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by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Heritage Stories with Alexis Buryk

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Heritage Stories with Alexis Buryk

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Introducing Alexis Buryk, a seasoned multidisciplinary artist, educator, and speaker whose passion for storytelling transcends mediums. With an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a diverse background spanning writing, theater, film, and photography, Alexis brings a wealth of experience to her new Zoom seminar, Heritage Stories: Crafting Family Narratives as Fact or Fiction.

Drawing from her own journey of transforming her family saga into a novel, Alexis invites participants on a transformative exploration of their ancestral tales.

In this interactive workshop, participants will delve into the intricate narrative frameworks of their family stories, guided by Alexis's expertise and enthusiasm. From uncovering the essence of their narratives to discerning the most suitable genre—be it the authenticity of memoirs, the creative freedom of fiction, or the hybrid vigor of creative nonfiction—students will gain invaluable insights and practical tools to shape their stories into captivating written works.

With engaging activities including genre exploration, generative writing exercises, and actionable steps forward, Alexis ensures that each participant leaves not only inspired but also equipped with a clear plan to advance their writing projects. Whether you're a seasoned writer or a curious beginner, "Heritage Stories" promises to ignite the spark of creativity needed to craft your family's legacy into a timeless tale.

Hi, Alexis. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I'm a multi-disciplinary creative, with a background in theater, film, writing, and photography. I spent eight years as a wedding photographer, and recently secured representation for a queer historical novel inspired by my family's history in Pennsylvania coal country, THE AFFAIRS OF HANNAH BRANT. I'm a new-ish parent to a wonderfully wild-hearted toddler, a confirmed omnivore, and a Bravo television enthusiast.

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?

Growing up with a father whose life obsession is our family genealogy, I spent a lot of time steeped in research and family lore. Stories of this nature don't thin over time; the threads thicken, multiply, shoot off in unexpected ways. Obsessing over the people connected to my own family led me to be equally fascinated by hearing other people's stories, and having written an entire novel based on tertiary characters to my family's history, I know that mining one's own heritage can yield fantastic results. In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to getting started with a writing project or continuing is just making the time. My workshops are always heavily generative in nature, and my goal is to create an atmosphere of deep focus, so that students leave with a sense not only of practical information, but a real sense of having already begun the work.

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?

Over the course of two hours, we'll dive deep through a generative exercise meant to get at the heart of what you find fascinating in your family's story (or stories!) After a break, we'll examine the impact your audience might have on how you tell your story, as well as different channels through which your story can be told.

What was your first literary crush?

Devouring every lushly bound Agatha Christie mystery one sweaty summer at the Allwood Public Library.

What are you currently reading?

Lauren Groff! I'm late to the party, but glad to be here.

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 understand now that ideas develop over their own timespan. Some arrive more formed than others. I know a project is worth focus when whole pieces show up, unannounced, ready to play.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere: history; minute physical gestures of strangers who don't see me staring; the way in which the real housewives of any franchise interact. It's all fodder to 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?

I've been fortunate to work with the brilliant Molly Prentiss, and her advice on novel writing was to make the process as pleasurable as possible for yourself. Once it's done, and you're on the path to publication, it becomes something for the world, something other people will touch. So make the most of your hidden time with your story; make the moments of discovery count for yourself. In this way, you make the story uniquely yours, before you release it to the world.

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

It's not a writing book, per se, but I think Women Who Run With Wolves is like a female Hero's Journey, and for that, I truly love it and have been inspired by it in a way that informs the women about whom I write.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

The second-funniest yoga teacher you know.

Learn more about working with Alexis:

Sign up for Heritage Stories: Crafting Family Narratives as Fact or Fiction.


Alexis Buryk is a multidisciplinary artist, educator, and speaker with experience in writing, theater, film, and photography. She holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at StoryStudio Chicago and Nashi Predky, a 2023 Ukrainian Genealogy conference. Her written work has been featured on stage in the virtual cabaret, Twentysomething (2020), online at Apartment Therapy, and in The Ukrainian Weekly, while her photographic work has been featured in The New York Times, New York Magazine, and Brides.

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