The workshops below are by application only and require submission of a 10-page example of the applicant’s best unpublished work.
Heather Harpham is a writer, teacher and theater artist whose fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in Slate, Parents, More, Water~Stone Review and Red Magazine in the U.K. Her debut book, a memoir titled “Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After,” was published by Holt in 2017 and selected for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Series as well as being an Indie Next pick. Harpham’s writing for the stage includes six solo plays, the most recent of which, “Happiness” and “BURNING,” toured nationally and were produced in Kathmandu, Nepal. Harpham’s work has been recognized with the Brenda Ueland Prose Prize, a Marin Arts Council Independent Artist Grant, support from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women and a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination. Harpham has taught as a guest artist at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Originally from Northern California, she now lives in New York, a short walk from the Hudson River, with her family.
All memoir is, like fiction, an act of invention and creative will. Our work together will focus on those issues most pressing for the memoir writer: how to craft a clear narrative arc out of the miasma and mess of lived experience; how to balance point of view so that the writer’s perspective is not the sole lens through which the reader apprehends or interprets events; how to invoke the senses in service of a multidimensional, felt reality; and finally how to make a singular story unique, detailed and “true” enough to resonate with a diverse community of readers. Our specific tasks will include looking closely at the blueprint embedded in every story’s beginning and at dialogue as a powerful narrative engine. Finally, we’ll borrow some of the conventions of writing for the stage–i.e., the ability to create immediacy, intimacy and high stakes–and redeploy them as tools for the memoirist.
Bich Minh “Beth” Nguyen
Bich Minh “Beth” Nguyen is the author of three books: the memoir “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner,” which received the PEN/Jerard Award, the novel “Short Girls,” which received an American Book Award, and, most recently, the novel “Pioneer Girl.” Her work has been featured in numerous university and community reads programs around the country. Nguyen was born in Saigon and grew up in Michigan, where her family settled after leaving Vietnam as refugees. She now lives in the Bay Area, where she teaches in and directs the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.
Why memoir? Because you have stories to tell and so many ways to tell them, and sometimes only the genre of truth will do. Whether you’re working on a book-length project or a series of personal essays or something in between, we will aim to find a sense of clarity in your work and process. We will talk about how to shape our experiences, histories, observations, memories, research and reflections into meaningful and resonant creative nonfiction, focusing on elements of craft including characterization, conflict, metaphor and perspective. All of this will take place in an encouraging environment that is geared toward discussion, openness and inspiration. This workshop will not ask anyone to stay silent while the rest of the group discusses the work; rather, the workshop will welcome questions and ideas, so that every writer is included and involved.