The afternoon-workshop option, as part of the 38th annual Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, offers writers the chance to sample many different styles, genres, and forms from some of the finest literary teachers in the world. More information is available here.
Below, here is what’s happening just on Wednesday!
Susan Rich, Room H
“The Poetry of Travel”
Ever since Elizabeth Bishop’s “Questions of Travel” and “Arrival at Santos” contemporary poets have been in love with the tender, the ship, the journey itself. And yet in these fleeting glimpses of a border town or marketplace, airport bar or African village what can we see beyond our own limited gaze? The art of travel writing and the ethics of travel writing are inter-twined. In this workshop, we will examine both. Come prepared to talk, write, and travel.
Anne Germanacos, Room J
“Where Do a Story and a Life Sit in Relation to Each Other?”
We will examine various ways of writing into, through, and past the life to create a work that stands on its own—an object to be held in the mind, something to skate on, glide past, wander through. We’ll create objects made of words that will take the writer to a new place and will do the same—a quick, inexpensive, hassle-free journey—for the willing reader. Real objects—solid, liquid, or gas—may move between the states. So it is with our word-based things: any genre—or across them—will do.
Cate Marvin, Room N
“‘The Goose Girl Speaks to the Stove’: The Function of the Second-Person in the Work of Contemporary American Female Writers”
This afternoon talk will explore the many ways the second person address can function in poetry and prose. First, by employing a paradigm derived from the Grimms’ Fairy Tale “The Goose Girl,” we will examine the function of intimate address as employed in the work of several contemporary American female poets. Briefly, when the poet addresses a “you,” he or she establishes an immediate intimacy and positions the reader as eavesdropper. This rhetorical mode is nothing new; it’s been with us since the Greek lyric. It has, however, provided a means for the contemporary American female poet to speak candidly with regard to power dynamics inherent in gender roles, to interrogate what is deemed acceptable or unacceptable subject matter for a poem, to ratchet up a poem’s tonal range, and to, naturally, explore what it means to be a female writer.
Susan Landgraf, Room F
“We Are What We Eat”
Whether we live to eat or eat to live, eating (and shopping for food, peeling, shucking, scraping, mixing, kneading, cleaning up) takes up years of our lives. There are travelers who swear that the food on their travels was their most memorable—and certainly most unique—experience. This workshop will metamorphose into a kitchen while we look at poems about food and prepare a new “recipe” of our own.
Kelli Russell Agodon Room O
“How to Edit Like a Literary Editor”
So you’ve finished your poem or story, but is it really complete? Many times it’s the details that keeps our work in the good category and out of the great. This session will explore what we can do as writers to improve our final drafts by learning to look at our work with an editor’s eye. We will determine what our own “red-flags” are and learn how to avoid making careless mistakes in our writing. We will discover how to be the best editors of our own work and create finished pieces that both editors and readers will appreciate. Please bring copies of a two of three finished poems or a short story to help determine what you can do to strengthen your work.
Wendy Call, Room D
“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: Character Development”
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.
Michael Schein, Room K
“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.
Bob Shacochis, Room M
“Voice is Literature/Literature is Voice”
Voice is the x factor in quality writing, a presence much like a soul, essential to an identity and yet not exactly accessible to its owner. However much you know it’s there, it remains an elusive but indelible entity, easy to identify but difficult to create (or teach). The talk will attempt to define voice (as different from style or tone), and suggest strategies for developing and evolving your very own, one of a kind, singular voice—the absence of which prevents good writers from becoming great writers.
Brian Christian, Room L
“Exploding the Essay”
Our school system literally mandates the structure that children must use to
express their ideas—a shame, because the search for shape is one of the most important, and thrilling, steps in the writing process. The best nonfiction since antiquity has employed a breathtakingly wide range of structures, and this can sometimes be as important as the content—indeed, sometimes it is the content. We’ll look at these philosophers and writers—from the 19th century to the 21st—and explore the vast and wild possibilities of the essay form.