Noted creative nonfiction writer Wendy Call will be leading a sequence of six creative nonfiction workshops this July 8-15. You can drop in on one–or take the whole sequence! Happening from 2 to 3:30 pm everyday, they are, in order:
Monday, July 9
“Build Your Own Rainbow: Narrative Arc”
In this 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.
Tuesday, July 10
“Just Who’s Telling This Story, Anyway?: First-person Narrator”
In this workshop, 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.”
Wednesday, July 11
“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.
Thursday, July 12
“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.
succintly while suspending disbelief.
Friday, July 13
“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.
Saturday, July 14
“I love your je ne sais quoi…: Style”
In this workshop, 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.
Registration is available here (simply select the option Six Afternoon Workshops) or by calling 360-385-3102, x131. Space also remains in the core nonfiction workshops of Diane Roberts and Judith Kitchen.
Diane Roberts [July 8-15]
Diane Roberts’s latest book, “Dream State,” about her politically prominent (and very odd) family has been called “perfect,” as well as “hilarious,” “wild,” “fun,” “strange,”and “splendid.” Roberts’s previous two books –“Faulkner and Southern Womanhood” and “The Myth of Aunt Jemima”–are explorations of Southern culture. She is also a journalist, writing op-ed pieces for The New York Times, The New Republic, and The Times of London. She is a political columnist for The St. Petersburg Times in Florida and makes documentaries for BBC Radio in London, where she also spends part of the year. She has been a commentator for NPR since 1993 and she writes for the Washington Post.
Nonfiction can seem like the red-headed stepchild of the writerly arts, not quite as Olympian as poetry, a little less sexy than fiction. But truth can set you free–free to illuminate the weirdness (or beauty or pain or humor or outrage or heroism or horror) of the everyday world. In this workshop, we will work on nonfiction techniques, including how to be a good observer, how to edit real life, and how to tell a story economically, effectively, and (we hope) elegantly. It would be good for you to arrive with a draft of a piece of nonfiction you’re working on, or an outline for something you want to do. Your project can be an essay or a book chapter or something even longer. I would also like for you to bring an example of somebody else’s nonfiction which resonates with you and teaches you something about how to write. It can be a piece in the New Yorker or a piece of New Journalism (not so new any more, of course) by Hunter S. Thompson or Tom Wolfe, Thoreau on Walden Pond or Dillard on Tinker Creek, Mencken on the South or M.F.K. Fisher on food. We’ll talk about it–and your stuff, too. Register.
Judith Kitchen [July 8-15]
Judith Kitchen is the author of five books, including “Perennials” (poetry), “Only the Dance,” “Distance and Direction,” and ” The House on Eccles Road.” Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including recent essays in Prairie Schooner, the Colorado Review, and the Georgia Review. She has also edited three collections of short nonfiction pieces for W. W. Norton. Her awards include two Pushcart prizes in nonfiction and the Lillian Fairchild award. A former instructor at SUNY College at Brockport, she also served as editor and publisher of the State Street Press Chapbook Series. She currently serves on the faculty of the Rainier Writing Workshop Low-Residency MFA at Pacific Lutheran University. Register.
“To Memoir or to Essay”
At some point in the writing process, a writer of autobiographical nonfiction comes to a fork in the road. Will this stuff of the life become memoir, or essay? The focus of this workshop will be to determine how your work is best served by thinking along these lines. Each day will open with a short discussion of one aspect of craft—or style, or perspective. Then we will look at the work submitted by workshop members, building a group “vocabulary” for talking about issues of craft. At the end of each session, I’ll suggest an “exercise” designed to extend the discussion—something you can do later in the day if you have time, or can take home with you for later thought. By the end of the week, you should have ideas for how you might design a longer project. Submit: Up to 12 pages of nonfiction, double-spaced, by June 1, 2012. Send them electronically to Jordan. Be sure to put your name and email address at the top of the first page. I’ll put them in an order so we can develop and deepen our discussion and return them to you electronically so you can prepare for the workshop.