We’re offering online classes year round! Taught by some of our favorite writers, these three-hour online classes combine close readings, practical advice, and in-class writing exercises.
If you’d like to be notified about our upcoming online programming, including lectures, multi-week workshops and craft intensives before they’re added to the website, sign up here!
By Sight: Visual Poetics and Storytelling with Courtney Faye Taylor
Saturday, October 1
10 AM – 1 PM PST
As poets, we use written and spoken language to interpret the world. But what happens when we engage topics that require a different language entirely? How do we alter our manner of storytelling when words alone don’t suffice? In this workshop, we’ll merge found objects with creative writing to explore the unique narratives made possible through visual poetics and storytelling. To do this, we’ll interact with documents, magazines, videos, photographs, clothing, heirlooms, and other objects that induce questions in us. Our interactions will involve cutting, overlaying, erasing, digitizing, writing—any and all actions required to harness the stories that emerge from these objects. By the end of the workshop, each participant will have the beginnings of a new visual narrative or poem.
Note: Participants should bring an array of physical and/or digital found materials to workshop. Participants should also bring tools like scissors, canvas, glue, needle and thread—anything that helps them work with their materials.
F*%$ing with the Rules of Fiction with Eman Quotah
Sunday, October 9
10 AM – 1 PM PST
“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 Quan Barry, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Toni Morrison, Michael Ondaatje, Marilynne Robinson, and Charles Yu. 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.
The Enemy You Know: Writing Social Media into Fiction with Isle McElroy
Sunday, October 30
9 AM PST – 12PM PST
Social media is often portrayed as the enemy of writers–it steals our time, it loosens our thoughts, it clips our sentences. However, like any good enemy, we might benefit from bringing it closer, borrowing the very elements that make it so time-consuming in the first place. In this craft intensive, writers will study excerpts from recent fictions that explore how social media might appear in a variety of texts: as character development, defamiliarization, a formal experiment, a gateway to genre, and more. Generative craft exercises will show writers how to employ these same writing strategies in their prose. For better or worse, social media doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, and authors looking to capture the hectic nature of contemporary life can benefit from using elements of social media to texture and intensify their fiction.
Every Action is a Spell: Finding the Magic in our Stories with Emme Lund
Saturday, November 12
11 AM PST – 2PM PST
If we could talk to trees, tap into their roots and fungal networks, what would they say? A caterpillar dissolves until it is entirely liquid and then it puts itself back together as a butterfly. A fairy has flitted around the room and landed atop my wrist before zooming out the window.
In this class, we will learn to develop the skills necessary to see the magic that exists in our world. We’ll do a generative writing exercise. Then, we’ll study a few stories e.g. Kelly Link, Borges, maybe even Gogol. Then we’ll do a spell. Our eyes will be opened to the magic in the (virtual) room, and we will capture it on the page. Part generative writing session, part craft course, part magic spell, this class seeks to undo the ways capitalism and colonialism has closed us off from the magical realm. Bring some tea, a candle, and an open mind.
Tension in Fiction with Zeyn Joukhadar
Sunday, November 20
11 AM – 2 PM PST
If a story is perpetual movement, and structure is a means of organizing that movement, then tension is the fuel that gets us where we want to go. In this online craft intensive for writers of both short and long-form fiction, we will talk about controlling the flow of information in our narrative and how this creates pace and contributes to keeping the tension high throughout our work. We will discuss how tension is influenced by an understanding of (and is made possible by) character development, the flow of time, point of view, and the juxtaposition of multiple story threads. We’ll explore the pros and cons of various techniques to enhance and sustain tension, including circularity, symbol, use of B story and supporting characters, as well as nonlinear structures and fragmentation, using generative exercises to help us practice these techniques and explore how to employ them effectively in our own fiction.
It’s Complicated: Writing Rich, Nuanced Relationships in Fiction with Natalia Sylvester
Wednesday, December 8
2 – 5 PM PST
Open to writers of all levels and across all categories of fiction (children, YA, adults) in this class we’ll delve into ways to develop character relationships—from the newly emerging to the deeply rooted, from the central to the peripheral, from the joyous to the estranged. Understanding not only who our characters are, but who they are to one another, can shape how an entire story begins and evolves. Using multi-genre excerpts across age categories, we’ll study glimpses into relationships and explore that of our own characters through generative exercises that embrace playfulness, fearlessness, and honesty. Taking into account power and cultural dynamics across varied lived experiences, we’ll look beyond those closest to our protagonists to more fully understand their sense of self and place amongst the world and people who surround them. Students will leave with written drafts and ways to turn to character relationships when asking the question: what now?
Deepening Character with Lydia Conklin
NOTIFY ME WHEN THIS CLASS IS AVAILABLE AGAIN!
This session will explore ways to deepen character in fiction. We will take a look at a few brief novel excerpts from Jessamine Chan, Katie Kitamura, and Richard Yates, and discuss the ways these writers use propulsive interiority and high emotional stakes to bring characters alive. We will discuss roadblocks in character building and explore some tactics for deepening characters that are hard to access, using the sample texts as blueprints. The session will build to the execution of a developmental writing prompt using characters the participants have previously developed, and we will all share work with the group. Students will leave with a deeper understanding of how to deepen and enrich characters within their short stories and novels.