2017 Craft Sessions

Sessions on Craft

SESSION I: Friday, 4:45 - 5:45 p.m.


- Seth Jarvis   

What do we mean when we say "show, don't tell"? Explore ways to externalize — and sometimes literalize — theme and conflict in the pursuit of more dynamic, dramatic writing.


- KL Pereira

Writers have been grappling with the idea of what happens after death for millennia. Whether it's the nine circles of Dante's Inferno or the liminality of being a ghost in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude, all writers have different and fascinating ideas of what after-death means and looks like. In this craft session, we will explore examples of the afterlife in modern and classic writing and experiment with creating our own interpretations of afterlife through the tools of metaphor and atmosphere. If you have a favorite example of an afterlife in a story, novel, poem, or song, please bring it to class!


- J.C. Ellefson

During a sizzling summer fifteen years ago, poet and novelist George Dawes Green and some of his no-good friends gathered for evenings of storytelling 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.


- 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 work.


- Jenny McKenzie

Come take a look at a few real, historical objects from the past.  What's the story behind them?  Who owned them, and why?  Where have they traveled?  Bring your notebook, your imagination, and get launched on a tale of your own devising.


- Jensen Beach

Writing is necessarily a collaborative act. That is, one of our primary jobs as writers is to provide the sensual raw materials that will allow our readers to conjure up a place and the dramas, actions, events, and emotions that unfold in that place. In this workshop we'll explore ways we can develop the specific worlds of your prose. We will look closely at the complex and complicated relationship between reader and writer as it is expressed in descriptions of place and setting. Come prepared to write, discuss, and have fun.

"NO IDEAS BUT IN THINGS": An Ode to Objects 

- Jericho Parms

Based on the assumption that the greatest writers are insatiably curious and attentive to detail, we'll explore the power of everyday objects around us, consider how those objects act as sentinels for memory and imagination, and work from notion put forth by Williams Carlos Williams that there are "No ideas but in things."


- Geoffrey Gevalt

Here's an opportunity to start something and NOT finish it! Drawing on techniques of multiple famous and totally unfamous writers, this fun, action-paced, write-'til-you drop workshop will help you start stories in several different ways AND not finish them. (BUT, you can always return later to what you've written if you really like it...) Led by Geoff Gevalt, longtime journalist and director of Young Writers Project.


- Naomi Shihab Nye

To be announced.

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


- Laura Heaberlin

What do "House of the Rising Sun", Gilligan's Island and Emily Dickinson all have in common? People have been writing songs in common meter for centuries-from early hymns to the theme song of Pokemon-but why? In this workshop, we'll discuss how to use meter like scaffolding to build your songs. Additionally, we'll think more broadly about the function of self-limitation, and how following rules can counterintuitively make you your most inventive.


- John Rasmussen

How do we create memorable characters in film — or any genre for that matter — especially ones that remain after their twenty-four frames have passed.  And what exactly makes memory, memorable? In this craft talk we will use Andrey Tarkovsky's text, Sculpting in Time, as our treasure map. From here we will depart. Your imagination will determine where we end up. Come prepared to write. If you supply the words, Andrey and I will show you how to move towards moving images.


- Jennifer De Leon

In this session we will review the functions of dialogue including transcribed speech vs. shaped speech, subtext, dialogue tags, character motivation, and more including Benjamin Percy's "lower-order goals." Make no mistake: every line of dialogue betrays-subtly or overtly — what the character is angling for. What is her motivation for dubbing her small apartment "a palace?" What does the child hope to gain by telling his parents he washed the dishes while omitting that he failed his chemistry test? Why won't this character say anything, why won't that one shut up? Within such questions are your characters' truest identities and the hearts of your stories.


- Philip Baruth

Everybody hates a rant, when it's poorly written or performed, and everybody loves a rant when it's pulled together with a brilliant mixture of frustration and finesse, the out-of-control and the operatic.  Al Pacino in the closing courtroom scene of And Justice For All, or Hunter Thompson savaging journalism as a profession, or Jamaica Kincaid riffing on tourists as "ugly human beings" — all screeds that won't be forgotten, because they're precisely paced and studded with surprise.  A great rant builds; there's a method structuring the madness.  We'll take a look at some epic film rants, and read some epic literary rants, and then I'll ask you to reach deep inside and give birth to your inner tirade.


- Jessica Hendry Nelson

What are the "details" of a story, essay, or poem? Are they always nouns? Proper names? Adjectives or metaphors? This workshop will focus on defining, examining and experimenting with significant sensory details and how they can be used to create a distinctive literary voice, vivid characters, and most importantly, meaning.


- Howard Axelrod

Nabokov taught 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 gaits of the travelers, 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? In this workshop, we'll look at a fiction excerpt and some poetry to find out, then do some in-class writing to put what we've learned into practice.


- Tom Paine

There are no Illuminati hiding the secrets of short fiction, but there are some secrets hiding in plain sight. One secret is this: short fiction, like a sonnet, has a secret structure. Imagine designing a house without knowing you'll need windows and doors, a floor and a roof. Only when you know what you need can you find what you seek. Not to sound too Illuminati, but the key to fictional architecture can be found in the acronym ABDDCE. After ten years of submissions, using this secret code (ABDDCE) unlocked my first publication. Please bring to class some salacious gossip worth calling a friend over at 2 am, and we will together perform alchemy, and transform mere anecdotes into literary short stories in a mere 50 minutes.


- Adrienne Raphel

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'" What happens when words have no meaning at all, or when words take lives of their own? In this craft session, we'll explore nonsense from Old English moths to Twitter bots. We'll take a romp through riddles, limericks, Martian anthropological field notes, and Flarf, and we'll write our own nonsense — which can often make much more sense than sense.


- J.C. Ellefson

It has been said that the only difference between poetry and prose is that one has line breaks and the other one doesn't. If this is true, that both genres share so much literary DNA muscle and bone, why is it that they are so different on the page and when they are performed? In this workshop, we will call out poetic line breaks and make them answer a few questions for us — like how they work, and how they influence a piece of literature, and how they boss around the speaker and the listener. Come dressed in your work clothes: you're going to get dirty.

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


- Shuchi Saraswat

Dorothy Allison, in an essay on the role of setting in fiction, asks of her reader "Can you take me somewhere no one else has?" In this class we'll take her up on the challenge, exploring what she calls the "no places" and what I call here transitory and communal spaces — hotel rooms and tents, cars and trains, the grocery store and the gas station. These spaces can be a great tool in your fiction, a chance to let you reader rediscover someplace they recognize through the eyes of your character. We'll look at the fiction of Annie Proulx, Michael Ondaatje, Flannery O'Connor, and Mohsin Hamid and then we'll take what we learn to our own fiction, writing a new scene set in a no place.


- Peter Biello

Podcasting as an art form is growing in popularity. Writers who venture out into the world of audio storytelling face a few challenges. For example: How do you write clearly for someone who is listening to your voice, not reading your words on a page? How do you capture someone's attention when they're likely doing other things, like chores or driving? In this workshop, we'll listen to some successful (and funny!) audio essays and explore ways that you can find your radio voice.


-Tanya Larkin

Yehuda Amichai, in his poem "1924," writes "...whoever remembers his childhood best / is the winner / if there are any winners." In this workshop we will practice remembering the most vivid parts of childhood; victory will be ours — if there is such a thing — all because of poetry.  First we will look at how a specific image or intense emotion might anchor a poem about childhood, and then we will examine how that image or emotion can be elaborated to reconstruct an entire memory. Don't worry if your childhood is all a blur of beauty and/or trauma. The practice of poetry will makes it possible to remember. This particular practice remembering the details of your past will help you remember the details of your present.


- Rob Arnold

We've all heard the phrase "kill your darlings," but what do you do with the darlings after they're dead? Hold a seance, of course! In this spirited (heh) workshop, we'll channel the mystics and learn techniques for breathing new life into our flatlined language. Come prepared with a piece of writing, a sense of adventure, and a willingness to kill — and then resurrect — your darlings.


- Adam Stumacher

Ever sit down to write a story and end up with a chaotic mess of pages? Perhaps some guidance on structure would help. In this craft talk, we will discuss structure and plot in the novel and the short story, examining the wide array of choices from conventional to experimental. There will be craft exercises designed to help you apply these techniques to your own fiction and to expand your writer's toolbox. By the end of the talk, you will have a deepened understanding of the architecture beneath the surface of any successful narrative, and a new set of skills to apply to your own work.


- Clark Knowles

In 1990, two men dressed as Boston police officers came into the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum and stole five hundred million dollars worth of irreplaceable art. The frames hang empty still. In 2014, artist Jocelyn Toffic had an art exhibition, when the show was over, she took the work she didn't sell and burned it all in a big bonfire in the company of her friends. When Ernest Hemingway was twenty three, a suitcase containing all of his writing was stolen, never to be seen again. Mozart's missing cantata; Sylvia Plath's missing second novel; countless handwritten drawings, poems, haikus, stories, sketches, letters since the beginning of time; the fading prehistoric drawings on the cave walls at Lascaux-all with us for a mere cosmic blip. Shakespeare wrote that art had a "brief authority." The artist brings a creative vision to the canvas-or to the poem, the pot, the song, the quilt. Art is transient and yet we continue to make art. Since our art in this conference is mostly words, come talk about why we keep writing stories and poems, and why their impermanence is so important. Let's try to make sense of these fleeting moments and create some art (poems, six-word stories, flash fiction, your own special mix of words and rhythm) that we can leave behind.

ASK THE ORACLES (Where no writerly question will go unanswered)

- CCYW Faculty Panel

In ancient Greece, when people sought wisdom or advice, they often turned to an oracle--and for good reason: oracles were thought to be portals through which the gods spoke directly to the people. Here at the CCYW, we have assembled a brazen bunch of authors who can certainly compete with anyone holding court at Adelphi. If you want to know absolutely anything and everything about being a writer, this workshop might be for you.


- J.C. Ellefson

All of our favorite artists-whether they reach us through their writing, their music, their films-whatever the genre-have uniqueness, a fingerprint, an easily perceived individuality that reaches out and grabs our hearts. In essence, they have voice, that super sauce that gives their work power and delight — and we're all after it like it's the Holy Grail, and it is. In this workshop, we're going to corner literary voice, we're going to grab it, squeeze out the juice, simmer, and then splash it all over our work. Yes, this is an old clothes situation. Be prepared to kneel down in the good earth.