Writing Studios

Over the course of the first PREE Writing Studio, each participant will work for four days with one of our acclaimed writers. These outstanding authors have designed their own courses, with the aim of cultivating and honing participants’ writing practice, craft, and imagination. Look below for courses being offered at our 2020 Writing Studio.

Reaction/Fiction with Marlon James

“Books come out of books,” Cormac McCarthy once said. He’s right of course; fiction has always come out of fiction. Sometimes to uncover a marginalized voice, or to humanize a demon (Jane Eyre/Wide Sargasso Sea). Sometimes to make troublingly round, the reassuringly flat (Great Expectations/Jack Maggs). Sometimes to return to the scene of the crime (The Shining/ Doctor Sleep). And sometimes to view a story from back then in a point of view that reflects us now (Don Quixote/ Quichote). All these stories came out of stories that compelled the author to respond. 

This is what you will be doing in this workshop: writing Fiction as a response to Fiction. The dismissed voice, the monster with a soul, the character without agency, the character everybody but you forgot. The villain. The punch line. The caricature. The racist joke. Who can you uncover? What can you take (or reject) and make your own? Which story demands another view? What was merely hinted at, that you could bring to the fore?  Reaction/Fiction is where you will twist, turn and violate, but it will also uncover, re-humanize and dignify.  In this class, the “ending” is just the beginning of where your imagination will take you.

People and Place with Nicole Dennis-Benn

Create a world for your characters to move around in; if not you cannot fully conjure them.” – Toni Morrison

Characters are essential to the story; so is setting. Setting provides a world for the story to take place. But more than that, setting reveals a lot about the characters—who they are; their culture and the social circumstances that shape them and affect the decisions they make. Through reading, writing, and discussion, we will explore methods to use the physical environment as a characterization tool, which will undoubtedly make the story richer and more memorable. 

Finding Your Voice with Ingrid Persaud

This workshop helps you find that authentic signature that makes your writing distinct and immediately recognisable. Elsewhere you will focus on honing the craft of story, plot, place and character. In our sessions, you work at conveying these elements in your own unique voice. It is your writer’s personality. Developing voice is an ongoing process, improving with your confidence as a writer. Understanding style, perspective and tone are crucial. Through reading and writing exercises you will leave the workshop with a better sense of how voice makes your work outstanding.

How to Be Painterly: Conjuring the Poetic Image
with Safiya Sinclair

The poetic image, in its most painterly forms, is not just a way to “show” instead of “tell”—the perfect image is a conjuring: a doorway through time and space, a way to dive into memory, a lucid entryway into other worlds. With a well-conjured image, one’s whole world may be disrupted into entirely new thought. One may swoon, or sigh, or search for meaning, one may fix upon a figure, or a texture, or a colour. Through the fevered imagination of the painterly, an image leaps to another image, bending space, creating space, filling us with all the luminous details of the writer’s world. An image “presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time,” writes Ezra Pound in “A Few Dont’s by an Imagiste.”

In this workshop, through reading and generative writing exercises, we will aim to conjure imagery that evokes all the emotional and intellectual senses. We will learn how to be painterly with texture and metaphor, how to craft images that trace and weave symbolism, allegory, and allusion. We will engage in ekphrastic considerations of artwork by visual artists like Frida Kahlo, Caravaggio, and Wangechi Mutu. We will chase what lights our wildest imagination. By reading the work of Sylvia Plath, H.D., Derek Walcott, Lorca, Lucie Brock-Broido, Natalie Diaz, Roger Reeves, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel García Márquez, we will examine the different ways an image opens the doorways into astounding poetry, uncovering how imagery illuminates the lyric landscape of the greatest literary works.

I Have Made an Elegy for Myself with Ishion Hutchinson

This workshop concerns memory. Specifically, the ways a poem—the elegy—memorializes the dead. What aspects of craft intensify our experience of mortal loss and consolation? How do these techniques—cadence, space, rhythm, figurative language—work together to make absent things present? These will be our guiding questions when we discuss several assigned elegies. You will experiment with writing elegy, but any and all of your poems will be workshopped. 

The Technique of Place with Kei Miller

“Carried off we might be in spirit, and should be, when we are reading or writing something good; but it is the sense of place going with us still that is the ball of golden thread to carry us there and back and in every sense of the word to bring us home.” – Eudora Welty

What is place? And where is it? And is it even a single thing? And how best can a sense of place be recreated on the page? 

Few things are as important to the cohesion of a piece of writing, to its power, and to its lyricism as is place. ‘Place’ is at once one of the most easily understood aspects of craft, and also one of the most philosophical and complicated. In this series of workshops writers will be challenged with exciting new ideas of how to approach, expand and complicate ‘place’ in their writing. This is a cross-genre workshop, suitable to fiction writers, non-fiction writers and poets, and especially to those who write across genres. 

Stories of the Self: The Art of the Personal Essay
with Garnette Cadogan

A personal essay is a story in pursuit of the self—chasing, lassoing, interrogating, arguing with, and sometimes even dodging the self. Though diverse in form and varied in the subjects it covers, the personal essay has its sights firmly set on understanding or explaining the self: Who are we, really, and why do we behave the way we do?
We will tackle that question through readings of exemplary personal essays, exploring how masterful essayists handle the ambiguities, frustrations, promise, and provocations of the self. Our conversation partners will include Hilton Als, James Baldwin, Alexander Chee, Debra Dickerson, Edwidge Danticat, Gerald Early, Jamaica Kincaid, Luc Sante, Zadie Smith, and Virginia Woolf, with guest appearances by poets, novelists, short story writers, playwrights, filmmakers, musicians, and visual artists. More than anything else, we will focus on seeing, much more so than being seen, and ask what it means to explore the human self through—and shape human experience within—the capacious literary form that is the personal essay.