Art of Writing

The Hume Center, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric, and the Creative Writing Program are proud to offer this free workshop series open to all students from all majors. Come study the Art of Writing in intensive, fun, hands-on workshops with the dynamic faculty of the Creative Writing Program. You’ll leave with an expanded understanding of writing and a sheaf full of pages.

Winter 2016 Schedule

All workshops are free, open to the entire Stanford community, and held in the Hume Center for Writing and Speaking in Building 250, Room 106, from 5:30-7:00pm, unless otherwise specified. Snacks are provided!

Week 3, Tue 1/19 — "Word as Object" with Brittany Perham

Does a word have an inherent texture? temperature? taste? Does the word TREE serve as more than just a stand-in for the “usually tall plant that has a thick, wooden stem and many large branches” out the window? In this workshop, we’ll investigate the hidden lives of words by considering them as material objects. Words will be our playthings in a series of fun and oddball exercises: we’ll make pen-and-ink drawings, concept maps, sound webs, and more. By engaging with a word’s “thing-ness,” we’ll have a new perspective on its definitions, usages, origins, and connotations; and finally, we’ll have new ideas about the word as a signifier of meaning.

Brittany Perham is a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program and the author of "The Curiosities" (Free Verse Editions, 2012).


Week 4, Mon 1/25 — "The Art of Eavesdropping: Using Overheard Dialogue to Make Fiction" with Rachel Smith

Sometimes the best lines you write in a story aren’t yours. Have you ever found yourself in line at the grocery store or on the BART when a stranger says something that makes you want to keep listening? Were you alert, attentive and full of anticipation? Taking note and making use of those choice, overheard lines can give a similar, delightful experience to your readers. This workshop explores several ways to enrich your writing with overheard snippets of conversation. You’ll leave with a few short sketches and tips for opening your ears.

Rachel Smith’s writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Rumpus and Brevity.


Week 5, Mon 2/1 —"Night of the Living Dead: Re-Animating Dead Sentences" with Brenden Wiley

We all, at some point or another, write a dead sentence, a dull paragraph, an even worse page. What do we do when the problem is the writing itself, when the very words fail us? The sentences don’t speak clearly, or they’re clunky, baggy, tone-deaf, or overcrowded with words. Whatever it is, something’s off. In this workshop, we’ll unearth strategies for enlivening writing, for taking the dead parts and making them walk. We’ll look at lackluster passages from wonderful books—Henry James, say, or even James Joyce. (Yes, even Joyce wrote one bad sentence. Precisely one.) Then we’ll turn to passages of our own, and apply this revision strategy, maybe learn a few revision shortcuts. (Please bring a passage of your own writing you’re less than pleased with. One-half page to a page.)

Brenden Willey’s fiction has recently appeared in Narrative and The Antioch Review, and been given grants by Oregon Literary Arts in Portland and the Elizabeth George Foundation.


Week 6, Mon 2/8 — "Soggy Onion Sandwiches: A Workshop on Detail in Fiction" with Austin Smith

In his classic story "Big Two-Hearted River," Ernest Hemingway's character, Nick Adams, eats an onion sandwich dipped in the cold water of the river. I've always been intrigued by how Hemingway makes this clearly unappetizing lunch sound so delicious. It has everything to do with the clarity of his descriptions, and his use of detail. We'll look at this passage, try to write a scene of our own using similar techniques, and, of course, make (and maybe eat) some onion sandwiches (bring your own river water).

Austin Smith is a Jones Lecturer in fiction, and his stories have appeared in Harper's, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review, and other publications.


Week 7, Tue 2/16 —"Sweating Through the Mask: Writing Dramatic Monologues" with Greg Wrenn

In this workshop, we will draft our own dramatic monologues, using Patricia Smith's "Skinhead" and Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" as inspiration. Poetic craft and narrative will be emphasized. At the end of the session, several participants will perform their poems for the group.

Greg Wrenn is the author of Centaur. His poetry and prose has been published in The New Republic, The Best American Poetry 2014, Kenyon Review, AGNI, and elsewhere.