Flash Classes: 2023–24

This year’s RWW flash classes will be offered starting in September. If interested in participating, please contact RWW Program Director Rick Barot.

  • Saturdays

  • 1–2:30 PM PST

  • Online (Zoom)

At first glance, the hermit crab form appears simple. A writer repurposes a real-world form—a list, a recipe, a table of contents—to generate a new creative work. Of course, if you’ve ever read a piece of writing that deploys a hermit crab approach, it’s never that simple. An unusual complexity emerges with the hermit crab form, one where a shell emerges to protect, as Brenda Miller writes, “material that is soft, exposed, and tender, and must look elsewhere to find the form that will best contain it.” At the same time, the hermit crab form often criticizes the hollowness of real-world forms by taking those forms over. That is, how might the form of the obituary truly speak to the disappearances of those who leave us? How might an author bio truly speak to a writer’s identity? How might a rejection letter speak to deep rejections we experience in a fully lived life? This class will examine the rich interplay of the protective shell meeting the critical potential that the hermit crab form provides. This class will also use contemporary poems for this examination, which provides several creative potentials at the formal level of the poem. You’ve seen essayists use the hermit crab form, but how do poets use it? Come to this flash class and check it out.

Many of the most memorable personal essays form deep connections among seemingly unrelated or mundane subject matters. In this 90-minute class, we'll explore how writers develop rich creative nonfiction from everyday moments, pastimes, and hobbies. We’ll read and discuss examples of writers navigating between the quotidian and big picture, then consider the questions we can ask to develop this connective tissue in our own work.

This course will consider Apophatic and Kataphatic theologies/philosophies—two distinct forms of contemplation, language, or rhetoric—in the context of poetry. The terms are derived from the Greek words “apophasis,” to move away from speech, and “kataphasis,” to move toward speech. This concept of positive and negative modes of contemplation, speech, language structure, states of mind, or ways of knowing are found across diverse religions and rhetorics. In this class, we will consider Apophatic and Kataphatic as distinct modes of poetic contemplation or attention. We will read poems and poets that engage one or the other, and sometimes both, in theory and in practice.

Work You’ve written your poem, memoir, story, or essay…now what? Literary journals are a great way to get your work into the world and build your career as a writer as well as indie publishers. This session explores what goes into a submitting your work and how to increase your chances of getting published. Learn the best ways to submit to journals and publishers, what the best cover letters include, how to stand out in positive ways, as well as professional etiquette with editors. We’ll also discuss behind-the-scenes at a literary journal and Two Sylvias Press to get an understanding of the people you are submitting your work to. We will discuss how to handle rejections as well as publication agreements, contracts, and your rights to your work after it’s been published. There will also be time for questions to help with your own goals as a writer. All genres welcome.

One way to add tension to a draft is to experiment with contrasting impulses. In this class, we will study poems that use juxtaposition to draw unexpected parallels, complicate relationships and power dynamics, expand a poem’s lyric universe, and hold space for paradox and contradictions. We’ll consider poems by Robert Wood Lynn, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Kazim Ali, and Arthur Sze, to name a few. You will also be invited to get a start on a poem that places two unlikely subjects side by side, just as Robert Wood Lynn does in his series “Elegies for Fire and Oxycodone.”

In a manifesto posted on the Poetry Foundation’s website, poet Mark Nowak declared that “documentary poetics needs to participate not only in the social field of contemporary Poetry but—as has been its historical trajectory—in the larger social movements of the day.” We’ll explore excerpts from four collections of poetry that can be considered as participating in social justice movements while also remaining both local and personal. Additionally, these works utilize photographs, visual manipulation, and textual manipulation to confront and subvert meaning, thus challenging the normally understood relationship between what is “documentary” and what is “journalistic.” Through our conversations in class we will explore the relationship between social justice issues and how they are represented on the page. We will consider how work by Claudia Rankine, Phil Metres, Don Mee Choi, and Monica Ong fit, alter, or defy the relationships of text, image, and social position.

Whether it is an essay, novel, play or poem you are creating, at some point you will need to do some old-fashioned research. And whether it’s a new online database, 50-year-old book, 300- year-old manuscript, or 500-year-old map that you need, this workshop will help you find the resources that best inform your writing. Bring your research questions and, together, we will dig up the answers. This session will cover (1) what is available online through PLU’s library, (2) how to work in / with specialized collections, (3) how to get what you need from your own local library and archival resources, and (4) how to know when to stop researching and turn to writing.

Although characters exist in our imaginations, they still require sustenance. Food in fiction can serve a functional purpose: it can boost realism, nurture the body, and advance plot by giving characters excuses to meet. The purpose of food can also be metaphorical: it can forge robust character bonds, indicate emotion, and so much more. In this craft class, we will examine examples of stories and novel excerpts that intentionally use food to enhance characterization, further plot, instill realism, build relationships, cultivate imagery, and/or conjure meaning. Texts to be read prior to the class meetings include Bryan Washington’s “Visitor”; Deesha Philyaw’s “Peach Cobbler”; an excerpt from Elena Ferrante’s “Days of Distraction”; Haruki Murakami’s “The Second Bakery Attack” and James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” Collectively, these works highlight the possibilities for how food may symbolically function in our own writing. Among many things, food can viscerally conjure violence, tenderness, joy, magic, intimacy, culture, history and more. Along with considering the literal and figurative mechanics of food in these works, we will also discuss concrete techniques that we can use to elevate our own fiction via deliberate, sense-oriented food imagery.

How do we depict violence in writing? Should we? In this flash class, we’ll delve into the nuances of character development, pacing, and narrative tension among other aspects of craft to explore the intricacies of writing violence, both physical and emotional. We will also go beyond the technical aspects of writing and discuss the spectrum of violence and its various interpretations as well as the challenges, responsibilities, and ethics that come with tackling such intense subjects.

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