We’re down to just one space in our fiction workshops for the 2011 Port Townsend Writers’ Conference. One space remains in Cheryl Strayed’s workshop: the workshops of Sam Ligon and Pam Houston are full, with waiting lists started. Learn more here!
Space does remain, for our afternoon-workshop offerings, featuring a wide variety of topics in fiction and nonfiction. More information is available here, but here is a sampling of the terrific afternoon workshops that will be led by such writers as Ligon, Midge Raymond, and Michael Schein. These classes are all stand-alone ninety-minute sessions.
• Sam Ligon “The Short-Short Story”
In his novel “In Search of Lost Time,” Proust talks about the tyranny of rhyme forcing poets into some of their greatest lines. But prose writers have less experience with formal constraints, like rhyme, to put pressure on lines, and as a means to consider form in general. In this class we’ll examine the form of the short-short story, how it often works (and doesn’t), as well as how formal constraint can change the way we approach line and story. Because there’s so little space in a short-short, evocative outlines, shadows, implication, and suggestion hover at the edges. Short-shorts tend to rely on surprise, a hard, tight turn at the end. They can feel elliptical or fragmented, and are not always concerned with depth and complexity of character as much as with emotional gravity within a moment. Lydia Davis calls the short-short “a nervous form of story.” Charles Baxter says the short-short needs “surprise, a quick turning of the wrist toward texture, something suddenly broken or quickly repaired.” Mark Strand says, “its end is erasure.”
• Midge Raymond “Setting the Scene”
Place plays an important role in any story, from offering insight into characters to creating a mood. This workshop will help you get a sense of the where in your writing, from researching places to incorporating details and dialogue. We’ll look at classic and contemporary examples of how writers use setting to flesh out stories—and a variety of writing prompts will teach you how to pay attention to place in your work.
• Michael Schein “Piloting the Time Machine: Challenges of Historical Fiction”
You’ve heard of being all dressed up with nowhere to go—what about having everywhere to go and not knowing what to wear or how to get there? These are among the special challenges of historical fiction—you may know your story and characters, but what are they wearing? Riding? Eating? Talking about? What do they smell like? Care about? Believe? And even if you’ve mastered all this, remember—the past isn’t just the present in funny clothes; it’s how you deploy your research that counts. Your readers expect a ride on a time machine; here’s where you start training for your pilot’s license.
The complete list of afternoon workshops is available here.