2018 Workshops

Urgency and Momentum with Charles Baxter

We will be doing a workshop, with close attention to each person’s manuscript (limit should be about 5600 words per story or chapter). I’ll be discussing structure, coherence, urgency and momentum, characterization, dialogue, with occasional pedagogical sidebars on matters of concern to our group, such as voice, staging, and plot. I’m particularly interested in those moments in fiction and nonfiction when it seems as if two or more stories are being told at the same time, one being visible, and the other one being suggested or glimpsed. Half-visible narratives are often luminous and are the realm of both religious feeling and psychological conflict, and both lead, when the writing permits it, to revelation.

Landscapes:  Interior and Exterior with Pam Houston

This class will be a prose workshop open to writers of both fiction and memoir/personal essay.  We will focus on what I believe to be the most essential art of prose writing, the way we employ the physical world as metaphor, the way we pull objects and moments and sensations from our lived experience, and use them as metaphors to convey to the reader the most complex and most hidden corners of our interior landscapes.  Along the way we will also discuss other elements that can make or break a story: scene, dialogue, beginnings and endings, character, narrative tension and narrative arc.  Please submit a manuscript of no more than 5000 words, and please, in preparation for the class, read Night At The Fiestas by Kirsten Quade, and The Narrow Door by Paul Lisicky.

Singing School” with Ilya Kaminsky

There is no singing school, Yeats wrote, except for one “studying monuments of its own magnificence.” Which is to say: the only way to learn how to write great poems is by reading the work of great poets. That is exactly what we are going to do. If Shakespeare learned from Ovid and Greek Drama, Dickinson & Whitman learned from the Bible and Hymns, Akhmatova learned from Shakespeare, Eliot learned from the French and Robert Hayden from W.H. Auden — what is YOUR singing school? Who are your models? And, moreover: just how do you read other poets in order to learn from them? Just what is reading-as-a-writer? In this class, we will try to find guidance in poems from various traditions of France,  Russia,  Japan, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Poland and our own English/American tradition.  How do poets learn/steal/borrow from “other” traditions? How do traditions change? Where is our place in this conversation? What can we take from it for our own work? What specific tools of craft can we bring into our writing? We will read poems by others and discuss our own work. As we proceed, the class will focus on various textures of poetic language: the details, images and sounds, the aspects of line, line-break, metaphor will be discussed in depth. Every class participant will receive a line-by-line reading of their work, and will also receive a detailed reading list to start building their own literary connections, linkages and traditions.  Please submit 3 pages of poetry to workshop.

Transforming Chaos Into Art: A Workshop in Fiction and Memoir with Dani Shapiro

The most helpful writing workshops are ones in which the group acts as a single organism, its sole purpose being to help the piece of work at hand become its best possible self. Memoir, fiction – it’s all storytelling. Whether you’re bringing in pages of a memoir-in-progress or a work of fiction, we approach the page with an eye towards structure, character, voice, place, detail. Find the tenacity and take-no-prisoners courage to do your finest work.  Please submit a 3000 word memoir or fiction manuscript.

Advanced Workshop with Justin Torres

Our aim will be to describe the work before us, to consider the authors intentions, and to identify themes and resonances. We will then suggest ways those aims might be furthered, themes deepened, resonances amplified.  We will ask, what are the questions this piece poses? And how are they being posed? Manuscripts are limited to 5,000 words.

The Architecture of Story: How to Structure Long Form Narrative with Sunil Yapa

Story structure is a taboo subject in a discussion of literary fiction, and yet is all too often our greatest stumbling block. Using tools from multiple genres and forms, including television, film, and the novel, this workshop will set out to demystify the process of dramatic structure. What is the engine for a story? How do we break a long story and keep it moving? Why (and how) does good story depend upon compelling character? We will cover the range of good dramatic writing, from desire and conflict to act structure, scene construction, protagonists, dialogue, and much more.  You can expect to leave the session with practical tools to craft memorable stories and characters, as well as the confidence to tackle that novel or memoir. A novel-in-progress is not a prerequisite–you only need a healthy imagination and a willingness to sail into unfamiliar waters. Manuscripts limited to 5000 words. There will be reading and watching assignments before the workshop begins.