Autumn Fiction Workshop



with Rebecca Brown
November 2014

Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend WA
I identify as a woman. I identify as a man. I’m Armenian. My father’s family is Filipino and my mother’s family is Chinese. I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m Chicano. I was born on a tractor. I’m a New Yorker. I’m in the WIC program. I live in Bel Air. I’m a southerner (bless her heart). I’m from Philly. I live on the Upper East Side. I’m gay. I’m straight. I’m a Montana fly-fisherman. I’d like to use my EBT card to pay for this purchase. I’m questioning. I live in South Central LA. I’m Ted Turner. I’m a member of the Yakama Nation. I’m Salvadoran. I’m a snowbird. I’m a military brat. That’s my Lexus. I’m nisei. I’m Texan. I fled Cuba for Miami in 1959. I moved to South Beach in 1988 for the cocaine. I’m saddled with student loans. I’m from Reseda.

As writers we’re often told to “write what we know.” However, very often what we know is confined to our own limited gender, class, or geographical experiences, resulting in characters who are either thinly veiled versions of ourselves or are flat, lifeless stereotypes of other people. Is it possible to step fully into different experiences in order to create fully realized characters and work that approaches the condition of literature? How does a writer create honest, true characters from different gender, socio-economic, or geographical backgrounds? Is there a difference between cultural appropriation and the creation of character? What stories do we have, or have not, the right—and the responsibility—to tell?

In this workshop, these are the questions we ask and explore. We begin by telling three true stories that will serve as fuel for discussion—and as raw material for fiction. We tell one another a story informed by our own gender background, a story informed by our socio-economic background, and a story informed by our geographical background. We don’t evaluate the experiences of each others’ lives. Rather, we tell and listen to these stories and then attempt to incorporate their emotional gravity into our fiction. Finding inspiration in these stories, we then write a short piece and workshop this piece as a group.

Since fiction doesn’t necessarily have to be factual, but always emotionally truthful and accurate, we try to determine which elements of the stories we hear seem to best lend themselves to fiction, and how the transformation from life to fiction might most effectively or artfully occur. Finally, we do what we always do as fiction writers—struggle to find the story and to reveal our characters as complex, messy, contradictory human beings.

Rebecca BrownRebecca Brown

Rebecca’s latest book, American Romances (City Lights 2010), is a collection of gonzo essays that put Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) and Hawthorne on the same page and reveals the secret sex life of H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. It won the Publishing Triangle’s Judy Grahn award for nonfiction in 2010. Her previous books with City Lights include The Last Time I Saw You (2005) and The End of Youth, (2003). Her book Excerpts From A Family Medical Dictionary (Granta, UK and University of Wisconsin Press, USA) was published in February of 2004. She is also the author of The Gifts of the Body, The Terrible Girls, Annie Oakley’s Girl, The Haunted House, The Children’s Crusade, and What Keeps Me Here. Her work has been awarded the Boston Book Review Award for fiction, The Lambda Literary Award, The Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, and a Washington State Governor’s Award and a Stranger Genius Award.

Rebecca Brown’s exploration of different literary forms led to writing a libretto for The Onion Twins, a dance opera by Better Biscuit Dance that premiered in 2005. In 2005, her first two act play, The Toaster, premiered at the New City Theater in Seattle. Her book The Terrible Girls was adapted for theater by About Face Theater in Chicago, and she has also written performance texts for Launch Dance company. The Los Angeles New Short Fiction Series adapted four pieces from The End of Youth for performance in November 2003. For a number of years Rebecca conducted a series of irreverent public talks sponsored by the Seattle Opera that offered pop culture/feminist/literary and goofy analysis of opera. With painter Nancy Kiefer, she made a book of text and image called Woman in Ill Fitting Wig.

Rebecca is an immensely popular teacher and among many other awards and roles, served as Artistic Director of Literary Programs at Centrum.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

  • 3:30 pm-8 pm: arrival
  • 6-8 pm: welcome gathering and introductions

Friday, November 7, 2014

  • 9 am–noon: class session
  • 1-4 pm: class session

Saturday, November 8, 2014

  • 9 am–noon: class session
  • 1-4 pm: class session
  • 7-9 pm: class session

Sunday, November 9, 2014

  • 11 am: departure for those staying in Fort housing