by Chris Stewart

Me again, touting my new online class on The Algonkian Conferences site. Let's workshop in our pajamas!

Starts May 3rd
6 weeks
Register here.

As long as words and ideas exist, there will be a few misfits who will cavort with them in a spirit of *approfondement*--if I may borrow that marvelous French word that translates roughly as "playing easily in the deep"--and in so doing they will occasionally bring to realization Kafka's belief that 'a novel should be an ax for the frozen seas around us.'

- "In Defiance of Gravity" by Tom Robbins, Harper's Magazine, Sept 2004

AND, I would add to this quote: the frozen seas within us.

Sometimes we get too caught up in what we think we should write, or what we have always written (for better or worse –our style, our themes) and ignore or shy away from what shows up to be written. We also ignore our weaknesses – the elements of craft we are not so good at, or worse – don't know our strengths and how to take advantage of them. We vow to figure things like this out later and never do. Well, later is now!

Bring your unfinished, what you'd call your 'failed' writing (we'll address that term too), or something that's really flowing to this class–it doesn't matter. What doesn't work you can fix and what does you can make better.

You must be willing to take your work apart. Most are more willing to do this with unfinished or old material that didn't 'work,' but you will get a more immediate benefit from interacting with current material while you are in the middle of the emotional experience of writing it.

Regardless, this class is for any level of writer as we will explore both the magic and craft, the inspiration and perspiration, of writing, through analysis, exercises, opportunities (my more pleasing term for assignments), and, especially, approfondement!

You'll learn to relax, step back, and 'allow' as much as you 'shape' (craft) the story, strengthening your relationship to writing. There's a mysterious, magical something that happens during the writing process that defies explanation – ideas, characters, dialogue, plot points come to you out of nowhere. It's a kind of alchemy, a gift. Invite it. Respect it. Nurture it. Make it work for you.

Note that I said process. It's about process, not product. Anyone who has ever received those little gifts out of nowhere, had to get up and pace a room to contain his/her excitement , or fear, of what he/she was writing, had to chuck a chapter or even half a book (!), and fought with, misunderstood, then made peace with the characters in the world he/she created, has already tuned in to the joys (which can sometimes initially seem like sorrows) of process. If you haven't yet experienced these – you will!

Whether starting a story from scratch, or starting to be writer from scratch, or ready to revise a piece, you will: have a better sense of your voice and style, make friends with your strengths and weaknesses, and have a new set of tools for starting, finishing, and revising your work. You will also take more chances and risks and be more comfortable with experimentation.

And, if you are working on something you are soon to pitch to an editor or agent, you will have a deeper sense of the piece and how to express its purpose and inner workings in a query letter.

The skills you will learn in this class are especially important if you are experiencing, or have experienced, writer's block, or have trouble getting started when you sit down to write. You will learn how to turn your back on the need to be perfect, which often freezes us up. (I call it Perfect Writer Syndrome - PWS.)

You don't have to have a successful, finished product to qualify as a 'better writer' by the end of this class. It's the willingness to step back and examine your writing self and your writing style, practice, and habits, making adjustments and taking risks where necessary, that will earn you the title.

It's all about being alive to the art of writing. Your writing. It's messy, visceral, and delicious. And it comes from playing in the deep.


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