Place as Character: A Writing Workshop to Capture Your Surroundings (And Readers)
Nonfiction writers working in essay and memoir can bring setting to life so it becomes a character as much as any of their human characters. Learn how to establish place and render it with characteristics so it informs and colors the work as a whole.
May 6, 2019 – June 30, 2019
The online classroom is active and available 24/7, making it the perfect opportunity for writers anywhere in the world to engage in the weekly lectures, writing exercises, and dynamic conversation with peers and instructor any time.
In all forms of writing, a town or city, a room or a yard can be as much a protagonist as a human of flesh and bone.
In this class, we’ll read clips from both fiction and nonfiction that concern a deep investment in place. We will approach the issue of place as character in several ways:
- Explore how people change within different surroundings (to accommodate the place or in opposition to it)
- Discuss techniques for revealing hidden traits of yourself in order to give those attributes to your characters
- Write a nonfiction narrative or essay about going from a place of stress to one of relief.
Students with an interest in essay and memoir writing should enroll to learn more about the mechanics of who, what, where, when and why as applied to writing. The class project will be a 1,200-word excerpt for any type of personal or nonfiction writing, with several shorter “warm-up” writing exercises beforehand, gradually building to the final assignment.
All writers- from entry-level writers to experienced- will get a tremendous amount of craft and insight from this course. No prior writing experience is necessary. Just bring your love of the written word and a story to tell!
Class Delivery Format
Online course with weekly discussions and conversation/participation deadlines. Class and workshop hybrid with a writing component.
Which Writers Might You Read?
The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck; The Theory of Supermarkets, Hitt; Ode to Waffle House, Juond; This is New York, White; Jeter, Moehringer; Soldier of the Great War, Helprin; and more.
Some Areas We Will Cover
- Week 1 topic: Introduction to place, as written through the Southern literary cannon
- Week 2 topic: Deep involvement in place (1st writing assignment)
- Week 3 topic: Strong family bonds
- Week 4 topic: Celebration of eccentricity (2nd writing assignment)
- Week 5: Embracing local tradition and themes of human endurance
- Week 6: A sense of impending loss (3rd and submittable assignment)
- Week 7: An inability to leave the past behind
- Week 8: Final workshop and literary journal/publication discussion
The final assignment is a 1,500 word piece, which is the standard length of short-form memoir and creative nonfiction or fiction. Participants will be encouraged to submit their work at the end of the class to a variety of literary magazines and journals. Feedback will be provided throughout the workshop.
Highlights of the Workshop
- Class size: we purposefully keep our workshop enrolment low so each participant has ample opportunity to engage with one another and the instructor, getting detailed comments and suggestions on the work submitted.
- Collaboration is key: Over the course of the workshop, as the instructor and fellow writers get to know your work, they will be able to specifically target those issues you care about most and help you toward the goals you’re striving to attain, celebrating and helping you enhance your natural voice and views.
- The online format makes the workshop part of your daily life, something that becomes part of your writing practice and everyday activity, making it an effective and highly productive experience.
How the Online Workshop Works
- After enrolling, you will receive an email with some information about your workshop. A few days before the workshop is to begin, you will receive your username and log in information for our secure online classroom.
- Once the course begins, you will have unlimited access to your secure online classroom. Log in any time to enjoy ongoing conversation, post work and feedback, and download materials from the instructor and fellow students 24/7.
- The class takes place according to a weekly structure: each Monday, the instructor posts lecture and conversation notes, readings, and other pertinent information. You can take the full week to engage with the materials and enjoy the ongoing connection and chat any time.
Kenneth R. Rosen, a senior news assistant at The New York Times, is a senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a Robert Novak fellow, and a 2019 MacDowell Colony fellow. He is a contributing writer for WIRED, and is at work on two books: a work of literary nonfiction about tough love treatment programs for juveniles (Little A, 2020) and a book on the synthetic fiber known as Kevlar (Bloomsbury, 2019).