The workshops below are by application only and require submission of a 10-page example of the applicant’s best unpublished work. We also offer a beginning writing workshop that is filled on a first-come, first-served basis and does not require manuscript submission.
Saïd Sayrafiezadeh is the author of Brief Encounters with the Enemy, which was shortlisted for the 2014 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Fiction Prize, and the critically acclaimed memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Granta, McSweeney’s, The New York Times and The Best American Nonrequired Reading, among other publications. He is the recipient of a 2010 Whiting Writers’ Award for nonfiction and a 2012 fiction fellowship from the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. He lives in New York City and teaches creative writing at Hunter College and New York University, where he received a 2013 Outstanding Teaching Award.
“The real is imagined and the imagined is real.”
—Colum McCann (paraphrasing someone else)
This workshop will examine the necessary intersection between fiction and memoir. Fiction, in this instance, does not imply mendacity, but rather traditional storytelling elements. In other words, what elements can we appropriate from the art of fiction when crafting our own memoir, and what, if anything, must we discard? By reading, writing, discussing and analyzing short works of fiction, we’ll practice exercising the creative muscle that sees ourselves as characters and our lives as stories worthy of being told. We’ll also look at film, song, plays, poems, memoir, newspaper articles and anything else that employs storytelling elements. The goal is for us to become aware of the “audience” when we write, so that the experience of documenting our lives begins to resemble that of a “performance” placed on paper.
Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of three memoirs: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, Devotion, and Slow Motion; and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her latest memoir, Hourglass, will be published in April 2017. Shapiro’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, and has been broadcast on “This American Life.” Her recent essays on the lures and dangers of the internet and social media have stirred up controversy and gone viral, and are now being taught in many universities. She is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy and a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler.
To write a memoir is to tell a story honed and chiseled from the material of your memory. This story might center around an event, a relationship, a year, a journey, an illness, a grieving process, an addiction, or some other aspect of your life, but it’s crucial to remember that memoir is not journaling, it’s not confession, it’s not spilling the beans (in the words of Annie Dillard, you may not let it rip) but rather, it’s an attempt to make meaning, to make sense, of whatever it is that has happened. In a safe and discerning environment, we will read one another’s work and ask questions of it. What is the story trying to tell? Where does it hold our interest? Where does it seem to be hiding from itself? Participants in this workshop will come away inspired, full of courage, and with a strong sense of how to move forward in their work.