Craft Talks

Join us at the Workshop @ Boulder to hear talks on craft from our faculty – Gary Ferguson, Alan Heathcock and Pam Houston on the following topics:

Writing from the Inside: the Power of Personal Essay.  Let’s face it, the nuts and bolts of good writing – things like transition, tone, dialogue, and pacing – can be taught through any number of genres. But for nonfiction writers looking to make their narratives more compelling, it’s hard to beat an in-depth exploration of the personal essay. Personal nonfiction essays require a writer know who they are in a given piece. And while turning the focus on ourselves requires perspective, sometimes even courage, such efforts yield marvelous insights into human character; insights that can form the foundation of riveting storytelling. Using a mix of exercises and conversation, we’ll learn effective techniques for honing some of the critical mechanical skills mentioned above. At the same time, we’ll also have the chance to play with some intriguing tools for energizing narrative, including the use of an ancient blueprint for storytelling known as dramatic device.  - Gary Ferguson

Five Things You Absolutely Positively Must Do to Write a Great Story: Throughout my entire career as a writer and professor, I’ve looked to identify traits of greatness in literature that defied taste or genre.  Over many years I tinkered with a list of traits that could be found in the most potent of stories.  Through many drafts and configurations I came upon five things (not four, not six) that are objective absolutes in powerful storytelling. I’ll take you step-by-step through the five, to illustrate the conceptual foundation that defines quality and the standards toward which I write.   - Alan Heathcock

Dog Bite: It doesn’t really count until you can see the blood. Trust me.  I am pro-craft, and even, sometimes, pro-craft talk.  But I have heard too many craft talks lately that are full of so many do’s and don’t (especially dont’s), you would think we were learning to change out a carburetor on a BMW, or becoming certified public accountants, instead of making art.  My first rule of writing is that you can do absolutely anything, as long as you can make a case for it, within the artistic structure that you have invented in any given piece. (I have another craft talk, for example, called In Defense of the Second Person and Other Much Maligned Narrative Strategies) But what this craft talk/pep talk is about is what my friend Steve Almond calls pushing on the bruise.  It is about having the courage (or if you don’t have it, getting the courage) to haul whatever scares you the most out from under the bed, make it into something beautiful and then leave it all out there on the page.  It is about what Barry Lopez means when we says, “We are pattern makers, and if our patterns are beautiful and full of grace they will be able to bring a person for whom the world has become broken and disorganized up off his knees and back to life.”  It is about courage and honesty and exposure.  It is about taking risks.  - Pam Houston