FREEING MINDS A Campaign for St. John's College
For storytellers, the human past is a vast repository of potential plots and characters; in many languages, the words “story” and “history” are the same. To the ancient Greeks, Clio was one of the nine muses, and the work that she inspired was art to be set alongside painting, music, and poetry. Yet many current-day historians have lost touch with the sense of their work as a literary and artistic craft. In this workshop, we’ll discuss how nonfiction writers can bring the past to life using some of the same tools as novelists and poets—while also staying true to the existing historical record.
So, you’ve finished your novel or memoir, or written up a great concept for a work of nonfiction. What next? This session will explore how to get your work sold to a publisher, including a brief orientation to today’s publishing world, the role of agents and how to get one, how to write a query letter and what materials you will need when reaching out to agents and publishers.
In your writing, do you shy away from writing highly charged scenes involving violence, sex, danger, mental illness, intoxication, or a character going through any type of intense physical or emotional state? During this presentation, we’ll confront the challenges of conveying the thrills and fears of the most intense moments of your work in fresh ways that engage your readers’ hearts and minds. We’ll analyze published work for inspiration, do writing exercises, then share the results to come up with common strategies for tackling this kind of challenge.
“… In American poetry, politics was the domain of the few and the fearless, poets like Adrienne Rich or Denise Levertov, whose outsize conscience justified such risky behavior. Even so, theirs weren’t the voices being discussed in workshops and craft seminars.” — Tracy K. Smith, U.S. Poet Laureate, from The New York Times
Why is writing a political poem considered to be dangerous? The purpose of our workshop is to challenge what Smith has written by examining the components necessary for creating a good political poem. What are the politics inside workshops that hamper the creation of political work? Who are the poets who successfully write about political issues and get away with it? There is a need for writers to reclaim language. It’s amazing how we respond to the word “political” as if it will taint our art. We seem to be trapped in word limitations. A reference to issues of “race,” for instance, and one immediately thinks about black and white relationships and not, for example, the relationship between blacks and Asians. How can we discuss or write about the environment or religion without thinking about the politics we either embrace or dodge? The times demand we love deeply and write without despair.
Workshop participants will be given exercises and advice that will be as important as voter registration. We will be reminded that we are Whitman’s children.
“When a writer is born into a family, the family is finished,” said the Nobel Prize-winning poet and essayist Czeslaw Milosz. This workshop will delve into the challenge presented by the self-revelatory nature of memoir and its subsequent impact on the members of the author’s family. How do we handle the relationship between our story and their history? When is a pseudonym sufficient? What is the nature of a subjective truth? Is the family indeed “finished,” or are there ways to ensure that you can tell your story without irreparable harm to the people you both love—and hate? These are just a few of the questions we’ll explore as we dive into the turbulent waters of the unique genre now known as “creative” non-fiction.
Linear narrative is fine, but would you like to leave it behind for a while and try something new? To create stories that move, jump, and reflect the fractured post-modern world we live in? Are you fascinated by the idea that stories can do something more than tell stories—that they can tell stories about, well, the art of telling stories? Then this is definitely the workshop for you. We’ll talk non-linear narratives and do some writing exercises that will get you thinking about new ways to deliver narrative in your stories. We’ll also talk about some tips, tricks, and shortcuts for springboarding excellent non-linear fiction, and we’ll brainstorm some of our own. You’ll take home a short piece of fractured writing to keep working on, and some further recommended reading, too.
The arguably best food writer ever, MFK Fisher, said she never wrote about food, she wrote about love. For generations, poets, fiction writers and non-fiction writers have used food as a portal into the deep emotional themes that drive literature. From Proust’s madeleine to the warm bread in Raymond Carver’s, “A Small, Good Thing,” food reminds the reader and the writer about love, despair, and hope.