simmering story rises to full boil. The power becomes delicious.
- Craig Gardner
The element of surprise is an important part of the writer’s tool kit, and can be used to get many different results. A surprising event can be funny or frightening. When your character slips on a banana peel, that can be funny. When your character slips on a banana peel and falls over a cliff, that might not be so funny after all. We’ll talk a bit about readers’ expectations, and how to set up your surprise so they don’t feel cheated. And then we’ll look at ways to make everything much more surprising. Bring your funny ideas, bring your scary ideas, and we’ll find techniques to make them funnier, or scarier, or both.
- Geoff Gevalt
A rousing, fun, writing extravaganza centered on, you guessed it, a crime! Participants will set the rules for what makes a strong story and then reach into a grab bag at various times to retrieve a character, setting, plot twist, descriptive detail, conflict and/or resolution sometimes on an as-needed basis and sometimes because they must! Who knows what stories lurk inside the minds of this wild group. Session led by Geoffrey Gevalt, founder of Young Writers Project, former journalist and general instigator.
- Howard Axelrod
Vladimir Nabokov taught his students that reading well means visualizing more than the author has written on the page. When Tolstoy describes a train station, for instance, you should see the porters, the gendarmes, the frosty air (all of which Tolstoy mentions), but perhaps also the varied paces of the travelers hurrying for their trains, the benches along the station wall, a clock overhead ... in short, a full scene. How can see more when you read? And how can you write in such a way that invites your readers to see?
- Philip Baruth
Edgar Allen Poe defined a short story as a narrative that could be read in one sitting, an interval of somewhere between thirty minutes and two hours. Today we'd call a two-hour story a novella, and we've invented an entirely new category of which Poe would disapprove: the short short. A short short story typically runs 1-3 pages, and it's meant to flash by -- but to produce a major psychological explosion as it does so. It should do the work of a novel, then, in three minutes of reading time. But how do you produce what Poe called "an intense and enduring impression" in the time it takes to check your email? Two word answer: you cheat. Actually, seven word answer: you cheat relentlessly, from the word go.
- Rose Gorman
“They shoot the white girl first.”
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary...”
Regardless of genre – novel, short story, even a poem – those first lines of a piece of writing are what make us dig in deeper or cautiously move on to the next book. In this session we’ll experiment with a few tricks of trade, drawing nuggets of inspiration from music, food, weather, smells, people, “haiku cubes,” luck, and a few other sources. We’ll use all of these to come up with some killer first lines to keep even the pickiest of readers in our corner.
EXTRA CREDIT: Can you name the authors and titles of the first lines above?
- Nicole Beckwith
Writing for the stage is all about what you hear, writing for the screen is all about what you see. Using visual prompts we will each write a single short scene in two mediums, and explore how to tell one emotional truth in two very different ways.
- William Patrick
All through the movie, Midnight Cowboy, Joe Buck, the young stud who had moved from Texas to New York City with only a transistor radio and his black-and-white, cowhide suitcase, keeps seeing the sign on the Mutual of New York building that reads MONY. He even finally embarrasses himself by blurting out that money is spelled that way – MONY. Metaphorically, it all fits, of course – he’s gone there to make his fortune as a hustler, but he’s really trying to escape his own loneliness. Why we chase money is seldom just about the money. In this interactive craft workshop, we’ll write brief nonfiction pieces that start with money but lead us to places far more interesting.
- Becky Tuch
Writers love giving advice. Older writers give advice to younger writers, more experienced writers love to dish out advice to newbies. Much of this is helpful and instructive (how to grab your reader's attention, how to add more conflict to a scene, etc.) But beyond the level of craft, there is something deeper: your obsessions, your passions, your unanswerable questions. These are the things that likely made you want to start writing in the first place. In this craft session, we will discuss how moving beyond craft advice and embracing your quirky passions and driving obsessions can make you a lifelong writer.
- Audrey Bohanan
The badger may not have many predators, but there’s always one: once your badger-voice hits the complete emptiness of snowy page or screen, all your best intentions can sometimes vanish into the white space. In this craft session we’ll look at some practical ways to give that blankness an active role to play. Left-hand margins, line-breaks, stanza-breaks — they all have something to say once you’ve convinced this all-too-often predatory stillness to help you out. Bring paper (white is good) and pen or pencil.
- 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."
- J.C. Ellefson
Ancient T’ang poet TuFu said that to embrace image is like living twice, while beatified hipster Jack Kerouac said that image always makes the pie bigger and the vanilla ice cream creamier. Canadian Margaret Atwood suggests that that the writer/reader who employs image can be in this world, and yet not of it. But what is this thing that lubricates the imaginary wheels, how does it work, and how can we get there? In this workshop, come prepared to write. We’ll jump down the rabbit hole, do a little time traveling, and sign up for the cheapest plane ticket the world has ever known.
- Tim Brookes
What the hell is going on with publishing? Twenty years ago, a writer’s job was to find someone to publish his or her writing. Now young writers are publishing their own novels, and the Internet makes everyone a publisher.
What are the possibilities of this, the Golden Age of Self-Publishing? What are the rules? What are the risks?
In the digital age, there's no need to read – or write – about music; it's so easy to download, stream, and share, that we no longer need to wrestle the soul of sound into words. Music reviews don’t matter anymore, right? Wrong – they do, and more than ever. Come find out why, and learn how to do it like a boss. Bring your iPod, laptop, or MP3, and come away with your first song review in hand.