The Writer’s Studio Weekly Workshop


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.

SPRING 2022

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR

Under the Fire-Snakes: Creative Nonfiction through Meditation

 

Monday, April 25

 

 

In this workshop, you will learn and practice a number of creative and contemplative exercises to help quiet the ego, reduce distracting mental chatter and sharpen the observer mind as you write, read and compress short excerpts of memoir, reporting, lyric essay or other forms of creative nonfiction. In one exercise, you will practice close, sustained and non-judging observation of others engaged in simple tasks. In another, called the Sensory Camera, you will strive to render observable or recalled phenomena in their barest perceptible attributes, stripped to the degree possible of conscious interpretation. Andrew Todhunter is Co-Director of Stanford’s Senior Reflection creative capstone program, a lecturer in Biology, and a Co-Founder of the Stanford LifeWorks program. He has written for The Atlantic, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal and is the author of three books, including the PEN USA award winning A Meal Observed. A climber, diver and sea kayaker, he has practiced meditation for more than twenty years, and incorporates meditation and wilderness training into many of his courses at Stanford.

 

MultiLayered Dialogue

 

Monday April 25

Great dialogue is essential to drama, fiction, and even creative nonfiction because it does so much for a story: characterization, exposition, and action. Dynamic dialogue—dialogue that does a lot of these things at same time—is the holy grail for dramatists and screenwriters, and at least sacred for many novelists and journalists. In this workshop, we’ll look at how to create this kind of dimensional, double-duty (or triple!) dialogue, looking particularly how it’s done by masters of it such as Sherman Alexie, Langston Hughes, Amy Tan, and Tobias Wolff.

 

 

Jonah Willihnganz is the Director of the Stanford Storytelling Project and Co-Founder of the LifeWorks program 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.

Writing the Other

Monday, May 2

 

Our imaginations are not entirely our own. They have a cultural context; they have a history. What are the ethical nuances and concerns of representing the other in our fiction? What is it about this figure that troubles, frustrates, and enlightens us? How do we create culturally diverse fiction without falling into familiar and outmoded themes? Those identified by Claudia Rankine as: I traveled to another country, state, or borough, and met race there. Or: race is racism. Or, more candidly: I met an other and it was hard! These tropes posit race primarily as an occasion to encounter or project one’s own feelings, one’s self. In this workshop we will look at selections from Paul Beatty, Leilani Raven, Ben Lerner, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, to explore the singular vicissitudes of power and race, self and other, as we work together to craft culturally inclusive scenes. Nicole Caplain Kelly is a current Stegner Fellow at Stanford. She holds an MFA from Columbia University where she was nominated by the faculty for the Henfield Prize. She made her professional start at Jazz At Lincoln Center where she came under the mentorship of Wynton Marsalis, Stanley Crouch, and Albert Murray. She has received support for her work from Faber & Faber in the UK.

 

 

Setting as a Character: Using Sensory Details to Write a Place that Propels Narrative

 

Monday, May 9

 

Setting is often neglected as a source of power in narrative writing. In this session, we’ll discuss ways to build a setting that calls on the five senses and helps propel narrative momentum by influencing character action. Generative prompts will include: writing from the perspective of place, writing across the five senses to generate description, writing inventories that fuel character thought and action. Yohanca Delgado‘s work appears in The O’Henry Prize Stories 2022, The Best American Fantasy and Science Fiction 2021, The Paris Review, One Story, A Public Space, among others. She is a collaborator in Janelle Monáe’s forthcoming short story collection, The Memory Librarian and Other Stories of Dirty Computer. She is a 2022 National Endowment for the Arts fellow and a 2021-2023 Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University.

And Then I Woke Up: Dreams in Narrative

Monday, May 16

 

Dreams fill the world of fiction. From the stories of Franz Kafka to the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”, from the novels of Haruki Murakami to Kelly Link’s imaginative and genre-bending fiction, dreams guide the narrative in new and surprising directions. They can introduce memories or release a suppressed emotion, foreshadow the events to come or offer a key to unlock the story’s symbolism. In this workshop, we will read short stories by Murakami, Ottessa Moshfegh, Robert Olen Butler, and others, and discuss the wide uses of dreams for a fiction writer, both in traditional and experimental fiction. In a series of writing prompts, we will craft dream sequences and explore their potential to advance a story, deepen our understanding of character, see the familiar scene in a new light, or enrich a story’s atmosphere.

 

Evgeniya Dame is a Fulbright scholar and a 2020-2022 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction. Her stories appear in Ploughshares, Subtropics, The Southern Review, and Joyland, and her non-fiction has been published in Electric Literature and online in The New England Review. She is a fiction editor at Joyland.

Cli-Fi: Inventing a Form to Meet the Climate Catastrophe

Monday, May 23

Postponed to Fall 2022

Ben Okri issued a call in the Guardian for writers to “confront the climate crisis” with “existential creativity.” He writes “If you knew you were at the last days of the human story what would you write? How would you write?” What does this mean, tangibly: to create a new form and philosophy to grapple with climate change in writing? What about elements of craft? What of humor and subject matter? Are there to be no more stories of first dates? Do we look at the crises head on or at a slant? In this workshop, we’ll look at examples of contemporary climate fiction and distinct approaches to addressing the climate emergency through story. We’ll also work through exercises to tease out and begin to shape our own “new form” to meet these unprecedented times. Georgina Beaty is the author of the short story collection The Party is Here (Freehand Books, 2021). Her fiction has appeared in New England Review, The Walrus, The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, PRISM and elsewhere. As an actor and playwright, she’s worked with theatres across Canada and internationally, most recently with Belarus Free Theatre. She holds an MFA from the University of British Columbia and has been supported by fellowships and writing residencies at MacDowell, the Canadian Film Centre and The Banff Centre. She’s currently a Stegner Fellow in fiction at Stanford University.

 

 

 

WINTER 2022

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR

From the Page to the Stage: Telling Your Story to a Live Audience

Monday, January 10

 

We recall twice as much information when we hear it in a story as opposed to a straightforward recitation of facts, because stories connect to the things that matter to us. They work so well that organizations, businesses, and social justice movements have returned in recent years to weaving storytelling into their internal and external practices. So what do stories—especially live ones—activate that a standard presentation doesn’t? And how can we use them to complement our lives? In this workshop, we will explore contemporary live storytelling, taking a deep dive into form, function, and process. We’ll learn about story arc, beginnings and endings, creating narrative gems, and engaging with a live audience. We’ll then apply those lessons by sketching out and practicing part of our stories. Bring what you’ve got on the page–fiction and non-fiction–and put it on the stage. Harriett Jernigan is a lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. A regular performer at The Moth Story Slam and a Grand Slam finalist, she has published fiction, essays, and articles on German language and culture and social geography. Harriett earned her B.A. in creative writing from the University of Alabama and her Ph.D. in German studies from Stanford University. Currently, she teaches “What Are You Anyway?” The Rhetorics of Racial and Ethnic Identity. When she’s not working, Harriett’s probably baking or fencing épée.

Writing Lost Places

Monday, January 31

So much can be inferred from a place beyond location. A place is a marker of time, and it shows the socioeconomic attribute of a story’s setting. Places change. Old buildings get torn down and new ones are built. Industrial buildings are being remodeled for office spaces. The demographics of people in neighborhoods change. In this workshop we will bring our childhood neighborhood, towns, and cities back to life. We will write from our memories and into the present. We will write of the place no one will ever see again because it has changed. In our writings, these places will be alive. Ajibola Tolase is a Nigerian poet and essayist. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His work has appeared in American Chordata, LitHub, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.  

Automatic for the People: Harnessing the Power of Freewrites

Monday, February 7

Freewrites are an incredibly versatile writer’s tool. They can be used daily for warm up; for breaking out of ruts and procrastination; for getting you unstuck from a writing problem; or for dropping down into a deeper level of your work. In this seminar we will practice freewriting from different vantage points and with different prompts to get an experiential feel for the many ways this tool can work for us. We will borrow exercises from Nathalie Goldberg and automatism techniques from the current Met show, “Surrealism Beyond the Borders,” as well as consider short, stream of consciousness excerpts from Morrison and Joyce. Kevin DiPirro is a writer, theater-maker, and deviser who teaches in PWR as advanced lecturer. His plays have appeared in New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Stanford. A Hewlett Fellow for American Theatre Magazine, he lives on the coast where he swims, gardens, cooks and writes.

Language for Love

Monday, February 14

Metaphor is the basis of most of the meaning-making we humans do—talking about one thing in terms of another is in fact at the heart of language, cognition, and imagination. For storytellers, metaphor is often the way we stretch our consciousness, and invite others to stretch theirs. It is also the way storytellers try to grasp and express core human experiences such as loss, awe and, especially, love. In this workshop, we’ll look at how writers find their way to powerful articulations of love, whether romantic, familial, spiritual, or between friends. We’ll explore how contemporary writers often rework traditional tropes of love and mine ordinary encounters, objects, and even bits of dialogue to invent a fresh, specific expression of the feeling. Through a variety of short exercises, you’ll begin developing your own language for love. Jonah Willihnganz is the Director of the Stanford Storytelling Project and Co-Founder of the LifeWorks Progam for Integrative Learning in the School of Medicine. He has published fiction, essays, and literary criticism and has taught writing and literature at Stanford since 2002. This winter he is teaching, with Shannon Pufahl, Fight the Future, a course on speculative fiction and social justice.

And Then I Woke Up: Dreams in Narrative

Monday, February 28

POSTPONED TO SPRING, DATE TBA

Dreams fill the world of fiction. From the stories of Franz Kafka to the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s “Rebecca”, from the novels of Haruki Murakami to Kelly Link’s imaginative and genre-bending fiction, dreams guide the narrative in new and surprising directions. They can introduce memories or release a suppressed emotion, foreshadow the events to come or offer a key to unlock the story’s symbolism. In this workshop, we will read short stories by Murakami, Ottessa Moshfegh, Robert Olen Butler, and others, and discuss the wide uses of dreams for a fiction writer, both in traditional and experimental fiction. In a series of writing prompts, we will craft dream sequences and explore their potential to advance a story, deepen our understanding of character, see the familiar scene in a new light, or enrich a story’s atmosphere. Evgeniya Dame is a Fulbright scholar and a 2020-2022 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction. Her stories appear in Ploughshares, Subtropics, The Southern Review, and Joyland, and her non-fiction has been published in Electric Literature and online in The New England Review. She is a fiction editor at Joyland.

Writing Wild with the Senses

Monday, March 7

In this workshop, we’ll use visceral engagement with the senses to open new paths in your writing that can help make story elements more accessible to readers. We’ll use evocative images, unexpected smells, and diverse sounds from the wild, along with several guided writing prompts, to conjure forgotten stories and inspire you to imagine new ones. Please bring your sense of adventure, ready to do some wild writing together. Emily Polk, an Advanced Lecturer in PWR and the author of Communicating Global to Local Resiliency, has worked around the world as a media professional, supporting documentaries and human rights-based media in refugee camps from Burma to Ghana. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Creative Nonfiction, The National Radio Project and elsewhere.

 

Richard J. Nevle is the Deputy Director of the Earth Systems Program, a scientist, teacher, dad, and writer in love with the natural world. His work has appeared in Home Ground, The Oxford Climate Review, and The National Catholic Reporter. His first book, The Paradise Notebooks: 90 Miles across the Sierra Nevada, is forthcoming from Cornell University Press in 2022.

 

FALL 2021

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR

The Micro Story

Monday, Oct 4 

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).

 


Monday, Oct 11

 

Cancelled.

 

(Stories About)
Friends: How Many of Us Have Them?


Monday, Oct 18

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.

 

Haunting Voices


Monday, Oct 25

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.

 

A Thing with Feathers: Poems about Birds

Monday, Nov 1

 

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.

Bodies that Matter

Monday, Nov 8 
NOTE: VIA ZOOM

 

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.

 


SPRING 2021

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR
What’s Next?
Monday, April 12 
Sometimes, stories come in flashes: we see one character, or one concept, or one line of dialogue. We might have the seed of an idea but get stuck wondering – now what? How can I turn this flicker of inspiration into a full-fledged story? Join us for a night of ideation and exploration as we practice taking that critical next step. Together, we’ll spend the first half of this workshop mining for story ideas and grow our bank of potential projects. Then, we’ll dive deeper and learn strategies to flesh out the world behind that seed of a thought. You’ll walk away with new tools for whenever you face the question: what comes next? Megan Calfas is a playwright, journalist, and podcast producer. She’s also a mentor with the Stanford Storytelling Project – sign up to work with her here. Outside of Stanford, she teaches live, personal storytelling with StoryCraft and is in the process of co-creating an original musical. Previously, she’s reported on the environment for the Los Angeles Times, investigated maternal mortality in Zanzibar, and once convinced Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne to perform in a musical alongside personified, dancing peanuts.
The Micro Story
Monday, April 19 
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-Director of the LifeWorks Progam for Integrative Learning in the School of Medicine. He has published fiction, essays, and literary criticism and has taught writing and literature at Stanford since 2002. This spring he is teaching, with Shannon Pufahl, Fight the Future, a course on speculative film and fiction, and he cannot wait for a lot of Octavia Butler’s work to finally be coming to the screen over the next year.
My FLI-Called Life: FLI Creative Writing
Monday, April 26
“Greatness is all the more admirable if it’s achieved against the odds,” writes R.S. Pine-Coffin, reflecting on St. Augustine’s autobiography, Confessions. We won’t have enough time to write our own full-blown FLI autobiographies in this workshop, but we will have the time to discuss our cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in order to create “moment maps” of prose that illustrate key points in our lives. We’ll write and share where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and where we’re headed so that we can carry these maps with us into any future creative project — whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry, screenplays, etc. We’ll never feel lost again. Jenn Alandy Trahan was a first-generation college student herself at the University of California, Irvine, in the early-mid aughts and then went on to earn her MA in English and MFA in Fiction at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s currently a Jones Lecturer teaching English 9CE: Creative Expression all year (her favorite undergraduate course to teach). Also, in a recent virtual event hosted by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, Alec MacGillis discussed his new book Fulfillment; Jenn took messy notes in her journal as MacGillis talked about the “toxicity of hyper-prosperity” in certain areas of the country (ahem, this one), something that we can also discuss in this FLI workshop.
Melody as Muse: Writing About Music in Fiction
Monday, May 3
Musical artists such as Frank Zappa and Laurie Andersen have famously stated, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” These are compelling words, their force relying in part on the irony of the formulation—in effect, the quote does that which it claims isimpossible to do, explicating in words the difficulties of translating musical experience into prose while at the same time using words to communicate some of the elusive affective power of music. When writers attempt to describe a distinctive mood, or emotion they must be quite creative in order to truly get the audience to feel it. Examining how people have written about music can help us write about the ineffable in any kind of story you would like to produce; plays, poems, short stories, novels. In this workshop, through a series of listening and writing exercises we practice rendering the ineffable into compelling prose. Tiffany Naiman is a scholar of popular music, temporality, and gender. She is the Managing Editor of State of the Human, the podcast of the Stanford Storytelling Project, and lecturer at Stanford University where she teaches classes on David Bowie, podcasting, music documentaries, concept albums, and sound stories. Along with her musicological research and teaching, Tiffany is a DJ, electronic music composer, and award-winning documentary film producer.
Exploring Our Place Inside of Nature Through Metaphor
Monday, May 10

 

 

One of the things telling a story can do is help us investigate an experience we’ve had—especially if we use figurative language. In this workshop we’ll focus on our experience of the natural world and discover what emerges when we describe it from a position beyond human supremacy. We will develop metaphors based on the biogeochemical cycles of the earth, the behavior of other animals, plants, and fungi. We’ll explore how these metaphors lead us to see greater detail and meaning in our patterns, including how you can use story creation to “compost” narratives from your own life.
Christy Hartman is a storyteller with nearly a decade of experience working in higher education. In addition to being a longtime Senior Producer for the Storytelling project, she is currently the Program Coordinator for Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse program, in the School of Medicine. Skilled in mentoring, narrativizing research, and podcast production, she is interested in amplifying the wisdom of lived experience. She holds graduate certificate in writing from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and prefers the forest.
Identity Writing: Excavating Your Narrative
Monday, May 17

 

 

You are the expert on your own life, but what is your story? Often, it’s more than just yours alone. It can be a part of a collective: your generation, your team, your tribe. In this class, we’ll examine remarkable voices that speak for both the singular and the collective with true authority and dive into narratives that pack emotional heat. Along the way we’ll examine our own anthems, memories, and histories through exploratory writing prompts. We’ll deconstruct point of view through exercises meant to catapult moving, energetic writing into a powerful and personal essay. Don’t think you have a story to tell? Come anyway and surprise yourself. Rose Whitmore’s writing has recently appeared in The Southern Review, Image, The Kenyon Review and Alaska Quarterly Review. She is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford where she is working on a novel about Olympic Weightlifting during Enver Hoxha’s communist regime in post-World War II Albania. 

WINTER 2021  

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR
Writing Wild with the Senses
Monday, January 13
In this workshop, we’ll use visceral engagement with the senses as a way of opening doors to writing that will make elements of your story more accessible as well as offer new avenues of inspiration. We’ll use various images, unexpected smells, and diverse sounds from the wild along with several guided writing prompts to conjure forgotten stories and to inspire you to imagine new ones. Please come with a sense of adventure, ready to do some wild writing together.  Emily Polk, an Advanced Lecturer in PWR and the author of Communicating Global to Local Resiliency, has worked around the world as a media professional, supporting documentaries and human rights-based media in refugee camps from Burma to Ghana. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Creative Nonfiction, The National Radio Project and elsewhere. Richard Nevle is the Deputy Director of the Earth Systems Program, a scientist, teacher, dad, and writer in love with the natural world. He muses at The Feral Naturalist and is working on a book of essays and prose poems focused on the natural history of the Sierra Nevada.
Funny Business
Monday, January 27
In this workshop, we’ll examine some of the time-honored principles of how writing is made funny, and then you’ll respond to short prompts designed to get your personal sense of humor out in the open, where it can run free and play with others. Edward Porter’s humor writing has appeared in places such as Barrelhouse, Booth, and Miracle Monocle, and has been anthologized in Winesburg Indiana and My Name Was Never Frankenstein. A former Stegner Fellow, he is currently a Jones Lecturer in creative writing at Stanford University.
Monster! Mother! Sweater! Strider! Choosing a Strong Perspective for Your Story
Monday, February 3
Sometimes we think of stories as existing beyond the teller. Ancient myths, for example, survived through the mouths of anonymous speakers. Traditional journalism in its own way, too, often invokes an objective perspective – a bodiless questioner who hovers above the subject matter. But every Beowulf begs for a Grendel – a radical re-imagination of problem, protagonist, and perspective. In this workshop, we will hear from a little girl, an old sweater, a lusty insect, and more. We will discuss how those perspectives are achieved through writing, voice, and audio technique, as well as what they offer their stories that a more obvious perspective could not. Then we will spend time developing radically different views into the same story, before broadening the exercise to an examination of the stories we are waiting to tell and what carefully choosing the story’s perspective can do. Rachel Hamburg is a senior producer at Audible, where she has produced a storytelling show with Dan Savage about sex and relationships, a sound collage of American cities using stand up comedy and interviews on the street, an audiobook about the women who took down Larry Nassar, a short story collection written from the perspectives of animals, a science series, and a one-man play slash sales workshop. Before Audible, she worked at The Stanford Storytelling Project, where she helped undergraduates hone their storytelling skills.
If You’ll Let a Guide Direct You: Poems That Command
Monday, February 10
All poems address the reader either directly or obliquely, but certain poems address the reader in a more specific way, guiding us, goading us, commanding us. These poems can be both comforting and challenging. In perhaps the most famous poem of this kind, “Directive,” Robert Frost assures us that we need only let the poet-guide direct us, before admitting that this poet-guide “has at heart [our] getting lost.” In this workshop, we will consider poems by Frost, William Matthews, Rainer Maria Rilke, and others. In doing so, we will discuss how to approach poems that command. What is the proper way to read such a poem? And how can mere words on the page inspire us to make actual changes in our lives? In the second half of the workshop, we will draft “directive” poems of our own. Austin Smith is the author of two poetry collections, Almanac and Flyover Country. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction, he is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, where he teaches courses in poetry, fiction, environmental literature and documentary journalism.
Places that Make Us: Harnessing the Power of Setting
Monday, February 24
From Tbilisi to Tulsa to last year’s road trip, place can be a powerful tool in writing. We all remember Gatsby’s green light, can feel the cinders of Dresden, and yes, even picture the halls of Hogwarts. In fiction and non-fiction, place has the power to sculpt identity on the page and create lasting and memorable images. It can be the nexus from which narrative tension springs—political, personal, or otherwise—and action initiates. In this class, we’ll examine how place in fiction and non-fiction can carry important metaphor, elevate meaning, and augment our character’s experience. We’ll dive into settings rich with emotional detail and engage in writing prompts that will help you unearth the heart of where your story takes place. Students can expect to leave with the setting of a short story or personal essay and plenty of ideas of where to go from there.
Rose Whitmore’s writing has appeared in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, The Missouri Review, The Sun, The Iowa Review, The Colorado Review, Fourth Genre and shortlisted in Best American Essays, 2017. A former Wallace Stegner fellow, she is currently a Jones Lecturer at work on a novel about Olympic Weightlifting during Enver Hoxa’s communist regime in post-World War II Albania.
Playing with Time
Monday, March 2
How can we bend, control, and play with time to increase the power of the stories we want to tell? In this workshop, we will experiment with manipulating time to create more impactful moments, scenes, and plots. We’ll start by looking at writers who manage time in their work in effective and innovative ways. We’ll also consider ways music and image can help us think analogously about time. Most of our workshop will then be devoted to our own experiments with time in story. Whether your goal is to build suspense, create patterns, or capture a single ground-shifting moment, this workshop will give you new options to explore. 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.

 

FALL 2020

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR
Flash Fiction and the Freedom of Story
Monday, October 14
In this workshop, you’ll write complete pieces of fiction in two hundred words or less, working from a variety of examples and prompts. Extreme brevity may look like a constraint, but it can free the writer to take chances and make leaps of faith. Make icebergs speak! Tell the history of a marriage in a sip of coffee. It’s speed dating with your imagination! Edward Porter’s short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, The Hudson Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, Best New American Voices, and elsewhere. A former Stegner Fellow, he is currently a Jones Lecturer in creative writing at Stanford University.
Collaboration and Imagination: Writers Inspiring Writers
Monday, October 21
This workshop offers a chance to experience the benefits of working with other writers, whether just at the start or throughout the process of creating a story. We’ll explore how collaboration helps take ego out of the process, focus on the “thing” we are creating, and forget, a little, how that thing is a part of us. We will also work with a variety of modes of expression—stories, essays, poems, drawings, songs—to see how working in different modes can open up new possibilities for our work. We will experiment with Google Docs, try speed writing, practice meditation, tell as many jokes as possible, and get some writing “things” started–or finished! Wear comfortable clothing and please bring your laptops. Feel free to bring musical instruments. John Peterson is an Advanced Lecturer in Stanford’s Program in Writing and Rhetoric. He is researching the relationships between collaboration, improvisation, and electronic sharing in environments such as Google Docs and social media for his book project, Free Speech and Improvisation: The Danger and Beauty of Speaking Off the Cuff. He received his MFA in fiction from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Two Households, Both Unalike in Dignity: Writing about Class and Race
Monday, October 28
Gatsby and Daisy in Louisville, Lady Chatterley and Oliver in Wragby, Sammy and Queenie in the A&P. What is it about class-created chasms that make character motivation so compelling? Should writers speak to class and race in their narratives? How do we weave in these details? We will read selected snippets by contemporary fiction writers, including Dorothy Allison, Alexia Arthurs, Jamel Brinkley, Junot Diaz, and Callan Wink, and then we will generate exposition, craft our own scenes, and discuss how to bring our characters and their stories to life. Jenn Alandy Trahan was a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Fiction and currently teaches here at Stanford. Her work can be found in Permafrost, Blue Mesa Review, Harper’s, and The Best American Short Stories 2019. She currently lives in Silicon Valley, where she can’t help but think about class and race more than she typically would.
Who’s Talking Here?
Monday, November 4
Have you ever read a passage of fiction and felt like there was something wrong, but been unable to figure out what it was? Chances are, narrative distance had something to do with it. Come learn about this recondite technical aspect of fiction, which is also, line by line, the way the reader answers the question “Who’s talking here?” Nina Schloesser Tárano was born and grew up in Guatemala. She has an M.F.A. from Columbia University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford, where she’s now a lecturer in the Creative Writing Program. She lives in San Francisco with her wife, sister, two sons, and three dogs.
Collaborative Story Games
Monday, November 11
Making up stories with your friends is a profoundly human endeavor. Over the past 50+ years, improvisational theater has been exploring ways to practice and perform engaging narratives. Come learn skills you can apply to any kind of storytelling you are doing right now, from memoir and fiction to film and performance. This is an invitation to come play and to see what happens next!
Dan Klein is a Lecturer in the TAPS department and a Lecturer of Management at the GSB. He leads workshops all over the world, and is the former Dean of the School at BATS Improv in SF.
Songwriting and Lyrics 
Monday, November 18
What makes for good lyrics? What is the difference between a poem and a song? How do we translate our language into music, our feelings into lyrical form? In this Writer’s Studio we will be listening to songs, looking at the musical structure of language, and working to write our own lyrical pieces. All levels of experience are welcome! Kai Carlson-Wee is the author of Rail (BOA Editions, 2018). His photography has been featured in Narrative Magazine, and his poetry film, Riding the Highline, has screened at film festivals across the country. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, he lives in San Francisco and is a lecturer at Stanford University.

 

Previous Writer's Studio Workshops

Spring 2019

Winter 2019

Fall 2018


Spring 2018


Winter 2018


Fall 2017