Genre Flipping: Becoming Ambidextrous with Poetry and Prose
If you want to write poetry and don't feel that you are a poet,learn how to start with prose and identify and extract lyric elements to shape poetry. If you are a poet and don't think prose is your style, learn to find the narrative qualities in your poetry and lengthen your work. If you have longed to write poetry or to turn poems into longer pieces, or to put more feeling and emotion into your sentences, use this class to accomplish your goals. You can start from scratch with exercises supplied by the instructor or you can work on turning journal entries into finished, focused, moving work. You can also take older work and revisit it to find the poems and stories and essays you may have lying inside them.
Sometimes, for poets, work disappoints, arriving in paragraphs that don't look like they can be made into poems. Sometimes the poem arrives without enough narrative to ground it in the world and make it understandable to the reader. And sometimes, for prose writers, work arrives in "clunky" paragraphs that lack the imagery and emotion that moves readers. In this class, you will learn how to look at what you have written and decide if there is a poem in the prose or if a story or essay might come from the poem you created. In addition to studying lyric and narrative values and how they operate in both poems and prose, you will also explore forms on the borders of the genres: "prose-poems" sometimes called "flash nonfiction" and the "lyric essay." You will receive emailed examples and links to writing online for samples that will serve as a basis for discussion about technique. You will also be assigned writing tasks for creating and developing the poetry or prose you want.
By the third week, students will be looking into their own and their classmates' work with an eye and ear toward changing the genre from the original presentation on the page and developing it into moving prose or poetry. Students will email the outcomes of their exercise writing to the class. Class members as well as the instructor will offer response. The best help in appreciating what you have created and how you might use it in future writing comes from response, not criticism. Students will receive the kind of empowering help they need to learn more about what they created and how they might use it in future writing.
Week 1: Poems Versus Prose: How are they the same and how are they different? How do we know? Class material will contain examples of poems and prose that seem to move the reader similarly, and via email, the class will discuss the writing and its attributes.
Week 2: Students will read articles documenting two people's experience turning one genre into another. Using a prompt, students will write a piece to submit to the group (or they may use a previous journal entry or piece of writing),identifying whether they want it to ultimately become a poem or a piece of prose.
Week 3: Classmates and the instructor will offer response to the writing and the instructor will provide prompts that will help students yield the poem or prose piece they desire.
Week 4: Students will submit a revision of this initial work and the class will notice what happened as the words expanded or contracted into poetry or prose.
Week 5: Students will start a piece intentionally written as "flash nonfiction" or a "prose poem" after reading posted examples and may post work-in-progress for response.
Week 6: Students will start a "lyric essay" or "poem in parts" using the instructor's Three-Days and Three-Nights exercise and discussing other student results.
Week 7: Students will choose one of their pieces from the past two weeks and post it for response. Students and the instructor will offer detailed response to the work.
Week 8: Class discussion will revolve around a further revision of the piece responded to in week 7.
Week 9: The instructor will offer more exercises for beefing up the poetry in your work and for maintaining clarity with narration, to keep you writng for months to come, in poetry or in prose.
Week 10: Students will post one exercise result for class response so they leave class working on revision.
So many of us have suffered severe losses - pregnancies, children, spouses, parents, marriages, health, houses, jobs and opportunities we longed to fulfill. We may have lost our sense of ourselves because of helplessness in the face of loss. Writing can not change the pain or sorrow we suffer but it can help us figure out how to come to terms with it and find a way to hold it in our lives and go on. It can help us find a route to being able to feel all of our feelings so we may also feel the joy in our lives. Writing allows us to reconstruct and retrieve people, places and times, so we know we will never lose them.
In this class we will use excerpts from the work of Elizabeth Bishop (in particular, The Art of Losing), Mary Jo Bangs (poems from her book Elegy), the instructor's prose manuscript (A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, forthcoming Sept/Oct 2009 from Imago), the work of Rabbi David J. Wolpe (Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times), and the work of Madge McKeithen (Blue Peninsula: Essential Words for a Life of Loss and Change) among several others. Although poetry is a good starting point for writing grief, prose can be the result of this inspiration and participants will work in either or both. Class exercises and discussion will be geared toward helping participants develop and revise new work and/or revise work they started prior to class. A gentle, empowering response method will help everyone see where they can say more and write the story and feelings they want to explore.
Course materials include Sorrow's Words: Writing to Heal Grief. This is a short e-book with photographs that includes five chapters of exercises for writing one's way through grief along with an narrative by Sheila Bender. In class, the group will write from exercises from one chapter per week. Cost: $6.99. The book can be purchased from Amazon.com and delivered to your computer or electronic reading device or, of course, both. If you have questions about how to have the book delivered to your advice, the instructor will help you with the logistics.
This class will run for five weeks:
Week One: What are we doing when we are writing grief? Online class discussion on the course readings.
Week Two: Exercises to get started on your writing and/or see into the shape of writing you have already begun
Week Three: Responses from the instructor and classmates on drafts of pieces each participant wants to post.
Week Four: Working on revisions of the writing based on the response gathered from classmates and the instructor
Week Five: A week for response to further revisions.
(Note: Weeks Four and Five will also include more exercises for those who want to get started on additional writing.)
Sheila Bender is an excellent teacher. She really takes the time to respond to students' posts and provides thoughtful and insightful feedback. She is also an excellent writer and shared some of her own writing with the class. This class was very healing for me. I would definitely recommend this class to others.
I was initially skeptical about taking an online writing class with such a personal and painful subject matter but was pleasantly surprised at the valuable and constructive feedback that was offered in such a safe online environment - no easy achievement.
FEEEP: Flash, Epistolary, Essay, Ekphrasis, Persona:
Using inventive strategies to write your life experience
A lived life is full of observation and reflection; writing about it leads to new insights and discoveries for authors and their readers. This workshop will focus on strategies used by professional writers such as Bruce Holland Rogers, Richard Hugo, Elisabeth Robinson, Marion Wright Edelman, and President Obama, among others, to cultivate creative writing. We'll read flash fiction and flash nonfiction, personal essays, poems and prose in letter form and in persona voices and as responses to scenes. You'll come away with a notebook full of new writing, new vocabulary on craft, and tools for revising those pieces you wish to refine.
Week 1: Flash Nonfiction: - Try your hand at creating one or two flash or prose poem pieces (up to 1,000 words total) with models provided for your inspiration.
Week 2: Epistolary Writing: - Try your hand at writing a personal essay or poem in letter form (up to 1500 words) using models from a variety of provided sources.
Week 3: Essay: - Try your hand at a traditional personal essay using the comparison/contrast structure or the cause/effect structure (up to 1500 words) using provided models.
Week 4: Ekphrasis: - Writing in response to visual art has a long history. Try your hand at creating a lyric poem or prose piece up 500-1000 words long using models provided.
Week 5: Persona: - Adopt a new voice to investigate the world or people around you in a poem. Models include the voices of inanimate objects, fictional characters and people one has known through life. Poems and personal essays thrive with this craft strategy. Use provided models to develop a personal essay (up to 1500 words) or a lyric or prose poem.
The instructor and classmates will offer response to the work you post with details about where they felt connected and where they wanted to know more. The instructor is an experienced developmental editor who can help you move the piece toward its full manifestation.
Writing From What You Know:
Use Personal Experience to Write Instructional Pieces
Do you have knowledge you'd like to combine with your interest in writing to produce articles that help others in the fields you know about? In this 5- week course, we'll explore ways to identify and focus (and refocus) articles you might write based on your experience and passions.
You should have one piece submitted by the end of the five-week term as well as ideas about how to begin other articles from Week One's self-interview and how to spin and shape your essay for more than one audience and publication.
Week One:Interviewing Yourself to Find Your Topics - Some you imagined and some you didn't realize you'd find in your expertise and experience, targeting a venue for publication
Week Two:Outlining Articles - Techniques for grabbing reader interest, staying clear and making your knowledge accessible
Week Three: Writing an Article- The draft
Week Four: Developing the Draft -- Shaping and Polishing What You Wrote, Meeting word-length limits, editing for clarity, reviewing for completeness and tone
Week Five:Making submissions - locating venues, querying editors, submitting your work
Writing the College and Graduate School Essay
A five-week, one-to-one tutorial.
Writing the college and graduate school essay--from outline to writing richly while meeting word limits--this class is for anyone applying to college or graduate school. Take advantage of the experience and information the instructor has gleaned from 11 years working with an online company that provides tutoring, editing and coaching for applicants who are writing essays for undergraduate and graduate programs, including PhD programs, law school, MBA programs and medical school. Learn how to center your essay on the information admissions committees are looking for and use the word limit for specificity rather than generalities.
Revision, Revision, Revision
A three-week, one-to-one tutorial.
When I think of teaching revision, I think of lines from Emma Lazarus' famous poem on the Statue of Liberty:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...
As writers, if we are doing our job (writers write!), we have folders, notebooks and computer files filled with writing that hasn't fully manifest on the page. Having a skilled responder will help you grow your writing into the finished work you've been attempting and imagining it could be.
In this three-week tutorial, you'll have the opportunity to revisit journal entries, personal essays, articles, and stories that you know need development even though you can't imagine how to accomplish that development .
We'll work together on up to 5,000 words of your writing. You'll send drafts of work that cumulatively equal 5,000 words and I'll provide my detailed reader response; then you'll revise those drafts and I'll respond once more. We continue in this way over the three weeks.
You'll get into the revisions grove and be amazed at the changes in the pieces you've wanted to send out for publication and share with others, knowing they communicate fully and provide insight.
Rather than a class, this is a three-week, one-to-one tutorial. The cost is $150.
Sheila has the uncanny ability to help writers find the nugget of truth and meaning buried in their prose. I've come to her with unfinished essays, and she has helped me take my writing in unexpected directions, helped me develop my essays to a new level, helped me fully voice what is in my heart. Her gentle feedback process makes the word journey a joy.
- Suzan Huney, Administrator, University of Washington
You thoroughly know how to get thinking on the page to workable prose and communicate feedback clearly and efficiently.
- Michele Picozzi
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