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True North: Crafting the First-Person Voice
Fall 2015 at First Person Arts

“A fiction writer has no reason to lie. A memoirist has an illusion to protect.” — John Dufresne

In this workshop we’ll tap into the stories that are waiting just for you. You’ll get a solid foundation in the craft of writing personal essays and memoir as well as plenty of opportunities to access your inherent creativity and celebrate its power.

By investigating the fundamental tenets of constructing an authentic self on the page, the workshop will help you to deepen your connection to your material, find ways to craft memorable and original prose, and plumb the depths of your experience in order to find your own voice.

As we practice the art of self-inquiry, expect that your creative spirit will be sparked via plenty of in-class writing exercises and discussion of some classic personal essays.

The workshop will provide you with the following tools:

    •    How to deal with the vagaries of memory (e.g., what if I don’t remember exactly what happened or precisely what someone said?)
    •    How to signal to readers that your story is “true”
    •    How to create memorable characters and dialogue
    •    How to heighten dramatic tension in your essay or memoir
    •    How to turn your greatest challenges into your greatest source of wisdom
    •    How to use the elements of fiction (e.g., scene, character, dialogue, etc.) to craft nonfiction


Dreaming in Color: A Workshop in the Experimental Essay

Sometimes called the lyric essay, the sequential essay (as it proceeds in numbered fragments, sequences or sections), or experimental nonfiction, these works speak to the collagist in all of us. If you find your own perfect order outside the limits of linearity, this class is for you. We’ll take our cues from our dreams and we’ll be making meditations on color (after Maggie Nelson’s Bluets). We’ll read such practitioners of the form as John D’Agata, Eula Biss, Lia Purpura, and the aforementioned Maggie Nelson. You’ll be encouraged to write from your knowledge base, as these sorts of essays provide a rich ground for elements of study.  Historians, photographers, anthropologists, botanists, painters, sommeliers, etc.—here’s an opportunity to integrate the breadth of your knowledge, scholarship, or DIY-leanings into your essays (e.g., W.G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn).


An image from Juanita’s Hard Times Bus

Broad Street Ministry Workshop

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