Workshops & Classes

Special Anniversary Class with Ross Gay 

Lyric Archiving

This generative class will feature a series of writing experiments, including mapping, dreamwork, drawing, and collage work. Writers from all genres are encouraged to attend.


Class with Hannah Bae

From the Past to the Page: The Role of Research in Writing Creative Nonfiction

When it comes to writing creative nonfiction, investigating the past is key to understanding our present. In this craft-based class, writers of all experience levels will learn about how they can draw from research, reporting and history – memories, photographs, archives, myths, language and other sources – to inform their writing. We’ll talk about how any writer can incorporate research into their process, weaving in facts and history to invigorate our personal narratives, ultimately allowing our stories to move beyond the strictly individual realm.


Class with Shawna Ayoub

Writing Through Trauma

Studies show that​ ​writers enjoy a slew of physical and emotional health benefits​, but for people who use writing as a way to work through trauma, the benefits are even more pronounced. A 2005 study concluded, “Researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference. By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma.”

By writing about the stress and turmoil in our lives, we can not only reduce it, but we can also make art that resonates and connects with readers to encourage empathy, compassion, and respect.


Class with Brando Skyhorse

Top Three Reasons Why Agents/Editors Reject A Book

If you’ve ever sent any material to an agent or an editor and had that material rejected, chances are the note read something like this: “Thank you for sending us your work. There’s much to admire in your manuscript, but I’m afraid that, in the end, I just didn’t make the connection with the material that I would need in order to pursue further.” In this class, we’ll briefly cover the top three reasons an agent or an editor passes on a manuscript, how to fix those issues in your work, and learn how to write an effective query letter that most effectively describes your work (or “pitch” your work) to potential agents and editors.


Four Classes with Joseph Cassara 

Narrative Voice in Short Fiction

In this course, we will closely examine the fundamentals of sustaining narratorial control in short fiction. Over the course of the week, we will read and analyze stories by Alice Munro, Rivka Galchen, James Baldwin, and Bryan Washington to study how writers control, wield, and deploy a variety of strategies to incite curiosity, build momentum, and sustain a story from beginning to end. Some questions we will ask ourselves are: How reliable are our narrators, and how do we cue readers to trust (or distrust) the people telling the story? How do we decide what to reveal and when? Where does a story begin and end, and how do we ensure that the middle terrain of a story is paced in a way that feels propulsive? How do we evoke a sense of mysticism in our readers without being overly mysterious? 


Four Classes with Tiana Clark

Breaching the Boundary: Explicating and Writing Ekphrastic Poetry       

Ekphrastic poetry responds to visual art by making a static image sing. Edward Hirsch suggests, “There is something transgressive in writing about the visual arts, in approaching the painter, the sculptor, or the photographer's work in words. A border is crossed, a boundary breached, as the writer enters into the spatial realm, traducing the abyss, violating the silent integrity of the pictorial.”

In this class, we will be delving into those poetic ruptures by investigating ekphrastic poetry from contemporary examples. My hope is that we grasp the various modern approaches to ekphrastic poetry. It is my hope that you can translate and deepen your poetic instincts by learning how to challenge and interact with other art forms. Please come to class with a visual art piece in mind. You can pick from a painting, photograph, play, movie, and beyond.

 

Breaking the 4th Wall in Poetry

Kenneth Burke states that the notion of “appetite” involves expectations and cravings, which can be understood in the context of form: “Form in literature is an arousing and fulfillment of desires. A work has form in so far as one part of it leads a reader to anticipate another part, to be gratified by the sequence.” But what if you want to interrupt that sense of expectation in a poem and invent something new, or what if the poem demands a deviation? What does it mean to skillfully break form, or as Harold Bloom says “swerve away” from our literary predecessors? For me, I find breaking the 4th wall in poetry to be an exciting, fresh enterprise leading to revelation and most importantly surprise, because as we know from Robert Frost, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” 

In this class, we will be discussing several types of breaking techniques with poetry examples from Ross Gay, Jericho Brown, Denis Johnson, Jennifer Chang, and more.

 

Making and Breaking forms: The Ghazal

I used to be afraid of form. As a beginning poet, I had felt psychologically liberated and wonderfully free from constraint when writing in free verse. My unadulterated appreciation of free form, however, changed after explicating Phillis Wheatley’s (Peters) poems. I learned that I could use the compression demanded by traditional forms to add subtlety and nuance to my work. What I had always preferred to write, and what was familiar to me, were loud and long poems. Working within the challenging constraints of form, however, I began to develop new techniques for crafting my poems. Instead of barreling pell-mell through a poem, I learned restraint. I forced myself to apply the rules and regulations for writing in received forms, and when I did my writing process slowed down. As I tried to figure out a sequence of end words or a rhyme scheme that would satisfy the demands of a sonnet or sestina, my ear for language began to sharpen. My syntax moved toward formal concision and became more musical. I was teaching myself another approach to making a poem. I was surprised at the new realms of expression that opened themselves to me under this new and slower approach. Previously, I had a feeling of constriction, confinement, and frustration when experimenting with a new form, but I experienced a sense of play as I strove to fulfill the received form’s repetition and prescribed order.

 

In this class, we will be delving into that sense of play by finding freedom in form instead of fear! We will be making and breaking forms with the ghazal, an Arabic verse often dealing with loss and love in couplets, with an elaborate rhyme scheme.

Singing in the Dark: Writing about Trauma and Healing

In the dark times

Will there also be singing?

Yes, there will also be singing.

About the dark times.

―Bertolt Brecht

 

 After a great pain, a formal feeling comes

―Emily Dickinson

Traumatic events happen to all of us, which can throttle the entire human organism. “The body continues to defend against a threat that belongs to the past,” writes Bessel van der Kolk. Triggers can often happen in flashes, messy and unorganized. However, I think writing a poem can sometimes help structure and provide scaffolding for that inner chaos with attention to the contours of language, syntax, and prosody. And this is why I love writing and exploring poetry: to stop time for the length of a poem and become myself again and celebrate the gift of words and memory. I write to access that pulse, that blood-jet, that wine-dark optimism in the beating heart of the poem, the punctum: “that accident which pricks, bruises me,” Roland Barthes once said. I’m hoping to glean and stretch the personal and universal implications with some lingering resonance, and maybe even a little healing insight too. 

 I often say that poetry continually saves my life, because it helps to translate my ache and anger, my joy and confusion. I’ve spent some time looking back at the creation of my first book, which encounters and interrogates black pain as well as sexual assault. I’ve gained some insights to help me wade through and untie complicated somatic tangles on the page. 

In this class, we will encounter poems that tackle trauma and survival through the lens of grief and gratitude by examining poems from Lucille Clifton, Toi Derricote, Jack Gilbert, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi. We will discuss, write, and share our work in hopes of reaching for that dazzling poetic hum in the darkness together.