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Craft Intensives

Craft Intensives

December, 2021

Tin House is thrilled to announce our Winter Craft Intensives. These 3-hour-long classes combine close readings, discussions, and in-class writing prompts to offer a potent dose of inspiration and explore what makes writing work (when it works). 


2021 Winter Craft Intensives 
All times EST

An Occasion For the Telling, with Jonathan Escoffery

Thursday, December 2nd, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST
Energetic prose and unforgettable characters are often said to be the bedrocks of literary fiction. Fully fleshed out characters have implied histories and futures that never make it onto the page, so what dictates where and when a character’s problems and desires become worthy of dramatization? And what determines where that dramatization ends? And, finally, how do you know when your story is undercooked, over-inflated, or fully realized? In this generative intensive, we’ll use prompts to create story-worthy characters and explore how elements such as repetition, reversals, suspense, and tension-building can help us determine the contours of the worlds we create.


Finding the Form, with Cyree Jarelle Johnson
Thursday, December 2nd, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST
Form, as it relates to how influence, style, and shape affects the way a poem manifests itself, is part of most of our practices whether or not it’s a conscious choice. In this workshop, participants will bring a work in progress, name its current form, and seek to make that form as intentional as possible. We will think critically about the uses of traditional form, and how to deliberately deviate from those inheritances. We will be guided by the work of Patricia Smith, Tyehimba Jess, Terrance Hayes, Kim Addonizio, Lucille Clifton and Audre Lorde among others. The first hour of the workshop will be discussion and inquiry based. We will work through our remixes and revisions in the final two hours. Students will leave the workshop with at least two drafts, and as such are advised to bring a poem no longer than one and a half pages.


Invention & Speculation in Creative Nonfiction: Trust Techniques for Writing What You Don’t Know, with Tessa Fontaine
Thursday, December 2nd, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST
Our memories are flawed, perception  limited, experiences constrained to our own lives. And yet, as we’re writing creative nonfiction, we often come up against important moments or questions that dwell outside the known facts—what then? In this practical, hands-on class, we’ll examine the techniques that a handful of writers use to address the unknown in nonfiction, and engage in mini-writing prompts to practice the techniques along the way. This is a generative workshop, where you’ll be asked to read, discuss, and write in class, with the goal of coming away with new skills and writing that you’re excited to keep working on.


Lists, Diagrams, Forms: A Generative Short Essay Workshop, with Krys Malcolm Belc
Thursday, December 2nd, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST
Often confounding in their closed-looped constraint, forms, diagrams, and lists can also provide generative jumping-off points for essayists. We will study examples of work that pushes on the boundaries of what a list, form, and diagram can be, (examples: Mary-Kim Arnold, Dustin Parsons, and others). These writers take prescriptive forms to compelling, funny, challenging, and lyric places. How can writers exploit the visual interest granted by these forms, develop voice and forward movement, and avoid coy gimmickry? After craft discussion, participants will have a number of generative prompts and tools to begin to draft their own formal experiments.

F*%$ing with the Rules of Fiction, with Eman Quotah

Sunday, December 5th, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm EST
“Bigger than all the rules is the story.”—Lee K. Abbott
How do you tell a story? It should be as easy as making a sandwich, as instinctual as breathing. But Anglophone fiction (whether short-form or long-form) has rules. And many of us have a hard time knowing when to follow, bend, break, or ignore them. In this course, writers will define the conventions that matter to them—or don’t—and make their own list of rules. We’ll discuss the conventional and unconventional wisdom regarding fundamentals such as character, setting, and place, plot and action, structure, and chronology. We’ll read short excerpts to examine the rule-breaking and following of authors such as Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Jonathan Franzen, and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. We’ll talk about how those of us inspired by non-Western and non-European storytelling traditions might approach the rules of Anglophone fiction differently. Through writing exercises, we’ll generate work and experiment with strategically ditching the rules. Writers will leave the course with a deeper understanding of how to put rules in service of the story, and not the other way around. Writers will get the most out of this course if they have some experience with short fiction or a novel in progress.


REAL YA, with Hugh “H.D.” Hunter
Sunday, December 5th, 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm EST
One of the biggest challenges YA writers face with craft is nailing the voice. How can you design the essence of a narrative voice that feels authentic enough to build a bridge for young readers to connect? And that’s before we get into subcultural dialogue and dialects! Young readers deserve voices, worlds, and stories that represent them well, in complex and nuanced ways. We can write our way to that – and we will. This three-hour generative class will focus on narrative voice, story anchors, and worldbuilding that supports writing YA with a measure of authenticity, all in service of writing stuff about kids that feels … let’s be honest … not like stuff that old people wrote about kids.
You can expect to generate several of the writing pieces below during our time together:
-A partial main character profile
-An outline or refinement of your story issue (major plot conflict)-
-Story nuggets from 1 – 3 quick write prompts
-Longer prose (or chosen style) drafts from a cumulative 1 to 1.5 hours of writing


Neither/Nor: Writing Hybrid Nonfiction, with Matthew Specktor
Sunday, Dec 5, 3:00 pm-6:00 pm EST
The first question among the many that bedevil us as writers is this one: What am I writing? Should this be a memoir or a personal essay? A work of criticism? A piece of food- or travel writing? To which I suggest, “Why choose?” This craft intensive will look at the possibilities offered by hybrid nonfiction forms both long and short, as well as some of the constraints that might allow these forms to flourish, to seem dynamic rather than wayward and arbitrary. We’ll perform close readings of texts by Terry Castle, Hanif Abdurraqib and others, and enact a generative exercise or two that will allow us to explore some of these possibilities for ourselves, connecting personal history with critical- or observational writing. Participants will leave the workshop with an expanded sense of their own writing’s capabilities, some strategies for how to proceed in this mode, and the beginnings of a new hybrid work.


 Truth in Fragmentation, with Terese Marie Mailhot
Monday, December 6th, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm EST
The way trauma and time fragments memory has always informed the organization of my work and its mission. In this workshop, we’ll write the first draft of an essay in fragmented form. This workshop will be helpful for those of us writing about generational trauma, family and formed family, history, memory, and healing. We’ll discuss creating dynamism for yourself and others on the page, how to cultivate a singular and truthful work and how to write through the hard stuff when the work is worth it.



Jonathan Escoffery

Jonathan Escoffery is the author of If I Survive You, a collection of linked stories, forthcoming fall 2022 from MCD/ FSG, as well as the forthcoming novel, Play Stone Kill Bird. He is the winner of The Paris Review’s 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction and is the recipient of a 2020 National Endowment for the Arts (Prose) Literature Fellowship. His story “Under the Ackee Tree” was among the trio that won the Paris Review the 2020 ASME Award for Fiction from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and was subsequently included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2020  . His most recent stories have appeared in The Paris Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended ReadingZYZZYVA and American Short Fiction. Jonathan has taught creative writing and seminars at the University of Minnesota, Writers in Progress, and at GrubStreet in Boston, where, as former staff, he founded the Boston Writers of Color Group, which currently has more than 2,000 members. He has received support and honors from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Aspen Words, Kimbilio Fiction, the Anderson Center, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s Creative Writing MFA Program (Fiction), where he was a DOVE fellow and a fellow in the Community of Scholars program. He is a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and attends the University of Southern California’s Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature Program as a Provost Fellow.

Cyree Jarelle Johnson

Cyree Jarelle Johnson is a poet and writer from Piscataway, NJ. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Boston Review, WUSSY, The Wanderer, Vice, Rewire News, The Root, and Nat. Brut among other publications. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University with support from Davis Putter Scholarship Fund.

SLINGSHOT, his first collection of poetry, won a 2020 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Poetry, and is available now from Nightboat Books. Development of the work was supported by Astraea Foundation’s Global Arts Fund, Culture/Strike Climate Change and Environmental Justice Fellowship, and the Rewire News Disabled Writers Fellowship. He is a recipient of a 2020 Ruth Lilly & Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Foundation, and is the inaugural Brooklyn Public Library Poet-In-Residence. Find him on Twitter and Instagram at @cyreejarelle 

Tessa Fontaine

Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors' Choice, finalist for the Utah Book Award, and best book of 2018 from Southern Living, Amazon Editors, Refinery29PopMatters, and the New York Post. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Other writing can be found in Outside, Creative Nonfiction, Glamour, The Believer and The New York Times Book Review. Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa has taught in prisons and jails, led educational programs for New York Times Student Journeys, designed Experiences and Trips for Atlas Obscura, founded Salt Lake City’s Writers in the Schools program, and taught creative writing in colleges and universities around the country. These days, Tessa lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Project Description: I'm writing about violence, mostly violence against women, and the price of collective safety. The novel takes place in a small community in Northern California, where a group of people believe that in their valley, women can’t be hurt. They are immune from violence. The story follows a young woman whose mother disappears, and what she uncovers as she searches for the truth.

Krys Malcolm Belc

Krys Malcolm Belc is the author of the memoir The Natural Mother of the Child (Counterpoint) and the flash nonfiction chapbook In Transit (The Cupboard Pamphlet). His essays have been featured in Granta, Black Warrior Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere, and his work has been anthologized in Wigleaf Top 50, Best of the Net 2018, and in The Best of Brevity: Twenty Years of Groundbreaking Flash Nonfiction (Rose Metal Press). Krys has won contests at Redivider and Pigeon Pages and his work has been supported by the Sustainable Arts Foundation. He received his BA from Swarthmore College, his M.Ed in Special Education from Arcadia University, and his MFA in Creative Writing at Northern Michigan University. Krys lives in Philadelphia with his partner and their three young children. You can find Krys at and on Twitter at @krysmalcolmbelc

Eman Quotah

Eman Quotah is the author of the novel Bride of the Sea. She grew up in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Toast, The Establishment, Book Riot, Literary Hub, Electric Literature and other publications. She lives with her family near Washington, D.C.

Hugh “H.D.” Hunter

Hugh “H.D.” Hunter is a storyteller, teaching artist, and community organizer from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s the author of two self-published books, as well as Futureland (Random House, 2022), and Something Like Right (FSG, 2023). He's also the winner of several indie book awards for multicultural fiction. 
Hugh is committed to stories about Black kids and their many expansive worlds. He loves vegan snacks, basketball, and stories that make you cry -- but make you smile after. According to some, he's the world's fastest reviser. Check out Hugh’s work at and follow him @hd_tsd.

Matthew Specktor

Matthew Specktor’s books include the novels That Summertime Sound and American Dream Machine, which was long-listed for the Folio Prize; the memoir-in-criticism Always Crashing in The Same Car: On Art, Crisis, and Los Angeles, California, and The Golden Hour, forthcoming from Ecco Press. Born in Los Angeles, he received his BA from Hampshire College in 1988, and his MFA in Creative Writing from Warren Wilson College in 2009. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, The Paris Review, Tin House, Black Clock, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. He is a founding editor of the Los Angles Review of Books.

Terese Marie Mailhot

Terese Mailhot is from Seabird Island Band. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Elle, Granta, Mother Jones, Medium, Al Jazeera, the Los Angeles Times, and "Best American Essays." She is the New York Times bestselling author of "Heart Berries: A Memoir." Her book was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award for English-Language Nonfiction, and was selected by Emma Watson as the Our Shared Shelf Book Club Pick for March/April 2018. Her book was also the January 2020 pick for Now Read This, a book club from PBS Newshour and The New York Times. Heart Berries was also listed as an NPR Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year, a Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year, and was one of Harper's Bazaar's Best Books of 2018. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award, and she is also the recipient of the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature.


Admissions are rolling—first-come-first-served—and will fill fast! You do not need to submit an application, just use the link to sign-up. After submitting payment, you will receive an email with registration information.

Classes are held on Zoom. You do not need a paid account to participate.

All craft intensives are capped at 21 participants, with one full tuition waiver per class. We offer payment plans, which allow you to split the payments over three months. To request a payment plan, please email

Tuition waivers are extremely limited and granted based on a lottery. If you would like to be put on the lottery list, please email with your class preference. If you receive a tuition waiver, we ask that you wait 6 months before applying for another one. Tuition waivers for December classes are no longer available. 

Refunds are available up until a week before the Craft Intensive starts, after which we cannot offer refunds.