Writing Workshops

Taking it On

How do we write compellingly about a world in ecological crisis? Is the realistic novel, with its focus on individual subjectivity and its emphasis on insight rather than event, up for the job? Disputing the notion of “cli-fi” as a separate genre, this workshop looks at the challenge precarious times pose for all contemporary fiction, and leads participants to identify strategies that take on the world in trenchant and engaging ways.

Writing the Real

This workshop will investigate the literary sweet spot where imagination and actuality meet, whether in historical fiction or in contemporary novels that draw on real events. Joan will talk about the research and writing processes she relies on, and we will look at the methods of a range of novels that use real events to explore the contemporary world. Participants will be invited to reflect on the artistic and ethical questions writers consider as they locate, within real life stories, the subversive truths of fiction.

Movement and Stillness

Commercial fiction has a repertoire of techniques to keep readers turning the pages. This workshop explores the thorny question of pace in literary fiction. How important is forward movement in a character-driven novel, and how do we avoid a sense of stasis in novels that value language, emotion, and psychological truth more than external action?

Character in Every Line

Literary fiction is often referred to as “character-driven” fiction, as opposed to plot or action-based. How can we create fiction that immerses us in the consciousness of its characters, that creates the sense of events unfolding as the character experiences them? This workshop explores techniques that create intimacy and voice in 3rd person narration.

Any one of these workshop topics can be adapted as an hour-long PowerPoint presentation, a 2-3 hour participatory workshop, or something in between.