Yearlong Workshops 2012-2013
Fishtrap is in the midst of two Yearlong Workshops, one, with novelist and memoirist Jane Vandenburgh for prose writers who already have a manuscript underway, and another, with poet and essayist Kim Stafford, for beginning work in any genre.
Architecture of the Longer Narrative
Jane Vandenburgh offers a year of individual instruction, practical guidance and spiritual encouragement to writers who have a book-length project already underway. Memoir, fiction, and non-fiction narratives are all welcome. A book length work — be it a novel or a collection of linked stories — often fails to be completed for reasons of its own length: the narrative weight of all its novelistic material so easily defeats a story’s need to feel effortless. Structural problems are, in fact, almost always the reason these good books of ours are not completed. By working closely with the knowledgeable and engaging instructor first at Summer Fishtrap, then in monthly telephone conferences, students develop those habits and skills critical to getting the whole story down and bringing it to a successful conclusion. Jane Vandenburgh is herself a prize-winning novelist and memoirist: her recent book on structuring the book-length narrative, The Architecture of the Novel: A Writer’s Handbook, is quickly becoming the standard of the industry. Why? Because she’s broken what might seem the too-ambitious journey into a series of rewarding steps.
Gathering Your Book of Story
Writers in this venture will take a year, and the generous help of one another, to each compose a collection of pieces in a genre of your choice. Each writer may compose stories, essays, poems, letters, episodes of memoir, dreams, blessings, epiphanies, or other forms of deep discovery. The goal will be to complete a compelling manuscript by July of 2013. The workshop will proceed on the principle that One can compose a work of any length, given solitudes of any brevity, by inventing a cell-like structure that can gather toward a unified whole. This process is described in the chapter “Quilting Your Solitudes” in Stafford’s book The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft. We will help each other experience this process, and then see what we want to do with what we make, by exploring a range of publishing directions beyond our time together. Kim Stafford — poet, essayist, photographer — is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute, a zone for exploratory writing at Lewis & Clark College.
Overview of the Yearlong Workshop Structure:
Fishtrap’s Yearlong Workshops are 13 month intensive writing programs modeled after low-residency MFA programs, with short, intense group sessions framing a year of long-distance instruction. If you don’t need a degree, but just want high-quality, sustained support and instruction for your writing, at a modest cost, this program could be the perfect one for you. The year begins and ends with attendance at Summer Fishtrap, where students and faculty meet for five mornings as a group. A mid-year meeting in the Portland metro area brings the group back together in January. In between these face-to-face meetings, participants work closely with their instructor, exchanging monthly packets of writing. With each packet the writer moves toward the development of a full-length manuscript with a goal of having a complete draft by the end of the course. Now in its fifth year, the Yearlong Workshop has already helped Fishtrap writers generate many manuscripts. Recently, Pam Steele has published the novel she worked on in a Yearlong Workshop with Jane Vandenburgh, Greasewood Creek.
Generally, writers submit a packet of writing to the instructor each month for critique and comment. Feedback may be via email, regular mail or phone, depending upon the situation and the format preferred by the instructor. Developing the discipline required by these intensive writing workshops is deeply rewarding — writers who have completed one of Fishtrap’s Yearlong Workshops report major breakthroughs and life-changing experiences. The personal commitment on the writer’s part is echoed by that of the teacher.
The next Yearlong Workshop is scheduled to begin in July 2014 at the Summer Fishtrap Gathering of Writers. Please check back here for details on faculty and schedule in the fall/winter of 2013.