Block 4 [clear filter]
Friday, April 3

3:30pm EDT

4A: Realism with a Twist: Bending the Truth to Get Closer to It
Limited Capacity filling up

Franz Kafka transformed his unhappy Samsa into an insect. Colson Whitehead brought Cora from slavery on an actual underground train. Mohsin Hamid sent his refugees through a door to a different life. All of these books tweak the boundaries of realism. They tell of worlds that look much like our own – no dystopian futures or imagined planets – but some element is made strange. And as a result, we can see our troubled world more clearly.

When we’re writing about frightening political, social, and climate situations, realism can’t always adequately describe the real world. In this session, through lectures and exercises, we’ll explore adding magic and metaphor to the realist novel. We’ll look at work by Zadie Smith, Ruth Ozeki, Valeria Luisella and others as we talk about ways to wake up our readers. How can we defamiliarize difficult truths that we often try to ignore? What can we learn from allegories and fairy tales? How can we, as writers, pay attention differently in order to know the world better?

avatar for Heather Abel

Heather Abel

Heather Abel’s debut novel, The Optimistic Decade was an Indie Next pick, a Massachusetts Center of the Book 2018 "Must Read" and received praise from the New York Times, People Magazine, New York Magazine, and the Seattle Times, among many other places. Her essays have appeared... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
St. James Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4C: Writing Sentences that Sing
Limited Capacity filling up

What are captivating sentences, and how do we write them? How can we borrow from music and poetry to produce vivid, arresting prose that activates the imagination and delights our inner ear? In this session, we’ll explore concrete strategies for crafting musical sentences in fiction and non-fiction. We’ll look closely at how to harness rhythm, meter, assonance, consonance, alliteration, internal rhyme, and other techniques to deepen meaning and create unforgettable prose that readers will love. You'll have a chance to try out these techniques in your own writing, and we'll discuss examples from contemporary authors such as Justin Torres, Sonya Larson, and Jesmyn Ward. Together, we'll work toward a collective understanding of what makes great sentences sing.

avatar for Colwill Brown

Colwill Brown

Fiction Writer
Colwill Brown is an instructor and manuscript consultant at GrubStreet, an associate editor at Bat City Review, and an MFA candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the recipient of the Wellspring House Emerging Writer Fellowship, the Henry Blackwell Essay Prize, and... Read More →
avatar for Jonathan Escoffery

Jonathan Escoffery

Fiction & Nonfiction Writer
Jonathan Escoffery’s writing has appeared in The Paris Review, AGNI, Pleiades, Salt Hill, The Caribbean Writer, Creative Nonfiction, Solstice Literary Magazine, Pangyrus, and elsewhere. His most recent honors include a Distinguished Story citation in The Best American Short Stories... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
White Hill Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4D: Negotiating Time in Memoir and Novels
Limited Capacity full

In books, as in life, timing is everything. How do we deliver a story in the right order? How should a book unfold? In memoir and fiction, linear chronology can be boring, but if we play around with the sequence of events too much, the reader may feel confused or disconcerted. 

In this session, we will think about structure and how to organize a story's timing for maximum impact. Specifically, we look at how to incorporate backstory. Too much of it up front and you risk losing the reader; too little, and your story may lack depth. We will examine how to raise the stakes so that flashbacks feel necessary and urgent. We will also explore when in time a story should begin. We'll consider techniques and strategies to manipulate the reader's experience of time, with an eye towards how these affect pacing and voice.

avatar for Maya Lang

Maya Lang

Maya Shanbhag Lang is the author of What We Carry: A Memoir, forthcoming from Random House in April 2020, and The Sixteenth of June: A Novel. Her novel was featured in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and In Style, was a Finalist for the 2015 Audie Awards for best... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Tremont Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4E: Researching and Choosing Agents to Query
Limited Capacity filling up

You've spent years of hard work writing and revising your first book, and it is time to begin looking for an agent. You have a query letter with a great hook and your first twenty pages sparkle. Now it's time to create a well-researched list of agents to query.

A carefully-curated agent list can save you both time and the pain of multiple rejections. Using online tools such as the Publishers Marketplace database and Query Tracker, I'll show you how to research agents, how to whittle down the list, and tips on how to plan your querying strategy.

Please bring your questions and titles of contemporary books similar to yours in genre, voice, and plot. If time permits, we will use these to demonstrate how to begin your research during the session.

avatar for Louise Miller

Louise Miller

Louise Miller is a writer and pastry chef living in Boston, MA. Her debut novel, The City Baker's Guide to Country Living was selected as an Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association, a Library Reads pick by Librarians across the U.S., and was shortlisted by the America... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Whittier Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4G: Omniscience
Limited Capacity seats available

The omniscient point of view provides a fictional narrator with a boundless range of motion, whether it’s traversing miles or decades in a single sentence, soaring high above the story-world, or darting like a trout in and out of the consciousness of even the most minor character. In this craft-oriented session, with the help of notable passages from classic and contemporary novels, we’ll examine the tactics and strategies of omniscience. The goal will be to develop a clearer grasp of this expansive point of view and how it can be used in the current age to create stories of unusual depth, clarity, and emotional complexity.

avatar for Tim Weed

Tim Weed

Tim Weed’s short fiction collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, made the 2018 Eric Hoffer Book Award Grand Prize Shortlist, and his novel, Will Poole’s Island, was named to Bank Street College of Education’s list of the Best Books of the Year. Tim is the winner of... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Newbury Room - 4th Floor
  Block 4, Lecture

3:30pm EDT

4H: A Tale of Two Narrative Modes: Linear vs. Atmospheric Storytelling
Limited Capacity full

Are you someone who relies on drama to push your stories or essays forward? Or do you prefer to "feel" your way into a narrative by creating a distinctive atmosphere?

This session will consider two different "modes" of storytelling and explore the strengths and challenges of each. We’ll examine excerpts from two highly accomplished authors: international bestseller Elena Ferrante (translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein) and Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano (translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, among others). While Ferrante often uses events and plot points to drive her narratives, Modiano's atmospheric novels lure the reader toward a truth or mystery that is ultimately elusive.

Through discussion, Q&A, and, as time allows, writing prompts, we’ll consider the effects of these different narrative approaches. You’ll leave with tools to discover compelling forms for your own project.

avatar for Shuchi Saraswat

Shuchi Saraswat

Fiction & Nonfiction Writer
Shuchi Saraswat's work has appeared in Ecotone, Tin House online, Literary Hub, Women’s Review of Books, and Quick Fiction. Her essay "The Journey Home" received a special mention in Pushcart XLII 2018 and is anthologized in Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place... Read More →
avatar for Stacy Mattingly

Stacy Mattingly

Stacy Mattingly is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller Unlikely Angel. Her work has appeared in the Oxford American, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, EuropeNow, and elsewhere. In 2012, she launched the Sarajevo Writers' Workshop in Bosnia and Herzegovina and later helped lead the... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Cabot Room - 4th Floor

3:30pm EDT

4I: Addressing Race and Racial Identity as Writers and Readers
Limited Capacity seats available

In our race-conscious society, white people are asked, often reluctantly, to define themselves as racial beings, a process to which people of color have been socialized since birth. Racial identity is the psychological connection we have with our race; its resolution process occurs for everyone, regardless of one’s identified race.

As writers, how might our characters, arguments, and storylines reflect any conscious and unconscious racial bias that we hold? As readers, how might our racial identities affect how we resonate with, review and recommend books, short stories, essays and poetry?

In this engaged conversation, two writer-psychologists explore with participants how to challenge and reframe dominant narratives about race, how to sharpen our perceptions of the impact of our racial identity on our writing, and how to read with greater racial consciousness. Using our collective wisdom, we will work toward a more enlightened understanding of race and racial identity in writing.

avatar for Molly Howes

Molly Howes

Molly Howes is a graduate of both the first Memoir Incubator and the only Nonfiction Career Lab, two of GrubStreet’s yearlong, intensive programs.Her work has appeared in the New York Times “Modern Love” column, Boston Globe Magazine, WBUR “Cognoscenti” column, NPR Morning... Read More →
avatar for Deborah Plummer

Deborah Plummer

Chief Diversity Officer, UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care
Deborah L. Plummer, PhD is a psychologist, university professor, diversity thought leader, author, and speaker on topics central to racial equality, inclusion, and mutual respect.Her groundbreaking and timely book, Some of My Friends Are…The Daunting Challenges and Untapped Benefits... Read More →

Friday April 3, 2020 3:30pm - 4:45pm EDT
Franklin Room - 4th Floor

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