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The Writers Studio

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An engaging writing workshop series in collaboration with the Stanford Storytelling Project and the Creative Writing Program.

Writers Studio

The Hume Center, the Stanford Storytelling Project, and the Creative Writing Program are proud to offer this free workshop series open to all students from all majors.

Come study the art of writing in intensive, fun, hands-on workshops with dynamic faculty from the Creative Writing program, the Stanford Storytelling Project, and other arts programs at Stanford.  Each week focuses on a specific craft element or process, with opportunity to experiment and practice. You’ll leave with an expanded understanding of what your writing can do.  Designed for students but open to the whole Stanford community, the workshops are held most Mondays from 6:00-7:30pm when classes are in session at Stanford.  Unless otherwise noted, workshops are at the Hume Center, Room 201.  See each quarter’s schedule below for details. 

Fall 2021 Schedule

October 4 — The Micro Story with Jonah Willihnganz

The really short form—prose of 1-3 pages—has been around for more than a century, but has gained new popularity since the 1990s, when all kinds of new names were invented for it—flash fiction, micro fiction, short memoir, etc. The very short piece uses all of the art of longer prose forms, but it is also a form unto itself, with its own special constraints and opportunities. We will take a quick but deep dive into both process and craft, giving you an opportunity to practice the kinds of attention and writing that produce powerful short pieces. We will focus equally on fiction and non-fiction, with emphasis on how to use skills common to both, to create a vivid lightning strikes of truth and beauty (why not?).

Jonah Willihnganz is the Director of the Stanford Storytelling Project and Co-Founder of the LifeWorks Progam for Integrative Learning. He has published fiction, essays, and scholarship on American literature and mass media. He has taught writing and literature at Stanford since 2002 and this year is teaching the popular speculative fiction course Fight the Future (English 29SF) and social justice course Counterstory in Contemporary Literature and Media (Education 141A).

October 11 (Cancelled) — Bodies that Matter with Shannon Pufahl

What makes the human body human? What makes it animal? How do bodies move and convey feeling? How do we describe attraction, violence, gender, or race without banality or vaguer? In writing we must attend to the body constantly – we have to get people into the room, out the door, into bed, and on the dancefloor. Characters must laugh and blush and cry. Embodied characters feel real to readers, and they make the stories we read feel real. In this workshop, we’ll read across genre and style – from Virginia Woolf to James Baldwin, Gwendolyn Brooks to Cormac McCarthy – for tips and tricks for describing the human form. We’ll pay special attention to constructions of gender and race, and how writers have used bodies to subvert convention. We’ll write our own profiles and character sketches, and leave with the start of someone new.

Shannon Pufahl is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program and the author of the novel On Swift Horses (Riverhead 2019). Her essays have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere.

October 18 — (Stories About) Friends: How Many of Us Have Them? with Jenn Alandy Trahan

In his 2016 essay "Reflections on True Friendship" for The New York Times, Andrew O'Hagan reflects on the idea of "undocumented friendship" and remembers a long-lost childhood friend that he was never photographed with and writes "It's the mindfulness I miss...[social media gives us]...the option of corraling people into 'close friends' or 'acquaintances' and, naturally, [we] always have the option of clicking 'unfriend.' But are the majority of these people friends or are they just names? You can know everything that's going on in people's lives without knowing a single thing going on in their hearts. But is that friendship?" In this workshop, we'll explore that question while we discuss representations of (or the glaring absence of) platonic friendship in literature. We'll read excerpts from contemporary short stories by Rick Bass, Denis Johnson, Beth Piatote, and Said Sayrafiezadeh and then we'll "document" and craft the beginnings of our own short stories about friendship...while listening to Whodini's "Friends," of course.

Jenn Alandy Trahan found one of her best friends in high school, two in college at the University of California, Irvine, and then luckily found two more best friends at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where she earned her MA in English and MFA in Fiction. Her work has appeared in Permafrost, Blue Mesa Review, Harper's, One Story, and The Best American Short Stories. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she's currently a Jones Lecturer teaching English 9CE: Creative Expression, English 90: Fiction Writing, and English 190: Intermediate Fiction Writing for the 2021-2022 school year; all places to meet new friends.

October 25 — Haunting Voices with Valerie Kinsey

What happens when the dead speak to us? This workshop allows us to give disembodied fictional characters - or real people who once walked the earth - a chance to tell us their side of the story. We'll consider what unfinished business they might have on earth and what the experience is like on the other side. We'll focus on voice and dialogue to inspire new stories or creative nonfiction or revise works in progress.

Valerie Kinsey is a Lecturer in Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Her fiction has appeared in Angel City Review, Adelaide, Arcturus and elsewhere; she also writes personal essays, which have been published in Evening Street Press and Streetlight Magazine. She earned her MFA (creative writing) and PhD (English) at the University of New Mexico. In PWR she teaches The Rhetorics of Trauma and The Rhetorics of Monuments and Memorials.

November 1 — A Thing With Feathers: Poems About Birds with Austin Smith

Over the course of the pandemic, many of us have felt a fresh appreciation for (and perhaps envy of!) those creatures who don't have to socially distance or quarantine. Perhaps we have lived vicariously through our observations of them, and found relief in time spent in the natural world. Throughout history, poets have written about birds in moments of physical, emotional and spiritual paralysis, identifying with various elements of the avian world: their flight, their song, the beauty and delicacy of their eggs and nests. Poets have written movingly about watching, listening to, even killing birds. Indeed, the imagination itself seems to embody certain avian characteristics - we say someone had "a flight of fancy," and the poet John Keats described soaring "on the wings of poetry." In this workshop, we will read some of the most famous poems ever written about birds, share some general birdwatching tips particular to the Stanford campus, and write a bird-based poem of our own.

Austin Smith is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford. He is the author of two poetry collections, Almanac and Flyover Country, both published through the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets. A recent NEA fellow in prose, Smith teaches courses in poetry, fiction, environmental literature and documentary journalism.

No Writer's Studio workshop on November 8th in honor of the Zadie Smith reading at 8:00 p.m. at the Bechtel Conference Center.

Bechtel Conference Center - Map Link