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YWW: Workshops

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Yale Writers' Workshops Course Descriptions 2018

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.

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

In this class, we'll combine workshopping (detailed critique of stories and novel excerpts) with in-class exercises: some generative and fun, some focused on aspects of craft such as character definition and plot mapping. Students will also have a chance to rewrite of a section of their original submission, and briefly workshop that rewrite. In this way, we as a group will get to see each piece evolve over the course of the session. Writers will leave with a sharpened sense of their goals, the next steps they'll take to reach them

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.

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

M.G. Lord

This course will explore the ways in which writers use their personal stories to comment on aspects of the wider world. “Creative nonfiction” is an evolving genre that combines recollection with reporting—a linkage beneficial to both reader and writer. Readers can relate more easily to, say, the emblematic struggles of one family than to a dry, abstract account of a social trend or historic period. Writers can focus on a subject of endless fascination—themselves—while still generating the fact-filled narratives that publishers crave. We will workshop student manuscripts. We will also examine the work of some nonfiction masters to see how they achieved their results—and attempt to use these strategies or approaches in short exercises.

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

Get Real! Finding your authentic children’s and young adult voice
How is it that a “woman of a certain age” gets fan mail from middle school kids asking questions like: “How do you know EXACTLY what teenage girls think, in the present day? I know you were once one too, but … you have really captured the inner thoughts of a teenage girl.” We were all either boys or girls once, and through writing exercises and discussion, we’ll tap into the thoughts and emotions which can be applied when writing about situations and challenges that young people face today. The workshop will focus on writing, group discussions, and critiquing in a constructive and supportive environment.

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

Hallie Ephron

One of the most popular categories of fiction, year after year, is crime: mystery, thriller, and suspense. Ask acquiring editors what they're looking for, and you’re likely to hear some version of “the same but different." In this workshop, we’ll explore what “the same” means in a crime novel, and what “but different” looks like. We’ll spend time on craft—creating a web of characters with competing goals; story construction and plotting a page turner with an ending that surprises and satisfies; and using tools like suspense, secrets, viewpoint, and misdirection. We’ll hone the unique compelling hook that can lead to commercial success. The goal is to fully address the craft of writing a crime novel that is imbued with your own unique twist.

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

This seminar will explore the fundamental techniques at work in compelling nonfiction including 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 personal essay to lyrical. The workshop itself will be a blend of rigorous discussions of students’ submissions, and inter-active craft exercises designed to challenge writers to move out of their comfort zone 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

Molly Gaudry

Stories, like people, come in all shapes and sizes. For this workshop, writers may submit a diverse range of short fiction—traditional short stories, interconnected flash fictions, flashes that stand alone, and even first novel chapters. We will also read, discuss, and critique published stories as models for our own revisions, paying particular attention to how the same narrative strategies (point of view, structure, genre, style, etc.) are uniquely employed by the authors of these different forms. Students will return home with a clearer understanding of the functional relationship between form and content, and apply the knowledge and skills developed at Yale to their future writing projects.

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.