2012 Summer Workshops

NOTE: Each class session is instructionally complete and self-contained, though it may extend the previous day’s session; and none will be repeated.

9:00a.m. - 10:30a.m. (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) (capacity 30)


Monologue: Finding New Forms for Your Voice

Blogs, newsletters, podcasts, letters to the editor, persuasive speeches, magazine articles, personal essays, memoirs, plays, poetry, short stories, and novels all aim for the same target—an empathetic relationship between writer and audience. The monologue writing process opens the egocentric Pandora’s Box of personal will, purpose, thought and feeling and transforms the chaos into a singular, riveting focus. The writer is freed from the constraints of grammar and inner critic. The authentic voice reveals itself. The author chooses form and writes.



Productive Revision: Structure, Story & Scene

Many writers are confused about how to approach revision in ways that will strengthen and develop their work. Trial-and-error tinkering or polishing the style without having addressed deeper questions of structure and story can use up the writer’s time without advancing the manuscript towards publication. We’ll cover strategies for assessing and rebuilding your work, looking at plot, structure, pace, action, scene, conflict, and movement. Through examples and exercises, participants will learn about how editors look at submissions, approaches for writing group discussions, and markets. Note: This course serves those writing fiction, memoir, or narrative nonfiction.



Beyond the Margins: Writing in the 21st Century

We will write about the many ways your private and personal lives intersect with the great social and cultural movements of our time. We will also focus on Time, Subtext, and Attention to Imagery. You will hear and be inspired by the published, polished words of others. A variety of writing exercises will provide numerous opportunities for discovering your 21st-century voice, style, and theme. This hands-on experience will help you reinforce your conception of the enormous power of both community and words. You will come away with exciting and multiple ideas for your future writing.



The Art of Memoir Writing

What is true and what do we create from our reminiscences? Beginning with the concept that memory is a particular angle of perception that shapes our sense of identity, we will examine how the memories we tell establish our sense of self. It is not their factual truth that is necessary for crafting them into memoir but the emotional truth of our experience that reveals the underlying patterns of our lives. We will look at elements of memoir writing, character development, dialogue, point of view, and the self-reflection required to craft a memory into a memoir that has universal appeal.


11:00a.m. - 12:30p.m. (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) (capacity 30)


Developing Authentic Characters

A compelling story requires compelling characters. The writer’s job is to craft them. This workshop delivers tools you can use immediately to create the character’s self-concept, explore her relationship with family members, give her a dynamic backstory, identify her hot buttons and learn how to press them. Using simple but powerful brainstorming exercises, we will build the connection between character and conflict, both internal and external. Discover why readers relate to a character who demonstrates valor over virtue. See firsthand how character leads to plot. Learn what really matters in a sex scene.



Innovative Designs for Contemporary Narrators & Narratives

Every writer chooses—either consciously or unconsciously -- a narrator and a narrative design for her text. She (all alone!) decides how her text will be built. With experience, the choice becomes more conscious and the choice itself becomes part of the creative process. You don’t want to leave this choice to accident! We’ll read examples of innovation from both poets and prose writers. You can begin to use these designs in our writing in class. That’s not plagiarism -- that’s the way of the artist’s world: both to imitate and to create.



The Practice of Writing Poems

Words remember each other. So do days. To build on memory, we will bring the outside to our eyes, our ears—to all our senses—to coax the inside out. Our work will concern itself with making a home, even myth-building, to contain our words, building each day through exercises that have us writing and reading poems, and listening to the way our voices embody our uniqueness.



Personal Essays & Short Memoirs

There is a growing need to make sense of our lives, hence our thirst for stories of real life, for authenticity. In writing personal essays and memoirs, the writer explores a life experience and tries to make meaning out of it. In this workshop, we will look at how to craft our real life stories with attention to both narrative elements and poetic elements. We will read excerpts from contemporary writers, and we will write our own short pieces of creative nonfiction—practicing the skills of fiction writer, poet, and commentator.


2:00p.m. - 3:30p.m. (Saturday, Sunday, Monday) (capacity 30)


So You Think Your Life’s a Movie: The Reel Story

Screenplay is a genre that relies on structure, a compelling story, and characters we root for or love to hate. Based on my award-winning book, this workshop is not just for screenwriters, but for writers of all genres who want to get to good story fast. Through writing exercises, improv, and watching scenes from Academy-nominated films, we will discuss the structure of a script that sells (The Help), the importance of knowing your characters inside and out before you start writing (My Week with Marilyn), and how to move the story through dialogue (The Descendants).



The Anatomy of a Scene

Scenes are the paving stones, the two-by-fours, the bricks, cornices, and roof tiles of narrative; they’re the memorable moments of Elizabeth Bennett refusing Mr. Darcy, of Nora Barnacle pacing the Dublin wharf waiting for James Joyce to appear, of an exhausted Willy Loman returning home and dropping his sample cases on the kitchen floor. Scenes introduce the characters, create the opening, the meeting, the turning point, the climax of novels, short stories, memoirs, biographies, and histories. Specifically, we will set up scenes for the Meeting, the Conflict, the moment of Admiration, the moment of Affection, the Resolution, and the Denouement. They make narrative come alive.



POME: Experiments in Language

“Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun,” says author and activist Mary Lou Cook. In this language lab, we’ll investigate, observe, measure, dissect, replicate, manipulate, and validate our words. We’ll go out into the field of language—equipped with innovative/unconventional forms and exercises—to question our hypotheses about and discover new elements in the poem-making process. All word scientists, poetic and prosaic, will be enlivened by these leaps to the place that spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen calls “a mysterious point between the present and future…the very point where something comes from nothing.”



The Word, the Image, the Story: Tools of Transformation

We are on the verge of a new era, an epochal shift from the Age of Information to an Age of Transformation. Each of us is a co-creator, a carrier of the new consciousness. The future is within us, like the oak in the acorn, and it is unfolding in the creation of our lives, our stories, and all our artistic expressions. In this multisensory, multimedia workshop, we’ll be using music, poetry, story, and video to access our unique wisdom and put it into words that inspire and transform. Lots of creative exercises for all kinds of writing and writers.


4:00p.m. - 5:30p.m. (Saturday) (capacity 60)

The Art of Writing Conversation

What Makes It Good?

We will discuss the components and distinctions that make a piece of creative writing a successful representation of its genre. Moderated by Marj Hahne and featuring panelists Linda Bergman, Pat Carr, June Gould, and Eunice Scarfe.

The Business of Writing Conversation

Mastering the Submission Process for Multiple Genres and Markets

We will demystify the submission process for literary journals, magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and other non-book markets. Moderated by Cynthia Stillwell and featuring panelists Judy Adourian, Lynne Barrett, Myra Shapiro, and Susan Tiberghien.

4:00p.m. - 5:30p.m. (Sunday) (capacity 60)

The Art of Writing Conversation

Writing a Life, Known & Unknown

“Write what you know” is standard writer’s advice. How do you determine what to leave in, what to leave out? How do you write about a life—yours, your characters’—you haven’t lived, can’t live, don’t remember having lived? How do you write what you don’t know? Moderated by Marj Hahne and featuring panelists Linda Bergman, Pat Carr, June Gould, and Eunice Scarfe.

The Business of Writing Conversation

Birthing & Stewarding Your Book

We will discuss building a collection (fiction, poetry, essay), book proposals, queries, resources, the current world of publishing (agents, presses, self-publishing), marketing and promotion (social media, author platform), and presentation (readings). Moderated by Cynthia Stillwell and featuring panelists Lynne Barrett, Zita Christian, Myra Shapiro, and Susan Tiberghien.

4:00p.m. - 5:30p.m. (Monday) (no capacity - entire group)

Author Salon/Book Fair