Craft Sessions

WRITE FOR YOUR LIFE
Sessions on Craft

SESSION I: Friday, 4:45 – 5:45 p.m.

SHRAPNEL: THE ART OF THE VIVID SUGGESTION

- Seth Jarvis

What do readers and audiences take away from your work? What lingers in their imagination? Which moments lodge in their minds and detonate small explosions of inspiration and wonder? In this workshop, we'll explore ways to craft imagery, phrases, and ideas that resonate, that evoke allusions, provoke reactions, and create lasting impressions.                       

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.

STORYTELLING WITH TAROT: AN EKPHRASTIC ADVENTURE

- KL Pereira

What futures do the cards foretell...for your characters? In this fun and interactive workshop, we'll talk about how to use tarot, oracle, or other divination cards to help you envision the inner and outer journeys of your characters. We'll discuss how to breathe new life into archetypes, look at an example or two of ekphrastic storytelling, and of course how to interpret the visuals that the cards give us. No prior experience in using, or belief in the divinatory power of the cards necessary!

WordBlast

- Geof Hewitt

The writing's on the page, now bring it to life! How do we bring our own voice and body into the expression of a poem or monologue/dialog/trialog, short story, or opinion piece? Come prepared to generate a fresh piece of writing in 7 minutes, and bring anything else you've written that you might want to perform in a volunteers-only WordBlast, where we'll coach each other into ever more powerful presentation!

SURFACE TENSIONS

- Jensen Beach

In this session we'll look at some of the ways in which fiction writers generate effective narrative energy in a story's subtext. A lot of good fiction achieves its lasting effect, its artfulness, through what is not obviously present on the surface, what lurks just underneath the series of events and actions that make up the story's plot. We'll engage in some guided activities designed to illustrate the power of what is just beneath the surface of a good story.

ENABLING CONSTRAINTS

- Kerrin McCadden

Throughout the ages, poets have bent their imaginations using form. During the mid-20th century, the Oulipo writers used procedures to generate poems. Come experiment with their strange techniques!

KAFKA AND CONGA DRUMS: WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK RESONATE?

- David Ryan

How is it that some stories and poems seem to go places beyond the writing itself? How do they manage to travel inside us and linger long after the piece ends? We'll turn to Franz Kafka's three-sentence parable, "Leopards in the Temple" to explore what's living between the words of powerful, lasting writing, so that we can make our own words resonate long after the reader has finished reading them.

I'M SO PISSED I CAN'T STAND IT

- Geoffrey Gevalt

Emotion drives storytelling. This writing-packed session will have you write -- and write fast -- in exercises that help you explore emotion, dialogue and character development. It'll be fun, if nothing else.

Led by Geoff Gevalt, longtime journalist and director of Young Writers Project.

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

TOO YOUNG TO WRITE MEMOIR?

- Jessica Nelson

The title of this craft class comes from a 2015 article in the New York Times article by two young writers, Leslie Jamison and Benjamin Moser, who respond to the oft-repeated argument that young people do not have the wisdom or the experiences to write about their lives. Wait until you're older and can make sense of your life, is a common refrain. But this perspective ignores the value of the voice of innocence and the power of immediacy. In this craft class we'll learn how to mine our life experiences to create beautiful works of short memoir.

WHERE WE'RE FROM: FINDING UNIVERSAL RESONANCE IN REGIONAL SETTINGS

- Alex Smith

Every songwriter would love to be from Muscle Shoals or Memphis or some such poetic place, but most of us are not.  In this session we'll discuss the art of writing pieces that gain universal meaning through their strong place-based identity rather than sacrificing specificity in the name of "relatability."  In doing so we'll study the work of Steve Earle and Jason Isbell.

FIRST-PERSON FICTION: CHARACTER AND CRAFT

- Linda Schlossberg

Many of us are drawn to writing stories from the first-person perspective because it feels natural and instinctive, an echo of our "real" voices. But establishing a strong sense of character and background through first-person narration is trickier than it seems — after all, no one goes around reciting the biographical facts of their lives. This is especially the case at the very beginning of a story, when readers are first becoming acquainted with a character and picking up early hints as to what makes them tick. In this workshop, we'll discuss how authors subtly reveal information about their first-person narrators through indirect means, establishing a strong sense of character without telegraphing information.

TRANSFORMATION & CARE: CREATIVITY IN A TIME OF DESTRUCTION

- Ryan Walsh

How do we write about the natural world in a time of so many environmental disasters? So-called "nature writing" is, at root, about life and thus is concerned with the beautifully tangled ways ecosystems work together. Good writing, too, is about relationships--within and among words and between reader and writer to form meaningful art!  But in writing about life (our lives), how many of us consider our place in the natural order of things--our complicated ties to other people, places, our bodies, and the non-human world? How do we engage the difficult and even frightening work of bringing about transformation and care in our writing and in our lives? How might we use language and poetry as forces of love, ways to cultivate and grow things? We'll explore these big questions through reading selected poems, then digging into the deep mulch of our own lives by writing.

THE F-WORD AND THE INWARD

- Steven Beeber

Few words are more loaded than a four-letter one that can't be printed here. From making love to spreading hate, it conveys multiple meanings depending on how it's used.  In a sense, the same is true for all the words in our language, the limited options provided by vocabulary made infinite in how we construct what we say.  In this workshop we'll see how different writers use the same words to create a wide range of voices, then we'll do the same on the page, going inward to bring out a multitude of selves.

WHERE I'M CALLING FROM

- Howard Axelrod

Find your voice, we're told, but where to look?  The truth is we're all gifted with various voices, and they arise, as necessary, for the various roles we play and the various audiences we have.  Your story's narrator has a particular role as well, formed by where he or she is speaking from, why he or she is speaking, and to whom. In this class, we'll talk about how to tune a story's voice: how your narrator's address (in both senses of the word) can help clarify more than the voice itself.  In this session, we'll look at a few short published excerpts, do a quick in-class exercise, then discuss your writing with an eye towards narrative power.

DYSTOPIAN WORLD-BUILDING

- Philip Baruth

If you like the Hunger Games or Divergent series, it's probably because you actually enjoy experiencing dystopia, a near-future world gone drastically wrong.  You're not alone -- that sort of fictional exploration of disaster has become a worldwide phenomenon.  Chances are also good that you've been kicking around some ideas for your own dystopian story.  Which is perfect, because in this workshop we'll write the opening to that story, looking for the best (and subtlest) ways to cue the reader in on just how bad things have gone off the rails.

HOW TO BE INTERESTING

- Paige Ackerson-Kiely

In this poetry craft class, we'll look at poems, tweets, status updates, and mine the coffers of other social media platforms for ideas about what to reveal, what to conceal, what to compress, and what to elevate. We'll then construct our own 'update poems', from the minutiae of our actual or imagined days, and uncover how fascinating we really are.

STORMING THE BARRICADES

- J.C. Ellefson

All of our creative writerly lives, regardless of genre, the good people in charge have told us the same thing: show-don't tell. Over and over again, regardless of whether we're cloistered in the ivory tower or out there strutting on the curb, we're scolded when we tell. Yes. Got that. But how exactly does one show?  In this craft talk, come ready to rumble. We will storm those perceptual barricades and not quit until we hear the people sing.

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

THE JOYS OF EKPHRASIS: FINDING LANGUAGE IN VISUAL ART

- Jericho Parms

Ekphrasis, in simple terms, is the literary description of a work of art. Writers often engage with art as a rhetorical device to create moments that reveal personal reflection. Using a range of sculptures and paintings as visual prompts, we will consider different ways of "seeing" that ekphrasis affords writers who look into a work of art rather than at it. We will explore first hand the power art has to influence our written expression through sensory detail, emotional resonance, and association.

LMAO - HOW TO WRITE FUNNY

- Cameron Stracher

A writer walks into a barA writer walks into a dark, smoky barA pale writer peers into a bar, then enters furtively on quick cat feet.  What happens when a writer walks into a bar?  Does she make us laugh?  Or cry with rage?  What if she walked into a bar with a rabbi, a priest, and a llama?  Would the bartender look up and say, "Is this some kind of joke?"  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.

WORKING DIRTY: HOW NOT TO WRITE ABOUT SEX

-  Erik Shonstrom

Many writers like John Updike, Phillip Roth, and Diane di Prima (just to name a few) wrote graphically about sex. With the recent popularity of books like 50 Shades of Grey and John Colapinoto's  Undone, the question arises: how do we write about sex in the 21st century? The answer may surprise you - we shouldn't. Except sometimes. Come find out why.

TURING UP THE HEAT

- Peter Biello

Any good story has a great deal of tension at its center, a conflict that can't be easily resolved. Your protagonist's job is to solve that problem. How do you define that problem? And how do you make the search for the solution compelling? By "turning up the heat" on your protagonist--that is, making things as difficult as possible for your main character. We'll take a look into how to bring about extreme solutions to seemingly simple problems and create a story that surprises both the reader and the writer. Along the way, we'll discover what your protagonist is really made of.

GRAPPLING WITH THE FACT

-  Tanya Larkin

As children of the information age, we are inundated and sometimes overwhelmed by a growing body of facts. In fact (!) in order to function these days, most of us have developed a habit of disregarding a lot of the information that comes across our feeds in favor of only a select few facts. In this workshop, we will explore what it means to pay poetic attention to certain facts that call to us with metaphoric possibility. How can we use facts in our own poems? How do poets bring to bear the force of their imaginations on a single fact? We will look at few poems that do just that and then go on to make our own poems that feature facts. I will bring in a collection of facts, but please feel free to bring in your own beloved fact or one that you sense may be illuminated with poetry.

ODE TO THE SMALL

- Clark Knowles

Writing is a form of praise. Think of all the lyrics, poems, and stories that bear witness to great loves, attractions, journeys, accomplishments, tragedies, Grecian Urns, red wheelbarrows, Cathedrals, acts of courage or cowardice, honor or treachery, power or weakness, friends, lovers, enemies, the cosmos, the atom. In English classes, students are often taught to look for the big themes. In this craft session, we'll focus on the small. For instance, why should we praise a straw? Or a paper clip? Or a grain of salt? We'll practice some serious playfulness and get busy with praising some of the things that make life worth living.

TURNING OFF THE INNER CRITIC

- Rob Arnold

André Breton famously defined surrealism as "Dictated by the unconsciousness, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, and free from aesthetic or moral preoccupations." Using Breton's manifesto as a starting point, we'll explore how removing the conscious mind-and the "aesthetic or moral preoccupations" that accompany it-can ignite the composition process. Some techniques that we'll cover include automatism, free association, found language, subtraction, cut and paste, exquisite corpse, and the like. Let's abandon caution and channel the sublime!

LISTEN TO YOUR HEART...FIND YOUR TRUE VOICE

- Leon Marasco and Kate Harper

Take a chance. Use your journal to listen to your heart speak about sweethearts-past and present.

Journaling allows you to tune into the voices of your joys, sorrows, fears, hopes, regrets-even your loneliness-in a private space, out of the blinding light of social media. During this craft session, you will be introduced to-and practice-some journaling tools which, over time, will help you become more intimate with your "innermost-innermost." And, as a bonus, you will unveil some of what you most need to develop in your writing for a larger audience.

Please note: You won't be asked to share what you write in this session-but will be offered a chance to discuss how specific tools worked for you.