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Writing The Family 6-Week Zoom Workshop, Starts Thursday, July 11th, 2024
Regular price
$679.00

Writing The Family 6-Week Zoom Workshop, Starts Thursday, July 11th, 2024


Unit price per

Starts Thursday, July 11th, 2024

Class will meet weekly via Zoom on Thursdays, 7:00PM EST - 9:00PM EST.

Now Enrolling!

Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.

Taught by Jenessa Abrams, a writer, literary translator, and practitioner of Narrative Medicine. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Tin House, Electric Literature, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from MacDowell, the Ucross Foundation, the Norman Mailer Center, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Public Library, and Columbia University, where she earned her MFA in fiction and literary translation. Jenessa has taught at Columbia University and Rutgers University.

This course is designed for writers at all stages of their careers to engage in the intimate, sometimes messy, very often meaningful act of writing about family through fiction and creative nonfiction. We will close-read several short works and excerpts from larger works that explore the nuances of the familial system in all its beauty and strangeness. These works include texts by Ocean Vuong, Tommy Orange, Rachel Khong, and Miriam Toews.

We will have weekly in-class writing exercises inspired by the selected readings to push us to approach the task of translating the multitudes of the family system into the written word with nuanced consideration and care.

Writing The Family will conclude with a writing workshop, during which students will share work they’ve developed during the course and receive in-class feedback from their peers and the instructor. They will also receive written feedback, line edits, and a longer feedback letter from the instructor.

This course's purpose is to guide students in writing about the family as an act of love, rage, understanding, and, ultimately, self-exploration.

SELECT COURSE TEXTS:

Select course texts will include: Akhil Sharma’s "A Mistake" (excerpted from Family Life), “Photograph” by Michael Ondaatje, “Sticks” by George Saunders, “For That One Moment” by Mieko Kawakami in Astra Magazine, Ocean Vuong's “A Letter To My Mother That She Will Never Read”, Anne Trumbore’s Spite (Big Ugly Review), "The State" by Tommy Orange (excerpted from There, There).

COURSE TAKEAWAYS:

  • Through close-reading and a series of writing exercises, students will gain the necessary tools to write about the family either in fiction or creative nonfiction.
  • Students will receive generous and thorough peer and instructor feedback on one piece of writing about the family.
  • Students will complete the course with at least one polished piece of prose about the family so that they may pursue a path to publication.

COURSE OUTLINE:

WEEK 1 - FOUNDED IN TRUTH BUT REALIZED IN IMAGINATION:

During our first class, we'll discuss how to approach writing about family, specifically how we decide on genre, with guidance from Elizabeth McCracken's The Hero of This Book and an accompanying review. We'll begin by introducing ourselves, sharing our writing goals, reading and discussing two pieces of prose, then engaging in a communal writing exercise with an opportunity for in-class sharing. In advance of our first class, please read: Akhil Sharma’s "A Mistake" (excerpted from Family Life), attached. READINGS Akhil Sharma’s "A Mistake" (excerpted from Family Life), attached.

WEEK 2 – THE ROLE OF MEMORY:

During our second class, we'll discuss the role of memory in writing about familial experiences. We'll begin by reflecting on our photograph writing exercise, then we'll transition into a discussion about memory as it relates to our experiences in childhood and how those shape our understanding of the family system as adults. Next, we'll close read and discuss the below pieces. We'll finish with a communal writing exercise with an opportunity for in-class sharing. READINGS “For That One Moment” by Mieko Kawakami in Astra Magazine, attached. “Sticks” by George Saunders, attached.

WEEK THREE - THE ROLE OF THE NARRATOR & ROUND 1 WORKSHOP:

During our third class, we'll unpack the role of the narrator in writing about family systems. We'll begin with a discussion about where the narrator is writing from and how that distance influences the way we think about and ultimately write about the subject of family, then we'll transition into a discussion of Ocean Vuong's “A Letter To My Mother That She Will Never Read”. Next, we'll conduct our Round 1 Workshop. We'll close with a communal writing exercise with an opportunity for in-class sharing. READINGS Ocean Vuong's “A Letter To My Mother That She Will Never Read”, attached.

WEEK FOUR – SAYING THE UNSAID & ROUND 2 WORKSHOP:

During our fourth class, we'll discuss the necessity of saying the unsaid in the scope of writing about the family. Our conversation will be grounded in an analysis of Anne Trumbore’s Spite and thinking through narrative strategies to speak that which others would prefer we remain silent about. Next, we'll conduct our Round 2 Workshop. We'll close with a communal writing exercise with an opportunity for in-class sharing. READINGS Anne Trumbore’s Spite (Big Ugly Review), attached.

WEEK FIVE - CRAFTING FAMILY NARRATIVES & ROUND 4 WORKSHOP:

During our fifth class, we'll explore ideas about writing about the family in the vein of Ocean Vuong's assertion that writing is "founded in truth but realized by imagination." We'll begin with a discussion about the art of crafting stories about family, first by thinking through our own work and then specifically through the lens of "The State" by Tommy Orange (excerpted from There, There).

WEEK SIX - CLOSING:

We'll close with a final conversation about writing about family with time and space for questions. We'll conduct our final workshop. Then, we'll have a communal writing exercise with an opportunity for in-class sharing.

TESTIMONIALS:

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with Jenessa. I grew tremendously as a writer, and it allowed me space to explore narrative structures and the real impacts they can have on people.” - Former Columbia University Graduate Student

“Jenessa knows how to identify the emotional truth of a book… She has an incredible work ethic. She’s open-minded, collaborative, intuitive, willing to challenge herself, and always respectful of deadlines. She’s worked with my other editorial colleagues at Guernica and the Rumpus — they have all had glowing things to say about her. It’s rare we get to work with a writer who is versatile, compassionate, unpretentious, yet rigorous. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity.” - Raluca Albu, Online Editor at BOMB Magazine

"Jenessa is one of the most thoughtful and generous teachers I have ever worked with. She gently pushed me to go deeper into my writing, to think critically about my practice and who I am as an artist, while simultaneously creating a safe space to meet me exactly where I was. Jenessa provided extremely attentive and helpful feedback; her love of teaching and her enduring respect for her students was always felt." -Former Columbia University Graduate Student

“I have been so grateful to work with and be taught by Jenessa Abrams... I have taken several writing courses in my academic career, however Jenessa has offered the most in-depth, personal, and generative feedback of any writing professor I've had. Her in-line comments on my writing have made me feel incredibly known and I am so grateful for her keen eye to note where prose can be sharpened or deepened. Her presence made me feel immediately comfortable to take risks in my writing both in style and subject matter. I feel I have grown in so much confidence in my voice as a writer and I attribute so much of that to the encouragement and guidance I have received from Jenessa.” - Former Columbia University Graduate Student

“Jenessa's unique gift as a teacher is the ability to identify and develop each individual student's talent and interests, even those they did not know they themselves had, and provide them with the skills to develop those very talents and interests. This pedagogy requires deep, careful attention and individualized assessments that meet students where they are; the exact opposite of an overly didactic and stifling one-size-fits-all approach. Having found her to be one of the most effective teachers I have worked with in many years, I have no doubt that any student would benefit immensely from having her as an instructor.” - Former Rutgers Undergraduate Student

"Jenessa exhibited genuine care for her students and pushed her students to do better. Throughout [her course], I found myself not only getting better at writing but also finding joy in writing." - Former Rutgers Undergraduate Student

    PAYMENT OPTIONS:

    You can pay for the course in full or use Shop Pay or Affirm to pay over time with equal Monthly Payments. Both options are available at checkout.
    • Class starts on Thursday, July 11th, 2024, via Zoom 7PM ET - 9PM

    If you have questions, please use the Chat Button or contact us via email HERE.

    Instructor Jenessa Abrams is a writer, literary translator, and practitioner of Narrative Medicine. Her fiction, literary criticism, and creative non-fiction has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, Tin House, Electric Literature, Guernica, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and grants from MacDowell, the Ucross Foundation, the Norman Mailer Center, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Public Library, and Columbia University, where she earned her MFA in fiction and literary translation. She previously taught at Catapult.