Craft Sessions

Morning craft sessions offer participants a chance to join in conversations with guest writers about process, style, revision, audience, reading, books, publication and more. Participants have the opportunity to sign up for these sessions at the time of enrollment.

The sessions below will be offered at the 2023 Institute.

The Art of Recollection: Memory and Imagination in Creative Nonfiction

(with Chris Feliciano Arnold)

Memory is one of the most profound source waters for creative nonfiction—and one of the most mysterious. Our memories are malleable, capable of changing, fading, or growing more vivid over time as the result of aging, trauma, and the act of storytelling itself. Understanding the functions and purposes of human memory can help writers harness their own recollections to make sense of the past, the present, and the self. In this seminar, we will discuss how the philosophical and scientific understanding of memory has evolved over time, and how those concepts can inform the creative process. Along the way, students will learn exercises, tips and tricks to help them better access their memories, discern their resonance and meaning, and use them as a springboard for new creative work.

Political Poetry, Personal Boundaries: An American Awakening

(with Mahogany L. Browne)

When the artists speak water into a world of fire, there is a shimmer of hope and a new way forward. From the Black Arts Movement to Ecopoetics, poetry has always provided visuals of a new and possible world. This conversation will anthologize literary movements and moments. 

How AMANDA PARADISE Became the Golden Boomerang

(with CAConrad)

CAConrad will share images while sharing how the poems in AMANDA PARADISE: Resurrect Extinct Vibration reach out from a (Soma)tic poetry ritual where CA flooded their body with the field recordings of recently extinct animals. Foundational here are the memories of loved ones who died of AIDS, the daily struggle of existing through the Corona Virus pandemic, and the effort to arrive at a new way of falling in love with the world as it is, not as it was. Former United States Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith wrote in the New York Times, “CAConrad’s poems invite the reader to become an agent in a joint act of recovery, to step outside of passivity and propriety and to become susceptible to the illogical and the mysterious.”

The Poetics of Typographic Design 

(with Santee Frazier)

The craft session serves as a reminder that poetry, apart from other literary forms, is a holistic endeavor. Given that most of our work is rendered in word processing applications, we tend to overlook page orientation, typeface, and form as a visual extension of content. Together we will explore how the fundamentals of typographic design can deepen our approaches to sculpting poems. 

Feeding the Lake

(with T Kira Māhealani Madden)

On creative community and artmaking in times of crisis, uncertainty, and doubt. This talk might be for you if you’ve found yourself asking: why make things at all?

The Prose Poem, Lyrical Prose, and the Intimacy of a Sentence

(with Diana Khoi Nguyen)

The word lyric has roots in the Greek stringed instrument, lyre, and thus the lyric mode necessitates musicality and sound in its expressive forms–be it emotive poetry, prose, or any other artistic form. For this generative craft session, we will pay close attention to what happens when lyric is embroidered in a block of prose and how this transforms the nature of syntax, of the sentence at an elemental level. To begin, we will examine a suite of prose poems and lyrical passages from poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, extracting tools to craft lyrical sentences of our own.

Exercises in Style

(with Jeff Parker)

We will explore the relationship between story and style by looking at some excerpts from Raymond Queneau’s classic Exercises in Style. Often, upon hearing someone say, “Story is style,” I am inclined to counter, “Yes, but more importantly, style is story.” We may engage in some variant of this lively, good-natured dialogue, but I think it’s incontrovertible that the aesthetic decisions you make in writing sentences or the structural approach you take to a scene are, at the very least, building blocks (the nucleotides, we might say) in the DNA of narrative. Please bring a one-page scene (250-word max) of your own (it may be from a work-in-progress or it may be something written specifically for this session) that we will spend some time rewriting in a different aesthetic register.

So For Real: going beyond western, white and other constraints towards developing more fully realized character

(with Tiphanie Yanique)

This will be an interactive craft lecture on character development in fiction and how creative writing classes can build your humanity or break it. In this talk I will engage with psychological realism, and then go beyond it to consider other tools for creating characters and better understanding character development in our characters and in ourselves.  I will end the talk with a craft lesson on making humans using the social, the biological and the magical. 

Writing What We Don’t Know

(with Leni Zumas)

Grace Paley once said, “What we write about is what we don’t know about what we know.” This craft session will explore “not knowing” as a richly generative space for art, giving close attention to the half-seen, the hidden, the flickering, the uncertain, and the inexplicable. The questions we’ll ask together include: How can doubt, curiosity, shame, fear, and ambivalence deepen and electrify our writing? How might techniques of defamiliarization, or “making strange,” spark thrilling possibilities in our work? Where does wondering, wandering, and crookedness bring us that the straight and well-lit road cannot?