The Writer’s Studio

Poster for Writer's Studio event with Raechel Lee

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 6pm to 7:30pm in the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking, Building 250, Room 106. Snacks are provided!

The Writer’s Studio Winter 2018

Date Description Facilitator
WEEK TWO: Tuesday, Jan 16 The Space Between: Writing About Couples

Couples. Odd couples. Sweet couples. Meant-to-be-couples. Imaginary friends, best friends, at-the-end-friends. Parents, sisters, brothers, distant relatives. Differences, yearnings, vast and wild similarities: what holds people together? In this Writers’ Studio, we’ll write intimacies that may be at once close, fraught, consuming, secretive, and necessary. Focusing on craft, we’ll practice dialogue and narrative strategies that make couples come alive in meaningful and nuanced ways.

Keith Ekiss is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing program and the author of Pima Road Notebook.
WEEK THREE: Monday, Jan 22 Under the Fire-Snakes: Creative Nonfiction through Meditation

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.
WEEK FOUR: Monday, Jan 29 Collaboration and Imagination: Writers Inspiring Writers

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, feel free to bring musical instruments, and please bring your laptops.

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 (fiction) from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
WEEK FIVE: Monday, Feb 5 The Universal in the Particular: Writing and Reading Haiku

The haiku is one of the most common, and commonly stereotyped, poetic forms. It’s often the first poetic form we encounter. The brevity of haiku might lead us to believe that this form is easily mastered, but learning to write memorable haiku is the practice of a lifetime. What makes good haiku so powerful? In this Writers’ Studio, we will discuss some of the misconceptions regarding haiku (for example, that they need to be written in 5/7/5 syllabic form, or contain a seasonal reference in the first line). I’ll share some of my favorite haiku, written by the great Japanese masters of the form, as well as more contemporary haiku by American poets. Once we’ve gotten a sense for what makes good haiku good, we’ll go outside and try our hand at some haiku of our own, then warm up with some tea and share the haiku we’ve created. Whether you’re already a prolific haiku poet, or are simply interested in the form, you’re very welcome to join us.

Austin Smith grew up on a family dairy farm in northwestern Illinois. His poems and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Poetry, Narrative, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. His second collection of poems, Flyover Country, will be published by Princeton in 2018.
WEEK SIX: Monday, Feb 12 Metaphor Making

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 writers, metaphor is often the way we stretch our consciousness, and invite others to stretch theirs. Sometimes this is a matter of hunting for the right metaphor to capture an experience, but more often it is a matter of finding in an experience its larger resonance. In this workshop, we’ll look at how writers turn ordinary encounters, objects, and even bits of dialogue into ways of talking about our deepest experiences, and we’ll try out methods for discovering and writing about the metaphors our own experience offers us.

Jonah Willihnganz is the Director of the Stanford Storytelling Project and Co-Director 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.
WEEK SEVEN: Tuesday, Feb 20 The Hills Are Alive (and They’re Getting Emotional): Dramatization in Setting

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the prose writer must hope that her thousand words can do more than paint a static picture. She’s in luck—the process of dramatization, of creating dramatic imagery in scenes and descriptions, can help bring out the inner emotions of complex characters and create dynamic settings that do much more than provide scenery. In this workshop we’ll look at cinematography, poetry, and prose pieces that create environments full of subtle tension and hidden meanings, and we’ll try to do it ourselves with a variety of exercises and prompts.

Chris Drangle is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program. His fiction has appeared in the Oxford American, One Story, Epoch, Crazyhorse, and elsewhere, and has been recognized with a Pushcart Prize.
WEEK EIGHT: Monday, Feb 26 -Scapes: Sites/Spaces/Senses

A -scape negotiates the abstract and the concrete, the far-flung and the immediate. In the workshop, we’ll use this notion as a springboard for your writing. Regardless of the genre you’re working in, -scapes can help develop ideas in broad strokes as well as germinate intimate details. Through sample works and creative prompts, we’ll study and experiment with ways in which -scapes not only set the scene, but permeate plot, influence characters, or become subjects.

Raechel Lee teaches in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. She currently thinks about -scapes through the lenses of geography, translation, and humming bird photography.