Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MFA Summer Residency Week 2 Themed Workshops

During Week 2 of our Summer Residency, some of our instructors have opted to focus on a specific theme. You will still be workshopping each others' writing samples, but much of the discussion will focus on the below themes.  

Fiction Week Two Themes

Writing Your Obsessions
We all have certain topics that we return to again and again in our writing. Somehow, we can't escape our own core interests and obsessions. And, of course, it's your obsessions that set you apart from every other writer. In this class, we'll explore your obsessions and work to get them on the page. Be prepared to let go of your writing inhibitions. 

Fiction is an art of invention, but research is still a useful tool to help us sharpen our rendering of what we know and help us write about what we don't. But how does one translate research into vital prose and characters? In this workshop, we will explore how fiction writers can transform researched fact into their fiction, through character, setting, plot, dialogue, etc. Reading excerpts from recent award-winning novels and stories that incorporate historical fact in fictions--including work by Lily King (Euphoria), Monique Truong (Book of Salt), EL Doctorow (Book of Daniel), and Randall Kenan (Let the Dead Bury Their Dead)--we will practice rendering research in various forms to suit your projects and explore the pleasures and perils of taking history personally.

to be determined

Creative Nonfiction Week Two Themes

Essaying the Image: Ekphrasticize Yourself
Images often inspire writers and impel them to essay and memoir. Family photographs trigger remembrance and reflection; art works provoke contemplation and analysis; posters, dust jackets, album covers all set off chains of thought. In this workshop, with references to books like A Postcard Memoir by Lawrence Sutin, Half in Shade by Judith Kitchen, A Moment with Strangers by W. Scott Olsen, and Leap by Terry Tempest Williams, we’ll rummage through our own collections of images both personal and impersonal to interrogate them, inhabit them, and investigate their impact on us through journal entries we share and discuss and finding impetus for further writing of essays, articles, blog posts, and memoir.

Load, Lessen, Level
Taking paragraphs and short sections of nonfiction prose, I show how writers emphasize (load), subordinate (lessen), and balance (level) elements of style, grammar, word choice, cohesion/coherence, narrative, statement, theme, and more. A writer makes these choices to set up variable patterns of emotionality, drama, and exposition. The rhythmic substance of prose, both narrative and expository, comes from the degree of play with repetition, variation, and stability. This intentional design is the primary shaper of the work’s meaning. 

The Mnemonics of Personal Nonfiction
Memory, coming to us as a strange concoction of thought and dream, is the source of memoir, personal essays, and other forms of creative nonfiction.  Some memories come unbidden, others emerge in the writing process, and some reluctant ones need to be teased out.  The primary focus of the class will be the daily workshop sessions on student writing, but we will also study a range of techniques to bring memories, even the shy ones, into consciousness and see them vividly enough and in enough detail to use in a memoir or essay. Students should bring paper and a pen even if they plan to use a computer to write.  We will use passages from my memoir, The Book of Knowledge and Wonder, which I will send to students as a word document.


There are no pre-set themes for Week Two Poetry Workshops, but specific topics may be selected according to student interest. 

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