Creative nonfiction writer Wendy Call has created six new creative nonfiction workshops for the 2011 Port Townsend Writers' Conference, entitled "Six Keys to Nonfiction Prose."
As part of the Conference's afternoon workshop series, they can be taken as a full set, or individually, as best fits your needs.
Six days, six keys. In each workshop session, we’ll explore one essential element of creative nonfiction – tools that you can use whether you are writing memoir, travel narrative, personal essay, history, or literary journalism. We’ll dissect examples from creative nonfiction masters, looking at the gorgeous rooms they unlock with these six keys: narrative arc, the first-person narrator, character, cinematic scenes, theme, and style. Each afternoon, we’ll also roll up our sleeves and get to writing, putting our new skills to work in our nonfiction prose. These workshops can be taken independently, or all together – everyone is welcome to attend just one, all six, or any number in between!
Build Your Own Rainbow: Narrative Arc
In our first afternoon workshop, we’ll talk about how to build (and rebuild) a sturdy structure for your story. How do you create a narrative arc? What might one look like? Why have one at all? With help from Eduardo Galeano and Sandra Cisneros, we’ll answer all these questions and more, then we’ll map our own color-filled arcs.
Just Who’s Telling This Story, Anyway? First-person narrator
On Day #2, we’ll explore the multi-faceted role of the first-person narrator in nonfiction prose. We’ll explore narrators created by several writers, including Sherman Alexie and James Agee. Next, we’ll create character sketches of our own first-person narrators, and learn how to tame that three-headed monster: author, first-person narrator, and “I-character.”
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: Character Development
On hump day, we’ll delve into character development, which is just as important in nonfiction as it is in fiction. We’ll talk about how we can make compelling characters out of real people – without making anything up. Come ready to ask and answer challenging questions about your main character. Examples from Elizabeth Gilbert and Katherine Boo will provide inspiration.Though designed for nonfiction writers, this workshop is equally appropriate for fiction writers.
Every Page is a Stage: Scene Shop
Whether your nonfiction tends toward the narrative or the lyrical, the shimmering image and the stellar scene are essential components. We’ll take a look at cinematic scenes by master writers George Orwell and Luis Alberto Urrea and break them down to their component parts. Finally, we’ll create our own stage on the page and let the action roll.
What’s the Big Idea? Theme
There’s the situation, then there’s the story. How do we braid them together, with that elusive third element: theme? We’ll ask ourselves hard questions about the big ideas of our true stories. Are they big enough? Are they too big? Rebecca McClanahan and Vivian Gornick will inspire us to braid our own just-big-enough ideas into our stories.
I love your je ne sais quoi… Style
On the last day of the Six Keys Series, Saturday, we’ll ask perhaps the toughest of questions: Just how do they do it? How do writers create voices on the page so singular that we recognize them immediately? We’ll look at short examples by David Foster Wallace and Joan Didion, parse their inimitable and unmistakable styles, and explore our own.