Writefest kicks off with a series of four-day, genre-specific writing workshops. Held in beautiful artists' studios in Silver Street Studios, the Writefest Weekday Workshops will run Monday, May 27th - Thursday, May 30th, from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Today we're highlighting this year's Science Fiction & Fantasy workshop, taught by Tex Thompson!
Science fiction and fantasy is a wide-encompassing genre where anything can happen! It all boils down to the question of what if? What if humanity traveled to the stars? What if a young farmboy pulled a sword from a stone? Or, if you're this year's instructor, what if the world of a standard western is populated by all manner of fantastical creatures? Check out an excerpt from Tex's novel One Night in Sixes to get a glimpse of her imagination!
About the Writefest 19 Science Fiction & Fantasy Workshop
Speculative fiction is full of limitless possibilities: all you have to do is write a story that takes place outside the world as we know it. If only it were that simple! But whether you’re constructing a fantasy realm, inventing an alternate past, or postulating a post-apocalyptic future, some principles of good story-crafting are universal – and you can start applying them right away. Come learn the secrets of crafting innovative, believable, dynamic other-worlds that your readers will want to explore for years to come.
This course includes:
Writers of all levels are welcome. Come ready to share some of your work in progress!
Writefest kicks off with a series of four-day, genre-specific writing workshops. Held in beautiful artists' studios in Silver Street Studios, the Writefest Weekday Workshops will run Monday, May 27th - Thursday, May 30th, from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Today we're highlighting this year's Literary Fiction workshop, taught by Thomas McNeely!
Literary fiction aims to tell imagined stories in beautiful language. With its focus on character development, it's a genre that explores psychological truths even though its characters and plots are completely fictional. To get a feel for literary fiction, check out Thomas's story "Sheep," first published in The Atlantic.
About the Writefest 19 Literary Fiction Workshop
"Literary Fiction" is what you make of it; it's a term for writing that aims to depict something true about life. In this craft-based workshop, we will blend critique of your short fiction or novel excerpts, discussion of published stories, and in-class exercises, with the aim of discovering your voice and articulating your truth in fiction.
Writefest kicks off with a series of four-day, genre-specific writing workshops. Held in beautiful artists' studios in Silver Street Studios, the Writefest Weekday Workshops will run Monday, May 27th - Thursday, May 30th, from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Today we're highlighting this year's Memoir & Creative Nonfiction workshop, taught by Donna M. Johnson!
Creative nonfiction is a hybrid genre that employs literary techniques to tell factual narratives, which makes it a natural fit for memoir, in which the writer tells a story taken from their own life. It provides a writer the opportunity to reflect on their life's experience in a more literary mode than traditional nonfiction. To get a glimpse of all that memoir and creative nonfiction can accomplish, check out this excerpt from Donna's book-length memoir Holy Ghost Girl.
About the Writefest 19 Memoir & Creative Nonfiction Workshop
This workshop will use class instruction, writing prompts and friendly critique sessions to deepen the definition of personal narrative. Writers will be introduced to the elements of story as they apply to memoir, including time, character and voice. We will also explore threading outside resources and information through the work to create parallel narratives that expand our stories beyond the personal. Our focus will be on creating what Stephen Church termed a “narrative of thought,” in which the writer leads with curiosity over confession.
Class takeaways will include knowledge of the fundamental elements of memoir, developing complex characters, use of the reflective voice, and approaches for mining experience for meaning.
This workshop is always a popular one, and space is limited--be sure to register soon to secure your spot!
Writefest kicks off with a series of four-day, genre-specific writing workshops. Held in beautiful artists' studios in Silver Street Studios, the Writefest Weekday Workshops will run Monday, May 27th - Thursday, May 30th, from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Today we're highlighting this year's Short Story workshop, taught by Kirk Wilson!
Novelists might get a lot of attention, but the short stories have been around since the days of oral storytelling--we can trace the roots of the short story back to legends, fables, and folk tales. These days short stories can do it all, and we are thrilled to offer Writefest attendees a space to focus on the short form exclusively. For a glimpse into all that short stories can do, check out Kirk's story "The Heart of Things," originally published in The Wordstock Ten anthology.
About the Writefest 19 Short Story Workshop
What is a “short story” anyway? In this class, we’ll examine the building blocks of short fiction from voice to word choice, to dialog and description. We’ll answer some of the fundamental questions of writing story, discuss techniques for revision, and explore the final stages of submitting to journals and small presses. This workshop will include a mix of craft lectures, opportunities to generate new work, and open discussion of your work (a story of up to ten pages) in a supportive workshop setting
Writefest kicks off with a series of four-day, genre-specific writing workshops. Held in beautiful artists' studios in Silver Street Studios, the Writefest Weekday Workshops will run Monday, May 27th - Thursday, May 30th, from 9:30 AM - 12:30 PM. Today we're highlighting this year's Flash Fiction workshop, taught by writer Kathryn Kulpa!
Flash fiction is a unique literary form. Half poetry, half short fiction, it's characterized by its extremely short length (anything under 2000 words typically qualifies) and requires the writer to consider every word with extreme care. Check out Kathryn's flash piece "The Last Thing She Wore," published on Monkeybicycle, to see a flash master in action!
About the Writefest 19 Flash Fiction Workshop
What is flash fiction? It is not simply vignette, or a long story cut short, but its own unique genre that walks the border between poetry and prose.
This generative workshop will focus on creating new flash fiction pieces. Bring a notebook and come ready to write! We will play with prompts, experiment with style and voice, and find the structure that gives each story its perfect form. The workshop will include close reading of published works that exemplify all the different things flash can be, from 50-word gems to experimental works that push the boundaries of text and image.
At the end of the week, we should all have written at least four new stories, plus revisions. I hope that each writer will leave feeling energized, ready to continue the practice of writing flash fiction, and encouraged to explore the many publishing opportunities available for these shortest of stories.
You may have seen some of the new graphics for Writefest 19 floating around our social media the last month or two, but we're delighted to finally show you the full poster for this year's festival!
Ready to see what we came up with? Click "Read More" to find out . . .
By Elizabeth White-Olsen
Dear Writespace Community Member,
Beginning March 16th, I will no longer work for Writespace. This is a hard sentence for me to write, because I love Writespace with my whole heart. Why, then, am I leaving Writespace staff to do something else?
My departure is extremely amicable, but not easy. Those of us who work hard behind the scenes work closely together, and we have come to love and trust one another. We will miss working together. Our board, staff, and volunteers have been extremely understanding of this profound turn in my life, and I appreciate their support. Writespace has been my first true work home, the place where my heart and soul have belonged. I will miss the sense of community most of all, the sense of shared purpose in supporting writers and their work. But I know this step is the right one both for me and for Writespace. Definitely not the easy step, but the right one.
Birthing Writespace has by far comprised the greatest work of my life. Amongst the many gifts Writespace has brought me—the amazing friendships, the lessons in leadership, the realization of what a difference a tiny band of committed individuals can make—the knowledge that I could die now and feel like I’ve done something awesome with my life has been Writespace’s greatest gift.
Writespace's board, staff, and volunteers have been discussing this transition since mid-January and working hard to develop a plan to keep things running smoothly. My last day at Writespace will be March 15th, and Cassandra Clarke will become Writespace’s Director of Operations and acting Executive Director.
At some point—say, one or two years from now, I may return to serve as a Writespace instructor, editor, or volunteer, but over this next year, I will be focusing on pursuing my passion for keeping as many future Houstonians as possible safe from floods.
I’m signing off. Thank you for the crazy honor of serving you, Dear Writer. Thank you for the privilege of playing a part in creating a writing home for you, a place where you and your stories can grow. I look forward to continuing to watch your writing career and our writing home, Writespace, flourish.
Elizabeth White-Olsen, Founder of Writespace
By Elizabeth White-Olsen, Executive Director of Writespace
One of the aspects of working for Writespace I love most is getting to see people’s beauty, over and over. For instance, the beauty of a man named David C. Lowy, who joined the Processing Harvey through Writing workshop I led at Writespace in September. David wrote about sloshing through two feet of water and watching family pictures float by as the Meyerland home he had lived in for fifty-five years filled with water. His son Orion, luckily, had a high bed. Orion was perched on it, looking up to his dad, wondering what they should do. David’s wife, Jane, was looking to him, too.
As he read to us about that moment, David’s voice got high, as if it were being twisted, and then he would stop. Take a deep breath. Clear his throat. And start again. He could have just skipped ahead to an easier part, but he didn’t give up.
After five tries, David was able to finish the entire sentence: “Here I was again in the position of protector of my wife and my son.” The word “protector” had been hard to say, because he always protected his family, but in this case, he wasn’t sure what to do. To my mind, David got to the real danger of Harvey. Yes, that its winds and floods destroyed homes, but also that it ravaged our even deeper abodes—our identities and our relationships.
As David read, Writespace was silent. The moment felt stretched thin, as if it to let in the holy. As we listened, silently inspired by David’s courage and love for his family, I thought of the time a couple years ago David came to support his wife at a Writespace Open Mic. Jane had just published her second book. That night, the two of them stood side-by-side, her opened book before them, and each read the lines of two different characters. David was so excited to help share his wife’s story, he seemed to dance before the microphone. His pride in her work was like a song that filled the room. They’re such good people, I thought as David read his own words. They should not have had to go through Harvey.
A few weeks after our workshop, David brought Orion and Jane to Writespace’s Healing from Harvey Reading and Open Mic. They looked up at him as he read, as they had the day of the flood. He was their brave father and husband, as he had been when he led them through the water to a neighbor’s. This time, David read all the way through without hesitating. I was proud of him. Awed by him. David sets a great example for what a writer can be: someone who perseveres, despite difficulty, to speak the truth.
After the reading, David and I struck up a correspondence. David shared that his parents had lived in his home before him, and he also wrote:
David hadn’t mentioned his mother before, or her autobiography. This seemed to come out of left field, but then, in life and in art, sometimes left field brings the best gifts. In a later email, David shared more about his family:
I took a deep breath and sat back to try to take this in: David had a half brother who, when barely a toddler, had either directly or indirectly been killed by Nazis.
We like to catalogue the Holocaust as history, but it is not. David’s half brother could be alive with us today, had the evil that can overtake humans not interfered. Knowing David’s family history, I wondered if in the moment when David stood knee-deep in water in his and his father’s home during Harvey, if somewhere in David’s spirit, there might have been a deep echo of the son and wife his father could not protect? And I wondered if some of David’s love for family might have come from a sense of responsibility, given in sorrow and in gratitude, towards the brother who did not live, yet whose loss allowed for David’s very existence? Perhaps the injustice of the floods of Harvey could have washed up a more ancient and evil injustice, as well as revealed the courage and persistence that David’s parents must have taught him? And perhaps all this subterranean terror and beauty was a part of what made David’s reading so powerful?
My husband and I were evacuated by canoe during Harvey. I remember thinking soon after, There’s nothing more painful than going through a natural disaster. And then I realized this wasn’t true: Oh, yes, there is. If humans had caused this to harm us, that would hurt worse. I can’t even fathom – And I thought of Syria, of Haiti, of so many countless places where people have been traumatized. And, of course, I thought of the Holocaust, the largest genocidal massacre in human history. From the safety of America, 2018, it’s impossible to imagine an uprooting not just from a home, but from a country and a continent. And, then, to lose not just your home, possessions, community, and career, but family members—brothers and sisters, parents and children, grandparents and grandbabies. Neighbors. Your grocer. Your mayor. Your rabbi. Nearly every single person you knew. And, then, to have these endless losses caused by fellow human beings.
My mind couldn’t comprehend this depth of pain. This was the first time in my life I realized there is suffering beyond my comprehension—and injustice beyond my comprehension. As someone who comes from a race with no history of unjust suffering, and in fact with a history of even causing unjust suffering, I felt like I was being shown something I have needed to know for a long time. I could never have “thought” my way there, it took Harvey knocking me down. I realize it could be seen as arrogant to compare the tiny amount of suffering I endured to the grand scale of human suffering endured by millions during the Holocaust. There is no comparison. I know this, but I was grateful to have an entry, the cracking open of a door, and I do not discount it.
David is going to come by Writespace to give me his mother’s autobiography soon. I am looking forward to reading it, because perhaps her words will build a bridge over time and teach me. At the same time, I am afraid to receive it. Having witnessed David’s courage at telling his story, I am going to try to follow David’s lead by reading even the difficult parts without looking away.
By Anne Alexander, Writer and Writespace Member
Thank you, Writespace!
Every December I make a special date with myself: just me, my journal, and coffee, so I can think about the upcoming year and what I’d like to accomplish. Last year, my mind kept going to just one thing: my writing. It was feeling kind of stale, and I was eager to tackle something new. It wasn’t long before I discovered Writespace, and I knew I’d found something special. This is it, I thought.
I purchased a Writespace membership for myself that day, and signed up for Mark Dostert’s workshop, Introduction to Personal Essay and Memoir. Mark is a superb instructor and guide. Twelve writers of vastly differing levels of experience were there, yet he tailored the experience in ways that benefited all of us. I’ve collected countless books about the craft of writing, but by the end of the workshop, I had learned more than I had in all of those books combined. I had a writing M.O. I used for years… but in this class I learned fresh concepts about how to approach the idea behind the personal essay in ways I had never considered. After the last session, I jotted down a goal in my notebook: “ will get an acceptance from a literary journal by the end of 2018.
On September 7 of this year, I reached that goal. I have part of the acceptance email from the editor of Burningword Literary Journal etched in my mind: “We love it and would like to publish it in the next quarterly issue.”
I’ve had many publishing credits since I was 18 years old, but I’ve never felt quite the sense of accomplishment that I did that day.
The print edition landed in my mailbox recently – I keep it on my desk so I can feel the warm glow of validation and pride whenever I need it, and to give me the courage to continue sending my writing out into the world. Persistence pays, and an acceptance from another publication popped into my inbox on September 21.
There’s not a doubt in my mind I met my 2018 goal because of what I learned from Mark Dostert and from Writespace, and it gives me the confidence to keep learning, to keep writing, and to keep hitting that “submit” button.
Check out Anne's publications, as well as other Writespace member successes, on our Success Story page!
By Cassandra Rose Clarke, Associate Director of Writespace
As a writer, I hate revising my work. The joy of writing for me has always been tied to drafting my stories, sitting down at a computer and pulling new characters and worlds out of my imagination. I love the organic tangle of artistic creation. There's something magical about it.
Revising, on the other hand, is tedious and frustrating. The magic becomes mundane. That organic tangle? It's actually a disorganized mess, and now I'm tasked with seeing all of its flaws head on without having one idea how to fix them. I make lists, I reread my work, force myself to type up some new scenes. It's hard.
But something has made the revision process easier for me--at least a little. Two years ago, I began offering editing consultations services with Writespace. As much as I hate revising my own work, helping someone revise their work is a whole different beast. Where I see unfixable flaws in my own stories, in others' writing I see potential. A few tweaked sentences, a reworked scene, and instantly there's the frisson of reading something exciting and new. It's revision, but of a novel or story I'm reading for the first time. It's revision, but with characters, worlds, and ideas that I would never have dreamed up myself. In short, it's writing, but collaborative.
It's a cliche at this point to talk about how writing is solitary, but in many ways that cliche isn't even true. Yes, drafting is solitary, but once a piece of writing begins edging its way toward publication, a lot more people are involved. After all, what is reading but an imaginative collaboration between reader and writer? And I think that's why I find my work as an editor so rewarding. That collaboration becomes an actual conversation, held over ice coffee at a local Starbucks, printed manuscript pages spread across the tiny, rickety table. I tell a client what I'm seeing in their work, they tell me what they intended, and we work together to reconcile these two different visions into a work the writer can call their own.
Working as an editor has forced me to re-examine my own revision process. Drafting is all about me, but publication isn't, and revision is nothing more than getting a work ready for publication. Should I drop that Stephen King insight in here about drafting with the door closed, but revising with it open? He actually learned that from working with--surprise, surprise!--an editor. And working as an editor has helped me to fully understand what he meant by it. Drafting is a brain dump, all those swirls of ideas in your head that make no sense to anyone but you. Revision is how you make that brain dump shareable. It's how you make writing not so solitary after all.