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!


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.














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.


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.
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.

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