Pam Houston's fiction-writing workshop at the 2011 Port Townsend Writers' Conference is now full, and a waiting list has been started. The Conference's other two other fiction-writing workshops, led by Sam Ligon and Cheryl Strayed, are also filling quickly.
Cheryl Strayed's critically acclaimed novel "Torch," selected by The Oregonian as one of the top ten books by Pacific Northwest writers, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006. Strayed's stories and essays have appeared in over a dozen magazines, journals, and anthologies, including twice in the Best American Essays anthology.
Class Description: "The Story You Have to Tell"
What’s the story you’re burning to tell? It this workshop we’ll go where the heat is by writing the stories that most compel you as a writer—not the stories you think you should tell or that your Aunt Edna would like to read or the stories you believe will become New York Times bestsellers. Our focus will be on the story that, for better or worse, keeps insisting on being told. We’ll talk about how to find stories and how to write them. We’ll examine sentences and scenes and structure. We’ll delve into the less definable elements of writing—things like the role of intuition, emotional risk-taking, and what David Foster Wallace called “the agenda of the consciousness behind the text.” Most of all, we’ll write every day so that by the end of the week at least some of the story you have to tell will be on the page. Registration is available here.
Sam Ligon is the author of the short-story collection “Drift and Swerve” and the novel “Safe in Heaven Dead.” His stories have appeared in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, StoryQuarterly, and New England Review. He teaches at Eastern Washington University’s Inland Northwest Center for Writers, and is the editor of Willow Springs.
Class Description: "Fiction and the Core Emotions: Writing from Life"
Fiction writers are often accused of appropriating other peoples’ life stories, and in fact to some degree we are guilty as charged. Since literary fiction always explores and is comprised of the core emotions of its characters—fear, shame, alienation, joy, jealousy, sadness, humor, etc.—fiction writers must be constantly attuned to narratives they hear, overhear, read, experience, stumble across or otherwise acquire; we are always on the lookout for stories which reveal and embody core emotions through character, action, and tone. This is so because while fiction isn’t factual, it must always be emotionally truthful and accurate. The best fiction is always driven by core emotions which ring true equally to the reader and the writer. In this class, we’ll be telling aloud the stories from our lives in which we’ve felt core emotions most acutely, focusing specifically on shame, fear, and joy, and then using elements of our stories and classmates’ stories to imagine and write a finished work of fiction that involves all three of these core emotions. That means contradictory and perhaps conflicting emotions will likely shape the fiction we produce and workshop. We will be using the stories “from life” that we hear and tell as raw material to create something more comprehensible than life—fiction. While we won’t be evaluating the experiences of each others’ lives, we will be discussing them and attempting to appropriate their emotional gravity in the short stories we produce. We’ll be especially interested in discovering which elements of the stories we hear and tell best lend themselves to incorporation in the fiction we write, and how that transformation from life to fiction might most effectively or artfully occur. Registration is available here.