Post by EJ Levy:
I think of writing workshops as akin to Buddhist transmission, passing along ancient wisdom about how writers can seduce audiences into empathy and out of egoism, a wisdom that dates back millennia to Aristotle. In my first year of graduate school, I was delighted to discover that through my teachers, I could trace my literary lineage back to Gertrude Stein (through my teachers to their teachers, stretching back to Paris in the 1920s).
I have been blessed with remarkable teachers—Lee K. Abbott, Bill Roorbach, Nicholas Delbanco, Melanie Rae Thon, among others—each of whom offers a distinctive and marvelously precise vocabulary for the writing (and reading) of nonfiction and fiction, illuminating those forms and their possibilities. It’s a great pleasure for me to pass along their wisdom, and I hope some of my own, in workshops that aim to be both generative of material and illuminating of form, so that we take away from our discussions both the seed of new work and the ability to see more clearly the possibilities of the genre.
At Wild Mountain my workshops will aim to equip you with strategies and techniques to generate new work and to improve on what you have. Becoming a writer (as you likely know) is largely a matter of becoming the writer you are (which necessarily means figuring our what kind of writer that is)—discovering your obsessions, material, methods, work habits, strengths, the like. Even the most experienced writer reaches a limit from time to time, moments when you’re tired of your material or uncertain about how to proceed with an idea or draft. So we want to develop flexibility, to cultivate a range of tools and techniques to help us move to the next level in a piece, to generate new work, to move beyond what we think may be our limits, to keep developing as writers. In our work together, we’ll strive to address both aspects of the writer’s apprenticeship: discovering ourselves as writers and expanding our toolbox for the future.
Levy’s Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat Classes:
A) Visual Memoir: Every age reinvents its literary forms, so how can we as writers update the memoir form to reflect our increasingly visual and technological culture? How can we reinvigorate our prose in ways that deepen our art and expand our formal options? In our image-inundated twenty-first century, most contemporary prose still shies away from engaging the visual aspects of literary art. This workshop will offer participants a chance to explore the intersection of the visual and textual, as we experiment with making meta-narratives by refracting personal stories through the lens of non-literary forms. Workshop will include focused exercises, brief readings, and in-class discussion of a range of inspiring works from Eula Biss to Ander Monson, Michael Martone to Diane Schoemperlen and Kitty Burns Florey.
B) Food for Thought: A juicy story. Starving for love. Eat your heart out. The English language is rich in gustatory metaphors that bespeak the enduring connection between food and feeling, the link between our culinary and emotional lives. This workshop will engage writers in an exploration of their own food memories as a source of memoir through focused exercises, brief readings, and in-class discussion of that most enduring object of our affection—food.
[Bonus for readers interested in knowing what EJ Levy is writing at the moment: Here’s the first chapter of E.J.’s memoir-in-progress, How to Cook an Elk. This first chapter, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” was included in the 2005 Best American Essays (ed: Susan Orlean).]