The Writer’s Studio

The Writer’s Studio is a 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 others. You’ll leave with an expanded understanding of what your writing can do.

All workshops are free, open to the entire Stanford community, and held from 6 pm to 7:30 pm in the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, Building 250, Room 201. Snacks are provided!

The Fall Quarter Writer’s Studio kicks off on Monday, October 14 with Flash Fiction and the Freedom of Story with Ed Porter! The full fall quarter schedule will be posted here shortly.

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR
Embodied Storytelling
Monday, April 08
Most of us sit down to write: at a desk, on our bed, under a tree, in a coffee shop. But is sitting essential to the writing practice? Why do we physically restrict ourselves as we try to capture the intricacies of a living, moving world? For the past 50+ years, improvisational theater has explored the art of creating fully realized characters and satisfying stories…all on the spot. This workshop will offer a series of exercises focused on spontaneous character building and collaborative story generation. We will use improv as a launching pad for quickly generating material, and then hone those ideas on the page. Come see how you might add an element of play and movement to your writing process! Jessia Hoffman is an improv coach, communication trainer, playwright, and Stanford alum. She designs and delivers improv-based trainings and workshops to professional teams to enhance communication, cultivate connection, and spark creativity. Jessia teaches classes with BATS Improv and coaches the Unscripted Playhouse of Stanford (UPS) on campus – open to all students!
Paragraphs with Legs
Monday, April 15
Have you ever noticed how really wonderful paragraphs walk an idea or observation forward? Like a step taken from heel to toe, a paragraph can open in one place and tap down a small distance away. Awareness of this kind of literary traveling can gift your creative and academic writing momentum. But it isn’t just speed we’re after, so much as more room to maneuver our thinking. This active writing workshop invites you to level-up your writing one paragraph at a time. We’ll find inspiration in music, in poems by Kay Ryan and Mark Doty, and in paragraphs by Michael Pollan and Joan Didion. Then we’ll play with a series of exercises that lead up to crafting your own stomping, striding paragraphs to share. Clara Lewis teaches in the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at Stanford University. Previous work includes Tough on Hate? The Cultural Politics of Hate Crimes (Rutgers University Press) and articles on the visual culture of extreme sports, gentrification and yoga, and the history of mechanization at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. She is drawn to subjects that illuminate how we surf social, physical, and emotional extremes.
Micro-fictions
Monday, April 22
In this workshop, you’ll write complete pieces of fiction in the two hundred words or less range, 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.
Writing the Translingual Voice
Monday, April 29
Why do we always write like we’re at school? That’s wack, right? When you speak with your people, what languages or dialects do you use—and can you make space for all your voices in your writing? In this workshop, students will watch and read a variety of codemeshed or translingual texts that move between standard English and other englishes or languages. Then, directed writing prompts will help us bring our array of spoken voices to the page. We’ll think together about how to decenter English-only audiences, using multilingual writing to turn toward the communities whose unique blended languages we speak. 怎么样? Tessa Brown is a Lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, where she teaches the courses “Hashtag Activism” and “Hiphop, Orality, and Language Diversity.” She holds a doctorate in Composition and Cultural Rhetoric with a certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies from Syracuse University, and an MFA in Creative Writing – Fiction from the University of Michigan. Her writing has appeared in Harper’s, Hyperallergic, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as the research journals Peitho and Kairos, with an article forthcoming in the Journal of Basic Writing.
Worth a Thousand Words: Writing and Multimedia
Monday, May 06
From Allen Ginsberg to Rupi Kaur, writers have often used multimedia approaches to expand their written work. With the recent proliferation of visual media through online platforms like Youtube and Instagram, writers have been finding new and innovative ways to reach a wider audience. In this Writer’s Studio, we will be looking at ways in which language and imagery intersect and considering strategies to enhance our work through a visual lens. All levels welcome! Kai Carlson-Wee is the author of Rail (BOA Editions, 2018). His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Tin House, Best New Poets, New England Review, and The Southern Review. 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.
Copying as Creation
Monday, May 13
Let’s pull the plug on the idea of the authored text as something original, unalterable, complete-in-itself, and conceived in isolation by some singular genius. Writers and artists as diverse as Isidore Ducasse (aka Comte de Lautréamont), Sherrie Levine, and Joseph Saddler (aka Grandmaster Flash) have exposed the unimaginativeness of equating creation with origination, publication with consummation, and copying with criminality. “Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it” (Lautréamont). In this workshop, we will experiment with composition strategies that—depending on context, technique, and genre—have gone by various names: appropriation, assemblage, re-authoring, citation, collage, cut-up, pastiche, sampling. Through an investigation of forms ranging from readymades to remixes, found poetry to fan fiction, imitatio to internet memes, we will experience the excitement of using preexisting texts and images to produce new work that is critical, transformative, and hopefully irresistible to the next data thief. Who’s down with O.P.P.? Eldon Pei is an art historian and film and media scholar who once dreamed of being a fiction writer before winding up writing in the infinitely more fictional genres of equities research and securities offering documentation. The regulators never caught on. He is still at large today and rumored to be teaching for the Program in Writing and Rhetoric.
Epistolary Magic
Monday, May 20
A letter can be many things – a bomb, a call to arms, a line in the sand, a way to let go or hold on. Writing a letter can offer profound catharsis, and receiving one can feel like a gift…or a punch in the gut. Whether we feel inquiring, incensed, inconsolable, or inseparable, missives offer a magic all their own, especially handwritten ones. In this Writers’ Workshop, we’ll investigate the inner workings of letterwriting, and sample famous dispatches across genres, from protest letters to fictional dispatches to sacred testaments to personal communiqués, and conjure some epistolary magic of our own. Alessandra Wollner is a Senior Producer and the Community Engagement Lead for the Stanford Storytelling Project. She holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Ohio State. Today, she teaches, podcasts and storytells from Oakland, CA.

SESSION DESCRIPTION FACILITATOR
Interviewing for Story
Monday, January 14
Many of today’s most impactful, award-winning stories are built around interviews. Consider not only documentary-driven stories such as Serial or S-Town but also novels such as Dave Eggers’ What is the What, or novelistic journalism like Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, or Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or the plays Anna Deavere Smith. Interviewing is a great way to discover, build, or just do background research about a story, and it can help you create rich characters, bring new depth to a story, or develop dimensions you hadn’t considered in your wildest imagination. In this workshop, we’ll look at texts based on interviews (novels, reporting, sound storytelling) and explore how the writer or producer might have elicited the material, and then examine the art of preparing for conducting an interview. We’ll consider strategies for eliciting story, creating intimacy and rapport, and focusing your interview questions to get the content you’re looking for. You’ll leave the workshop with interviewing strategies and prepared questions for an interview, whether it’s a dream/imagined interview or an upcoming one. Jenny March is an audio documentary producer and community-builder and works at the Stanford Storytelling Project as a senior producer and program associate. She particularly loves exploring the human experience through intimate, non-narrated audio portraits. Jenny has taught audio courses at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. She is the co-producer of Audio Under the Stars, a summer-long outdoor audio festival in Durham, NC.
Building Community with Story
Monday, January 28
Increasingly these days, theater and performance organizations are using immersive, participatory, story-based approaches for building community. The idea is to not meet strictly as performer or observer, talking head 1 or talking head 2, or even giver or receiver, but rather as “H2H” (Human-to-Human.) In other words, not to meet from our necks up, but from our necks down. In this workshop we will explore how to create powerful social gatherings through storytelling and hosting protocols from ancient to modern, and identify a particular central story to guide the work of that gathering. Working from a recent immersive production on campus, we will, as devised event-makers, consider the various modes of engagement that were used and why (music, movement, storytelling, food, set design, live action, playstations) and then each create a working template for a potential social gathering we would like to stage on campus that we are passionate about. If possible, come with an event already in mind, an event you always dreamed about making happen, or a blank slate. By the end of the workshop you should have a working script thoughtfully designed to gather people around an important issue in fresh and whole ways that allows them to work together with beginner’s mind towards creative expressions/solutions. Kevin Dipirro is a writer and creator of the immersive performance work, who/where am I: the underworld. He is an advanced lecturer in PWR.
The Moving Image
Monday, February 4
Plenty of writing is described as “cinematic,” but for that description to hold true, it means that the writing must move (as “kinesis,” the root of cinema, suggests). This class will explore how different poets utilize movement—generated through techniques of rhythm, syntax, line, and form—to build and activate images that function “cinematically” in the reader’s mind. In addition, we’ll examine how movement can create thematic and formal tension within a poem. A number of exercises will help us translate these concepts and techniques into practice. Will Brewer is the author of I Know Your Kind (Milkweed Editions, 2017), a winner of the National Poetry Series, and Oxyana, which was selected for the Poetry Society of America’s 30 and Under Chapbook Fellowship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, The Nation, New England Review, The New Yorker, A Public Space, The Sewanee Review, and other journals. Formerly a Stegner Fellow, he is currently a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.
The Ode Not Forsaken: Writing Celebratory Poems In a Dark Time
Monday, February 11
It is easy to be inundated by bad news: climate change, wildfires, hurricane, terrorism, gun violence, social and political unrest. It can seem futile to write joyful poems, and yet poets do, perhaps recognizing that to praise the commonplace can be a vital, even radical, act. In this workshop we will consider a number of odes, taking a fresh look at some of the classic odes we may have encountered before, and considering some odes by contemporary poets. And, of course, we’ll work on a draft of an ode 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.
Creating Stories for AI
Monday, February 25
The recent explosion in artificial intelligence (AI) has led to a demand for writers who can write for AI entities. As the Washington Post recently put it, “[b]ehind Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are not just software engineers. Increasingly, there are poets, comedians, fiction writers, and other artistic types charged with engineering the personalities for a fast-growing crop of artificial intelligence tools.” This workshop will use character development and user experience design to give students an overview of creating a personality and backstory for an AI entity. The workshop will explore how to think about creating characters that interact and speak with users and how this is different from creating characters for the screen or page. Using character development prompts, students will explore backstory, utility and conversation style to conceive an AI personality. We’ll explore user research techniques, such as Wizard of Oz testing, and how they can be helpful in thinking about relationships with human users. By the end, students will have a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges of writing for an interactive relationship. Elizabeth Arredondo is among the small but growing group of writers working at the intersection of creative writing and artificial intelligence. She spent the past three years designing the personality, backstory, and conversations for a robotic wellness coach named Mabu at Catalia Health. After earning her MFA in Writing for Screen and TV from USC’s School for Cinematic Arts in 2005, Elizabeth participated in NBC’s “Writers on the Verge” program. She went on to work as a staff writer on the primetime CBS drama COLD CASE and develop several original TV pilots. Elizabeth is currently a Visiting Scholar at mediaX at Stanford where her work focuses on the study of AI personality design. During the 2018 winter quarter, she designed and moderated the seminar series Creating AI Conversations.
Making Mysterious People
Tuesday, March 5
How can we write a person, especially in a way that captures the authentic and mysterious in any particular person? And how can we write about others’ lives in a way that captures their uniqueness but also appeals to a broad audience? In this workshop we will look at a number of excerpts from Modernist and contemporary writers as they seek to describe the mysteriousness of other people—in ways that may not even make sense to the authors themselves. We will explore how their deliberate attention to style and form help them depict the particular lives of others. After looking closely at some of their alternative styles for communicating character, you will experiment with constructing your own complex, particular person, or the space for a person (in a poem, in a film, in a fiction). Gabrielle Moyer has published on Modernist fiction and the relationship between literary aesthetics and ethics. She is an Advanced lecturer in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric where she teaches on the political ramifications of telling stories and avoiding stories.

 

 

Previous Writer's Studio Workshops