PAST WRITING WORKSHOPS
Writing Auto-Fiction, or How to Write about Yourself without Writing about Yourself
(Fall 2021, Israel Writer's Studio)
You want to write about the life you’ve lived, the experiences that shaped you, the hard-won insights you’ve gained along the way. But what if rather than just telling your story, you want the freedom to explore it without the constraint of “the facts”? How can you write truthfully about your life while rejecting memoir’s insistence of remaining faithful to “the truth”? The genre of Autofiction offers a way of writing a protagonist that shares key traits with the author but ultimately, and importantly, is not the author.
In this workshop, we’ll look at works of autofiction by Rachel Cusk, Chris Kraus, Ben Lerner, and Sheila Heti, examining how these writers fictionalize themselves and their experiences. The writing exercises in this workshop will provide an opportunity for participants to experiment with material drawn directly from their own lives, while making use of the creative flexibility which the genre unlocks. and facilitating the first steps toward writing a work of autofiction.
Making History- How to Write Historical Fiction
(Spring 2019, Write Space)
It could be second-temple Jerusalem, the French Revolution or London in the swinging sixties, but if you feel an urge to write a historical novel, then clearly a particular time and place in history has charged your imagination. But configuring the plot is only the first step. Good historical fiction captures the authentic feel of life, not just the physical details, but the way people spoke, loved, worked, and dreamed. It addresses questions such as: What did people of the time believe about the world? What limited them? What frightened them? What gave them hope?
Alas, the problem is that you were born a little (or more than a little) too late to experience your setting first hand. So, how do you convey it on the page?
In this workshop, we’ll talk about how you can work towards really getting inside your chosen time period. We’ll explore not only how to get the sights and sounds right, but also how to create an accurate psychological picture of the people you’re writing about – one that draws readers in and intrigues them as much as it has you. And we’ll discuss issue of story – how to craft an imagined narrative while remaining true to what is essential about your chosen setting, and showing how the life and times of your characters makes into them the people they are.
Revising: The Art of Editing Your Own Work
(Summer 2013, The Writing Pad)
You’ve written a first draft of your story or essay. Congratulations! Now the real work begins. But how do you take your work from that unpolished, awkward first draft to a piece of accomplished writing that attracts readers? The answer, of course, is revision—the difficult and often challenging process by which you return to your story or non-fiction piece, this time as an editor.
We’ll talk about common problems of first drafts, looking closely at language, exposition, pacing and structure, as well as what you need to focus on when you sit down to edit your work. We’ll discuss how a draft might open itself to new possibilities, how to figure out what’s missing and cut what’s superfluous. This seminar is for those who have completed a story, chapter of a novel or essay in need of revision. Taking cues from David Michael Kaplan’s Revision, and Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, our goal will be to set you on your way to resolving problems and looking at your own work with a critical eye.
Writing What You Don’t Know – The Art of Making Something Out of Nothing
(Winter 2016, The Writing Pad)
Writing what you know is one of the cardinal rules of creative writing.
Or is it? What if you are the curious type who wants to envision what it’s like to be someone else, a character of a different age, gender, ethnicity, time period or a radically different psychological makeup? The good news is that writing is also about breaking rules and transcending your own reality in order to understand something new and identify with that which is “other.”
In this workshop we will look at examples of work by writers who dared to take on the challenge of writing outside their zone of familiarity. We will focus on what it takes to conjure up and bring to life a person, place, time or idea that has little to do with your own experience. Or does it? Looking closely at writing by Nathan Englander, Jessamyn Hope, Jorge Luis Borges and Arthur Golden, we will examine the ways in which a writer can approach the challenges of character, setting, voice, and of course, empathy, in order to write fiction that requires a substantial imaginative leap and yet, feels psychologically authentic.
This workshop is for fiction writers at all levels and wannabe fiction writers. It will include many writing exercises. Along with your writing implements, bring your imagination, ready and willing to be well-oiled and coaxed into high gear.
Writing the Family Drama
(Autumn 2018, Israel Writer's Studio)
The family is the site of our most intense and meaningful experiences. Love, manipulation, anger, jealousy, competition, loyalty, and much more, all play out in vital intensity within the framework of the family, shaping who we are and how we make our way in the world.
For a writer, this is fertile territory for narrative. In the medium of the written word, relationships can be revisited, neglected points of view can be explored, and the writer can delve into the aspects of family dynamics that are, for her/him, most urgent and significant.
In this workshop, geared for both fiction and memoir writers, we’ll look at stories and personal essays that take the complex world of the family as their setting. We’ll discuss the elements that go into the crafting of a Family Drama, as well as issues that may arise when drawing on our own memories, and most importantly, we’ll do some exercises that aim to provide structure and inspiration for those looking to further their own work in this genre.