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YWW: Workshops

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Yale Writers' Workshops Course Descriptions 2019

Session I

In Session I writers will participate in workshops, lectures, individual conferences and readings intended to broaden their understanding of the craft of writing. Visiting faculty will deliver craft talks to all workshop participants. And because we write to be read, in Session I we will have panels of agents and editors to provide insight into the publishing process and the realities of the writer’s life.

Session II

Session II is intended for writers concentrating in a specific genre. Over four days, participants will meet in a seminar with fellow writers, led by a faculty member established in the field. The seminar will include exercises and readings as well as discussion of student work. During the session, faculty will hold half-hour, one-to-one meetings with participants.

Alumni Workshop: Work in Progress

Offered for YWW alumni only, this 10 day workshop allows alumni to work with an instructor on a work in progress.

Fiction

Sybil Baker

In addition to workshopping each participant’s story or novel excerpt, we will also have mini-craft sessions, where we work on and discuss issues such as reading like a writer, dialogue, scene building, as well as short story and novel structure and development. We’ll also work on writing exercises and revision strategies to take with you after you leave YWW. Short stories and novel excerpts are welcome.

Kirsten Bakis

Work In Progress Intensive. This unique ten-day workshop is designed for writers working on book-length material: fiction or nonfiction, taught by YWW faculty member Kirsten Bakis. This cohort of just eight writers will meet and write for ten days next June. (Read: you’re in New Haven for both sessions.) This program is open to YWW alumni only. In Session I writers will critique 7000 words from their fellow writers’ manuscripts. Exercises and readings will be assigned prior to arrival. Session II will be generative, a mini-retreat if you will, with writers developing new material. The cohort will meet to discuss progress, and strategies to completing confident first drafts. 

Jotham Burrello

Read, Workshop, Revise, Repeat. The classroom is our lab to experiment and take risks on the page. In this seminar writers will complete assigned reading prior to conference. In New Haven we’ll establish a supportive environment, and together we’ll workshop stories in the first three sessions and then dedicate time to revision exercises, reading work, journaling and discussion of craft. Expect to write during the conference. Writers will leave with a revision strategy for their manuscript or novel excerpt, and a full toolbox of ideas and techniques to help write the next story.

Trey Ellis

This intensive fiction workshop takes place in five, three-hour sessions over six days. The workshop days consist of a mix of craft talks on a variety of subjects: character, dialogue, plot, etc., along with daily group critiquing of the student work. In the days in-between, students will write and have scheduled office hours with the professor.

Lisa Page

“Everything comes from language. Plot is a juvenile idea.” Colum McCann.  
Language is the engine that drives the literary train. This fiction workshop will emphasize voice, persona, style, dialogue, tone and setting. It will also focus on narrative arc because, while plot may be a “juvenile idea,” it’s also a necessary one. This workshop will embrace novels-in-progress, short stories and flash fiction. It will also incorporate writing exercises designed to generate new work.

Sergio Troncoso

Our Fiction Workshop will focus on a detailed review of short stories and novel chapters and other fictional narratives. Writers will receive practical critiques to create tailored strategies for rewriting. The class will work collaboratively on exercises to sharpen writing skills as well to create new work. We will examine what makes a great sentence and paragraph, and consider narrative voice, narrative suspense, and metaphor in fiction. As homework, we will also be reading accomplished writers to study their craft. Our goals? Dedicate ourselves to creating a community in the service of the writing craft, while all workshop members receive the individual time and focus necessary to take their writing to the next level.

Non Fiction

Colleen Kinder

How do you bring yourself onto the page with skill, authenticity, and a singular voice? Such is the challenge of the personal essay. This course drills down into first-person narratives ranging widely across sub-genres and topics—from memoir writing to historical narratives, profiles to nature essays, and lyric essays to collage essays. Students will submit their work-in-progress for a peer workshop. Together, we will then rigorously examine these "I"-driven narratives while also discussing broader techniques and writing principles that will empower us as storytellers in the nonfiction realm. Our journey together is about tuning in to what's working and explicating what is not–yet–so as to point each writer in the direction of higher potential.

Mishka Shubaly

We understand fiction to be made-up and nonfiction to be true. But any linear narrative is a human construction, as life explodes constantly in all directions. Any first person narrative is a distorted, imperfect retelling from one limited perspective. To make it more confusing, Grace Paley's fiction and Lucia Berlin's autofiction overflow with truth while Mary Karr's and Harry Crews' memoirs seem too wild or too evocative to be true. Where's the line? How much can we get away with? How can anyone tell “true” stories? This workshop will locate the emotional heart of your narrative, then identify and amplify the truth that spills from it. We’ll be aided in our quest by readings across genre, songs, jokes, and other real-life texts.

Children and Young Adult

Sarah Darer-Littman

In this workshop, you will mine the inner truths of the childhood and teen experience to find an authentic voice. We’ll talk about both the challenges and opportunities young people face and what is similar and different from our own experiences at that age. The workshop will include exercises to help you create compelling characters, develop your plot through motivation and conflict, and choose the point of view that works best for your story. Since revision is where the magic happens, we’ll explore techniques that real-life authors in the field employ. Your submitted work will be rigorously critiqued in a constructive and supportive environment. You will leave the workshop with a plan and more tools in your writer’s toolbox to help you achieve it. 

Historical Fiction

Emily Barton

Historical fiction can take many forms: reimagining historical people in historical circumstances; imagining fictional people into historical circumstances, or historical personages into fictive situations; alternate or speculative history; thinking your way into the interior life of a Paleolithic ancestor, or simply trying to remember the first time you saw someone take a selfie. Some historical fiction writers rely on research, while others (E. L. Doctorow!) eschew it; others still push at the boundaries of genre (Michael Chabon’s Yiddish Policemen’s Union, an alt-historical hardboiled police procedural). This workshop defines historical fiction broadly, and welcomes writers working in diverse styles and periods (up to and including the present moment) who want to talk world building, verisimilitude, faithfulness to the historical record and the given world, research, and imagination.

Mystery and Crime Fiction

Frankie Y. Bailey

This workshop will focus on what draws readers to subgenres from amateur sleuth, PI, and police procedurals to thrillers and “genre-blending” paranormal mysteries. We’ll work on the craft of creating three-dimensional characters, vivid settings, and plots that keep readers turning pages. Along the way, we’ll tackle generating ideas, dealing with “sagging middles,” and finishing a first draft. We’ll also explore the ins and outs of revising, polishing, and submitting your manuscript.

Personal Essay/Memoir

Lary Bloom

How do you bring yourself onto the page with skill, authenticity, and a singular voice? How do you attract publishers and readers to your story? These are challenges of the personal essay and memoir. This course focuses on the art of the first-person narrative, and what makes it inevitable for the writer and irresistible to the reader. Each student will submit a work-in-progress for a peer workshop, and together we will examine these “I”-driven narratives, and discuss techniques and principles that empower us as storytellers. Among these are many tools of novelists–rich dialogue, story arc, imagination, scene setting, articulation of high stakes, and other ways that can lift personal truth and self-discovery to the literary high ground.

Mary Collins

How do you write about people you know? How do you mine your own personal life for stories and insights that will engage the average reader? This seminar will explore the challenges unique to the personal essay and memoir with a special focus on voice, creative angles, emotional depth, experimental structures, and good storytelling. Writers will complete assigned readings prior to the conference that showcase a range of forms and styles from the personal essay to the lyric essay. The workshop itself will be a blend of rigorous discussions of students’ submissions and interactive craft exercises designed to challenge writers to move out of their comfort zones and experience the joy of discovery as they try new things and encourage others to do the same. Students will leave the workshop with a clear strategy for their next best steps as writers.

Short Stories

David Burr Gerrard

The final line of a story should leave readers feeling that they have just had a complete, satisfying experience. The final line of a novel chapter should all but force readers to keep turning the pages. What makes a strong final line is not just the line itself, but everything that leads up to it. Through rigorous feedback, this workshop will examine how you can refine both the craft elements of your work—setting, dialogue, pacing, etc.—and your overall vision of your piece so that the final line of your next draft will hit readers in the head as well as the heart. We’ll also be discussing published fiction and craft essays that will guide you as you create focused, polished work ready to submit to magazine editors and agents.

Marian Thurm

This is a traditional fiction workshop, led by the author of eleven books of fiction. As we critique your manuscripts (both short stories and novel excerpts), we will be discussing, among other topics, how to shape a strong narrative that will sustain a reader’s interest; how to create vivid characters that spring to life; voice and point of view; methods of revision; how to end your narrative on the perfect, resonant note. In addition, the instructor has many stories to share about her long history with numerous agents and editors over the years.

Writing the Novel: The First Ten Pages

Julie Buntin

The first five to ten pages of a novel often determine whether an agent, editor, or reader wants to see more of your work. Whether you are just beginning a novel or revising it for the fifth time, chances are your first ten pages could still use revision and feedback at the sentence and content level. In addition to getting feedback on your own work, we will look at openings of notable recent novels, and discuss what makes those openings work. We will also spend time in class sessions discussing and applying revision strategies for the beginning of your work.