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Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing Flash Fiction & Creative Nonfiction with Cara Benson

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing Flash Fiction & Creative Nonfiction with Cara Benson

by Writing Workshops Staff

6 months ago

Welcome to an exciting interview with Cara Benson, a distinguished writer whose work has been published by The New York Times, Electric Literature, Boston Review, Orion Magazine, and more. Cara is the driving force behind one of our most popular and enduring classes at Writing Flash Fiction & Creative Nonfiction, an 8-Week Online Workshop.

Cara's immersive, asynchronous workshop welcomes writers of all levels, from beginners to advanced writers, who share a passion for crafting short yet impactful pieces in both fiction and creative nonfiction. In an era where an abundance of concise and compelling writing is taking the literary world by storm, Cara's course is thoughtfully designed to immerse participants in this vibrant conversation.

Throughout this transformative workshop, not only will participants read, discuss, write, and revise short works under the guidance of Cara Benson, but they will also explore avenues for publishing their creations.

A unique feature of this course is the emphasis on constructive critique, rooted in principles of honesty, generosity, consideration, and respect. As participants engage with each other's work, they will witness their own writing and revising skills sharpen, making them better equipped to respond constructively to others' writing. If you're looking to refine your craft, connect with fellow writers, and delve into the world of flash fiction and creative nonfiction, Cara Benson's workshop is the perfect opportunity to do so. Get ready to embark on a creative journey that will leave you with a portfolio of short pieces ready to shine in the literary landscape.

Hi, Cara. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I'm a writer and writing mentor who cares deeply about the planet. I believe the stories we tell influence how we live. This is a precipice moment: let's rewrite everything.

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? Or is this just your jam and you love it?

As a writer who got her start in poems, I love working with compressed forms. There's something about having a tight length limit that calls forward surprising writing. You have to get right to it in a short piece. Also, you don't have to sustain something for multiple pages. You get to try all sorts of experiments because it's only 1000 words, what's to lose?

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?

Every week is organized around a theme - whether it's a particular aspect of craft or a topic. For example, one week we look at writing in the second person. Another we're focusing on place. Each lesson includes sections of my ideas on the theme with discussion questions, assigned readings that are creative examples on the theme, and writing prompts. Each student gets workshopped twice, but everyone is invited to post writing each week. I encourage informal responses to these writings so usually students gets some kind of feedback throughout the course on all of their pieces.

My favorite part? Gosh, I always say when a lesson goes live, "this is my favorite week!". But then the next lesson goes live and I'm forced to say "no it's this one!". I get really excited seeing the student responses to the various themes - especially when a student feels challenged by a particular theme. When I'm in unchartered territory with my writing, usually good things come.

What was your first literary crush?

Patricia Coombs. She wrote and illustrated the Dorrie the Witch books, which I'm sad to say are mostly out of print. I completely fangirled out over her as a kid.

What are you currently reading?

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams and The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow. There are a million other books on my bedside table, magazines dog-eared, articles favorited, but those two are on top of the pile right now.

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 not sure it is a choice. It's more like an idea, topic, or experience doesn't let go of me until I write my way through it.

Where do you find inspiration?

Reading other writers.

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?

Dorothy Randall Gray always used to say: "Everyone writes. Writers rewrite." That both frees me up to muck about on the page to get to something I can work with and calls me to have integrity and discipline in doing the work of writing.

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

Rather than a whole book, I love telling writers about the Shitty First Drafts chapter in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and a handful of paragraphs out of Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write. Some parts of Stephen King's On Writing.

Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?

Encouraging of exploration and experimentation. Let's try this. Or see what happens when you [fill in the blank]. Again, what's to lose?

Learn More About Working with Cara:

You can learn more about Cara's upcoming class, Writing Flash Fiction & Creative Nonfiction: 8-Week Online Workshop, and sign up now.

Instructor Cara Benson
is an award-winning writer whose stories, poems, book reviews, and essays have been published in The New York Times, Boston Review, Best American Poetry, The Brooklyn Rail, Orion Magazine, Fence, Electric Literature, Hobart, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, 3:AM, and in syndication. She has received a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Literature and has recently completed her second book, a novel. Of her first book, a hybrid prose collection called (made), the Huffington Post writes: “Benson does more with the two-word sentence than many poets do in two stanzas or even two poems, largely because it would be difficult to find even a single wasted word." Cara is represented by Jennifer Thompson of Nordlyset and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. She has been a Visiting Writer for The New York State Writers Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, Evergreen College, Kelly Writers House at PENN, Stonecoast MFA, and Toronto New School of Writing. Currently, she is writing a series of short works on thinking and walking for Best American Poetry called “Dispatches from a Distance.”



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