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The Summer Writers Institute brings together many of St. Louis´ finest writers to share their expertise with those who are serious about developing their writing skills. The Institute offers two weeks of intensive workshops in fiction, personal narrative, micro-fiction, modern humor, playwriting, and poetry as well as readings and individual conferences with faculty. Workshops are conducted in supportive, non-competitive formats allowing constructive feedback. Classes are small and writers receive personalized attention. An application is not required.
Creative Nonfiction: Advanced Personal Narrative
Instructors: Kathleen Finneran
This is an advanced workshop in writing personal narrative for students who have taken at least one class in personal essay or memoir. We will build on skills and techniques learned in earlier workshops to take existing drafts to the next level. The first week will be spent workshopping and revising manuscripts that you will have submitted in advance of the class. The second week will be spent workshopping your revisions. Attention to voice, structure, beginnings and endings, and sentence-level satisfaction will be key concerns. A commitment to revision (seeing your work anew, re-visioning it) is required.
Creative Nonfiction: Personal Narrative
Instructors: Deborah Taffa
In this workshop we will create works of literature using our lives as subject matter. In addition to writing our own works, we will read published pieces of personal narrative as we discuss the fundamental questions and challenges of writing in this form: among these will be the relationship between the self as writer, the self as narrator, and the self as protagonist. We will be concerned over issues of truthfulness, the difference between the factuality of an experience and the truth of an experience, the role of imagination in nonfiction, as well as our obligation to those who inhabit our lives and thus our stories. During the workshop, we will do writing exercises to help trigger creativity and short assignments to help discover and shape subject matter. Each student will have one manuscript of new writing workshopped by the class.
Instructor: Kea Wilson
This course will introduce you to the fundamentals of fiction writing, primarily by making explicit the ways in which authors implicitly utilize their craft. We’ll use a blended seminar/studio structure to discuss ways to cultivate the technique, curiosity, and habits necessary to creating great fiction. We’ll study short works by masters of the short story form in order to learn how to read like writers, with an eye towards understanding how stories are made and figuring out how best to use those techniques in our own work. We’ll do a great deal of writing, in class and out of it, using exercises structured around those texts. And then we’ll learn a bit about how to give feedback on one another’s stories in a workshop setting, as well as how to use our peers’ feedback to revise our own work and cultivate a writing process long past the course's end. Each student will have the opportunity to workshop at least one short story.
Instructor: David Schuman
Flash fiction, micro-essays, blog posts, and short magazine features all share concision as both a necessity and a strategy. This course will focus on concision in writing, in particular on craft elements that make short pieces feel big. We will read, discuss, and adapt craft strategies from poetry, comics, songwriting, joke-telling, journalism, fairytales, and other narrative forms. The course will include discussion of published works and craft essays, in-class prompts and exercises, individual meetings with the instructor, and group workshopping. Students will produce and workshop several pieces of writing, resulting in a small portfolio of polished work. Fiction writers, nonfiction writers, and poets are welcome.
Modern Humor Writing
Instructor: Heather McPherson
This course will analyze just what makes good humor writing both good and humorous, from turning the personal into the universal to the mechanics of setting up a punchline. In-class exercises will help students identify potential material and regulate comedic timing, while workshops will provide structured feedback to their writing assignments. We will cover topical satire, parody, commentary, and personal essay, studying examples from modern American humorists as models for our own writing.
Instructor: Joan Lipkin
This course will explore the essential components of playwriting including character development, story, structure, and dialogue. We will focus on the difference between writing for live stage performances and writing prose for the page. We will read work by classical and contemporary playwrights, including Trifles by Lynn Nottage, Black Comedy by Peter Shaffer, Mud by Maria Irene Fornes, and Anton Chekov’s A Marriage Proposal. Students will workshop a ten-minute and a one-act play.
Instructor: Kent Shaw
In this workshop, we will reach across the vast poetic landscape that exists in the 21st Century, and we will learn how each of us would plant the flag of our singular voices. Contemporary American poetry is alive to as many registers and subjects and forms and obfuscations as you can imagine. The path to your own poetry writing lies through poems of many different registers. The somber and the reverent. The ecstatic and the exuberant. Why does Robert Frost find poetic sense in the sound of regular speech? How does the imagination shape an emotional landscape? Where should a poem be evocative, and where should it be subtle? While the poetic tradition, together with poetry exercises and prompts, will serve as our guide, we will focus a great deal on each other's poetry, refining the voice and imagery. Students will workshop multiple poems over the course of the Institute.