The Disobedient Writer Workshop Series

Whether you are a member of a writing group or connected with a literary or educational institution, contact me to arrange a writing workshop in your area.

The Disobedient Writer Workshop Series focuses on story, whether fiction—long or short; full-length memoir; personal essay; or narrative of any kind.

(The series can also be helpful to poets, especially those working with narrative or autobiographical material, or creating a longer work from a number of pieces; or a collection that is hybrid, multi-genre: prose, poetry, prose poetry, etc.)

The nature of our work in The Disobedient Writer Series is not some mere abandonment of conventions, but deep work with the great spectrum of our creative minds work with language. It is discovery of the deeper levels of organization developing in our work. I embrace the wisdom of diverse writers, and the suggestions of these writers on the writing process. The approach is not arbitrarily constricting, but opens the work to its full possibilities.

These courses are for writers at all levels of experience.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Full descriptions of the courses in The Disobedient Writer Series follow this information on availability.

These workshops are available in these ways:

1) for in-person classes or intensive workshops: for schools, writers organizations, private workshops, etc.;
2) for online group classes: for schools; writers organizations, private workshops, etc.;
3) A few of these classes are currently available online with writers.com;
4) You are also welcome to register all the members of your writers’ group, so that you can discuss course content, lend support, and provide critiques and feedback to each other; and,
5) For individual work: all of these courses can also be taken on a one-to-one basis, to give you an opportunity for the individual study of craft, to generate writing for a project you’re working on, and for full critique from me.

There are three registration levels for individual work with these courses:

1) the first, where you work on your own, and at your own speed;

2) the next, where you’ll work with me directly, post your writing on a   regular basis, with a 1500 word limit, and receive my critique; and,

3) at the highest registration level, we will use the class as a basis for our one-to-one work: you’ll write on your own schedule, and I’ll provide full critiques for pieces at the usual hourly fee for manuscript consultations.

Contact me for more information and to work out the specifics of your course.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Full descriptions of the courses in The Disobedient Writer Series below:

Finding the Real Story: Essential Elements of Story in Fiction and Memoir

For writers at all levels of experience

10 sessions

Finding the Real Story addresses some of the larger issues of writing story through a look at the essential elements of narrative. We go beyond mechanical and conventional approaches to craft, and limiting prescriptive definitions of each element of story, to bring forward complexity, depth, new thinking, and lots of new writing. This class strengthens the tools that you already have, and offers and encourages new ways of thinking and working to go deeper into your work; to make your work coherent at deeper levels; to find ways into the stubborn knots and potent concealed places in your stories; to develop characters that breathe and surprise and move the story; to find language that not only works, but amazes.

Each week we explore more of the essential elements of writing story for both fiction and creative nonfiction writers; and how to allow these elements to embody the deeper truths and powerful emotions which move us into writing. We work on discovering narrator and point of view; the unfolding of plot; deepening subtext and letting it work for the story; context and simultaneity; dialogue; the music of prose; the story’s metaphor and its power; and revision. We work with the mystery of human behavior in story form, to deepen characterization and discover plot rather than be constricted by it. We tap into the power of the visions and voices of our narrators and characters, and the mix of truth and fiction that creates a world both imagined and real. We will focus in on the many possibilities for narration, and how to grow the best possible narrator for each story. We will explore narrative summary, active scene and dialogue; begin new stories and discover ways to complete old ones. I provide writing suggestions throughout for explorations that both free and develop participants’ writing, and work with each element of story.

We will share our work in an atmosphere supportive and challenging, attuned to the needs of each participant, with the aim of getting powerful and useful feedback.

Contact me for more information and to work out the specifics of your course.

Claiming Our Stories: The Power of Autobiography, Memoir & Autobiographical Fiction, Part One  

For writers of memoir, creative nonfiction and fiction at all levels of experience.

10 sessions

How do you tell the story of your life? How do you convey your truths in stories that may include, and yet go beyond, the specificity of facts and dates? Are you aiming for autobiographical accuracy in memoir or creative nonfiction? Or would you rather use your experience and history, your intuition and imagination, to transform your life stories into fiction? For some of us, the decision as to whether to write memoir or autobiographical fiction is made in the process of the work, rather than possibly prematurely, as an abstract plan. Whether you want to tell your own story, or are drawn to embody your truths in fictions peopled by your inventions, there are ways of working with your own life experience to bring forward stories with powerful truth at their core. The lectures will guide you in the work of locating your story and its beginning; its powerful images, potent moments and metaphors, and underlying meaning; and creating a narrator compelling enough to carry a full-length book, and “large” enough to hold the story.

We’ll dive deep through a series of grounded lectures and discussions, expansive writing explorations, memory and sensory exercises to keep your memory activated; focused and open-ended freewrites; and with a look at evocative writers whose work suggests a spectrum of approaches. Then you will draw on what is deepest in you to write the stories you have always wanted to write; locate the narrators of your life; flesh out some of the other voices that inhabit your memory and imagination; and find the structure of your telling. Whether just beginning, or “re-visioning” your work to bring forward its meaning and thematic coherence, this workshop will propel your writing forward. Our work together, including class feedback and critiques, will be challenging, and the atmosphere, always supportive.

Students who complete Claiming Our Stories, Part One, may continue on to Claiming Our Stories, Part Two.

Contact me for more information and to work out the specifics of your course.

Claiming Our Stories, Part Two: Deepening and Structuring Autobiography, Memoir & Autobiographical Fiction

For writers of memoir, creative nonfiction and fiction, at all levels of experience. Taking Part One is suggested, but not required. Particularly helpful to writers in the midst of a longer work of memoir, creative nonfiction, or autobiographical fiction.

10 sessions

Part Two of Claiming Our Stories: Autobiography, Memoir & Autobiographical Fiction will emphasize the deep work needed to bring forward the underlying meaning and thematic coherence of your writing. Central to this work is freeing and developing a powerful narrator with personality, with the ability not only to unfold the events of the story, but to reflect upon them; to move seamlessly through time; to include and exclude detail; and to shape structure. We will work to locate and use the power of metaphor in your stories, in your characters’ searches and struggles, and again in the explorations needed to discover the larger structures of your writing. We will explore the deeper connections of writers to their characters, in order to mine the writer’s experience and arrive at greater character truth. And we will apply what we gain from the great writing of others to our own explorations, in surprising and original ways.

Weekly in-class critiques will in part focus on these central issues:

  1. How your narrator works;
  2. how your narrator and your story move through time;
  3. how a larger work is structured;
  4. what subtext or underlying meaning is revealed in your writing; and
  5. what metaphors are coming forward that will further reveal the structure and meaning of your larger project.

This provides an opportunity to puzzle through, in community and with feedback, the challenges of writing a long work, and developing a narrator who can carry it. Our work together, including class feedback and critiques, will be challenging, and the atmosphere, always supportive. Expect to take some great steps in the development of a book-length work that uses the truth of your experience, whether in nonfiction or fiction.

Beyond Formula: Writing Love Scenes With Spirit, Passion, Grit And Character Truth

5 sessions

Fonny’s body was a total mystery to me—the body of one’s lover always is, no matter how well one gets to know it: it is the changing envelope which contains the gravest mystery of one’s life.

— Tish (Clementine), in If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

What we are really looking for and working toward in this class are writings about romantic love that are neither sentimental and formulaic, nor graphic in a way that doesn’t tell the story but serves some goal outside of the work. It is perhaps bold to do this course, which is not a course in writing erotica, nor one that looks to fulfill a formula for romance genre fiction.

This is my corner of the world in writing about love, one that works to capture the ache of it, the beauty of it, the disintegration and yearning of it; that which makes it a part of life that is easy to obsess about, because of how utterly beyond belief it is when it comes fully into one’s life.

Love is difficult to write about in a world that so often connects sexuality to violence and exploitation; to the tragic and disturbing. This may come up in this workshop, and is welcome to, as it is so often part and parcel of what people have experienced. That starburst of magic will arrive to be written as well, that love that moves us into other realms of being. So much is expressed in how we love; so many stories told. Yet, often people have told me that they don’t know where or how to start writing such scenes or such stories, as they find their characters diving into love. I very often see the work of writers I deeply respect not achieve full expression of their stories and their characters in these scenes which may be crucial to the overall work. And, ultimately, these scenes must serve, beautifully or fiercely, that overall project. So I am here to invite you (and me!) to take a chance and enter this part of the world of your story that you are already flirting with! No one needs to be taught about love, at least, certainly not by this creative writing teacher, but finding that road to the expression of love in writing, well, that’s what I propose to be of help with, and as ever to share evocative work – fiction, nonfiction, poetry, film – that helps open up the magic, depth and craft of writing. (Who knows what magic may find you as you write in this open field, make dense and real the expression of this ache of love, and sometimes its fulfillment, in your work?)

Our work together will always be challenging, and the atmosphere, always supportive. 

So, here’s to five weeks of writing about love, from crushes and unrequited love to consummated love, to long lost or long dead love; love that cheats, love that sacrifices, lusty love and restrained love, substitute love and love as substitution; the tragic, the unexpected; selfish love, compassionate love, expansive love, routine love and mystical love.

Contact me for more information and to work out the specifics of your course.

Roads Into Writing: Opening New Terrain In Your Work 

6 sessions

Write like mad, opening your writing with the infinite wake-up calls of reading brilliant books…and responding from your own writer’s gift to the many writing explorations that the pleasure and challenge of these books bring forth.

This is no academic literature course, but a collection of fabulous roads into writing. With each book, we explore the world of an extraordinary writer and slog around in it, getting perhaps very dirty, having more fun/pleasure than we generally talk about. We will engage in conversation with the intimate and global perspectives of these writers; fill ourselves with the music of their language and the concerns of their characters to help us further develop our own music and our writerly craft; illuminate our own concerns; and write, and write, and write!

Our work together will be challenging; the atmosphere, supportive.

Books to be explored:

  • Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion
  • David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon
  • Gloria Naylor’s Bailey’s Café

Contact me for more information and to work out the specifics of your course.