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Meet the Teaching Artist: Bending the Genres: (Re) Learning the Lyric Essay with Hillary Leftwich

by Writing Workshops Staff

4 months ago


Meet the Teaching Artist: Bending the Genres: (Re) Learning the Lyric Essay with Hillary Leftwich

by Writing Workshops Staff

4 months ago


Meet Hillary Leftwich. Her upcoming 6-Week Zoom class, Bending the Genres: (Re) Learning the Lyric Essay, is designed for writers who want to break away from traditional forms. By exploring the world of the lyric essay and studying renowned authors like Maggie Nelson and Claudia Rankine, participants will learn about structure, voice, and research integration.

This workshop is ideal for intermediate to advanced writers seeking to rejuvenate their personal essays. Through reading, writing exercises, and discussions, Hillary will guide you in reshaping your approach to writing, fostering a space where you can refine your projects according to your specific needs.

Hi, Hillary. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I'm a Denver-based author, teacher, editor, and mother. I entered the writing world much later than most as a solo mom with a high school diploma and no footholds in anything. I have worked various jobs as a professional maid, housekeeper, and private investigator. I use all of the knowledge and experiences I gained from my past to write about and help others do the same. We all come from different backgrounds, yet we all want our words heard. My goal is to help everyone do just that.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft?

The lyric essay and all its subforms caught my attention immediately. I realized I had been writing within this form and didn't even know it. I'm not a big fan of rules, and the lyric essay provides the freedom of experimentation without judgment. This is something I think as writers, we all need. It's so freeing to break from traditional forms and just have fun.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

We're going to explore the lyric essay as its own entity and then zero in each week on a different form of the lyric essay, including the braided essay, the hermit crab essay (my personal favorite), the collage essay, and more. My favorite part of this class is introducing students to a new form they've never been exposed to and showing them that you can write within this form, even if it might seem intimidating!

What was your first literary crush?

Haruki Murakami (still is).

What are you currently reading?

Rotating between Everything I Never Wanted to Know by Christine Hume, John Keene's Punks, and Brandon Shimoda's latest collection, Hydra Medusa. I'm also always reading anything involving the lyric essay.

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

I'm constantly working on at least two projects at a time--which I think most writers do (if not more). We might have deadlines for these projects, but it's always the one we keep going back to, pecking at, adding, and erasing. That's the one you know you want to see through.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration in my son's struggles and struggles from my past to be able to understand and process. I find myself falling down so many rabbit holes in research, but this is the fun part for me.

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

Try as hard as you can not to compare yourself with other writers and their success. We are all on our own journeys, and I believe in supporting one another. Any distraction is time away from writing and focusing on your goals. The longer I'm in this writing world, the more the same lessons come back to slap me in the face. Your words and your writing are unique to you. The world will always have room for you.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

There are so many wonderful books on the craft of writing, and it really depends on what your focus is. For creative nonfiction, I love Bending Genre: Edited by Margot Singer and Nicole Walker, on all the various forms in nonfiction.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

I love this question! My teaching vibe is encouraging and supportive, kind of like the librarian in junior high when you were trying to learn everything you could about your favorite genre but were too scared to ask.

Learn More About Working with Hillary:

You can learn more about Hillary's upcoming class, Bending the Genres: (Re) Learning the Lyric Essay 6-Week Zoom Workshop, and sign up now!

Join Hillary Leftwich in this journey to explore new dimensions in writing and enhance your craft!

Instructor Hillary Leftwich is the author of two books, Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (Agape Editions, 2023, new edition) and Aura (Future Tense Books and Blackstone Audio Publishing, 2022), with a third collection of experimental/hybrid forms TBA. She owns Alchemy Author Services and Writing Workshop and teaches creative writing at several universities and colleges along with Lighthouse Writers, a local nonprofit for adults and youth. She teaches Tarot and Tarot writing workshops focusing on strengthening divination abilities and writing. Her latest work can be found or forthcoming in The Sun, Santa Fe Writers Project, and The Rumpus.

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