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Too often, when writers try to write an essay, they stumble on common pitfalls like cramming too much information into too small a space, giving too much back story, or trying to write an essay for a particular column rather than writing an emotionally true one. We all have read memoirs that take our breath […]
From our 2009 Summer Workshop, Steve Almond and Aimee Bender—both the offspring of therapists—discuss how and why less experienced writers manage to sabotage their own fiction. Among the topics covered are: simplicity phobias, the artistic unconscious, OMD (obsessive metaphor disorder), fear of emotional exposure, prose envy, and obfuscation in the service of the id.
Anthony Doerr takes the pre off the dictable with a talk on defamiliarization and how its usage in art can alter our perception of the known world. Like the best of his writing, Doerr’s 2008 Summer Workshop lecture ends up being more than just a display of craft: It’s a blueprint for life itself.
Gifted with a voice that could command an audience in any era, Dorothy Allison treated the participants of the 2011 Summer Workshop to a spirited discussion on how characters should speak on the page. Not only ‘he said, she said, none of them said a thing’, but a whole range of language issues–what is said and not […]
When we first asked Luis Alberto Urrea to give the closing lecture at our 2016 Summer Workshop, he responded by saying he would “throw love notes over the wall,” and “bread to the disrespected.” It was in this spirit, that Luis took to the podium on our final Saturday together, opened a tiny notebook that […]
“How far can/will the elegy stretch?” Amy Gerstler asked our workshop participants this July. “Are there limits to what conventional or unconventional elegy can mourn, memorialize, honor, metabolize, question? Are there angry, comic, upbeat and/or love elegies? How about some stealth elegies?” In her quest to find out, Gerstler examined poems from Terrance Hayes, Li […]
“Why does the voice in my head have an Adam’s apple?” Written on the occasion of Claire’s “troubling realization that I have been writing to impress old white men,” this call to action was given during our 2015 Summer Workshop. A modified version of this essay can be found in Tin House.
“An image is more than what we show our readers–it is story, it is history, it is emotion. When we seek the perfect image, we filter our writing and cut ourselves off from the possibilities of meaning and emotion–the things that make both the writer and the reader feel.”- Natalie Diaz In this craft talk, […]
It can be tempting to believe you’ll increase the tension of your prose if your characters over-emote: cry, weep, wail, explode with joy. But it’s often more effective to convey emotion with a matter-of-fact tone and highly controlled language. In this craft talk from our 2015 Summer Workshop, Debra Gwartney discusses ways to allow the […]
Kevin Young drops by our classroom to discuss some of the more notable modern poetry hoaxes, glimpsing into the secret history of the poem as something conceived to tempt or even trick. By understanding the ways the hoax works, Young suggests that we may better know our own assumptions, habits, and hurts, and how to […]
Matthew Zapruder attempts to, for once and for all, to define poetry. In this lecture, first given at our 2015 Summer Workshop, Matthew tackles metaphor, so-called “poetic” language, and explores the differences between poetry and prose. Other topics covered included Keats, chimney sweepers, Bishop, line breaks, and blue antelope. In other words, all the essentials.