Flash Nonfiction 6-Week Online Workshop, Starts Monday, February 5th, 2024
Begins Monday, February 5th, 2024
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Taught by Jack Christian, author of the poetry collections Family System, winner of the Colorado Poetry Prize, published by Colorado State University's Center for Literary Publishing, and Domestic Yoga, published by Groundhog Poetry Press. His work has appeared in periodicals including Bennington Review, Black Warrior Review, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, The New York Times Magazine, Los Angeles Review of Books, ArtForum, Atticus Review, Cleveland Review of Books, The Diagram, The Journal, and Slate. Jack holds an MFA in poetry from University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Read an Interview with Jack on the art of writing flash nonfiction.
Urgent truths briefly told: In this course, each week you'll read and write short nonfiction that brings together elements of the essay and prose poetry within an encouraging and nurturing community of writers.
Short-form creative nonfiction, often called “Flash,” combines elements of the personal essay, storytelling, and the figurative language of poetry to create texts that, at their best, distill our lives into meaningful scenes in less than 1000 words.
The certainty and solidity of flash nonfiction is appealing for how it contrasts with lived experience. Our lives can feel amorphous and overwhelming. Often, there are too many details and not enough clarity. The flash essay, in contrast, is small and solid, like a stepping stone in a pond of uncertainty. Writing flash essays provides us with a place to make beautiful, meaningful texts that can easily be shared with others--almost like handmade pottery passed between readers.
In this class, we’ll examine together the creative act of distillation that is central to the flash essay. We’ll do so in community with one another and in conversation with some of the brightest practitioners of the form--including Joan Didion, Diane Seuss, Jill Talbot, Jamila Osman, Ander Monson, and Ira Sukrungruang. Along the way, we’ll think about how our writing can flourish within and even seem to transcend the tight space of the flash essay. Through this practice, we’ll gain and share insights about the art of compressing time and space.
As a student in this class, you’ll receive a weekly writing prompt of 1000 words or less, along with guiding examples from professional writers to respond to and interpret as you like. You will then give and receive feedback on the pieces you and your classmates produce in an online workshop format meant to challenge and nurture one another. As your instructor, I will also offer feedback on each of your assignments, along with commentary on the assignments as a whole and the themes that develop as we move through the class together.
Weekly writing prompts are likely to include: 1) The body of memory, or memories embodied, 2) condensed self-portraits, such as Jill Talbot’s “Self Portrait at 27,” 3) short essays on place--inspired by Didion’s essay on the Hoover Dam--or about contemporary public figures, such as in David Roth’s “The Vainglorious Eternals Go Golfing” 3) formal experiments such as a 1-sentence essay, list essays, or essays composed of found language. You will be encouraged to hew to weekly prompts as closely or as loosely as you would like. (In week 6, there will be no prompt, just an opportunity for you to design your own flash essay.) Week by week, the only true requirement is that each week, you stay below the 1000-word limit.
You will leave the course with a portfolio of six flash nonfiction essays, advice and encouragement for continuing to hone your craft, suggestions about where potentially to submit it for publication, and new relationships with fellow writers with similar creative interests.
Each week, you will be asked to 1) consider brief, suggested readings by professional writers, 2) contribute a flash essay, and 3) respond to 3-6 classmates’ work in 1-2 detailed paragraphs.
I will post new writing prompts and suggest readings on Mondays. Flash essays will be due by the end of the following Friday, and responses to classmates will be due by the end of the day on Tuesdays.
- Portfolio of 6 polished flash essays.
- Sustained practice compressing time and space into immediate, engaging forms.
- Detailed, personal feedback on your writing from your instructor and classmates.
- Knowledge of contemporary writers producing flash fiction essays along with the periodicals that publish them.
COURSE OUTLINE:Week 1: The body of memory / Embodied Memories
Week 2: The 1-sentence essay
Week 3: The Essence of Place
Week 4: Formal experiments: Found language, lists, etc
Week 5: Self-Portrait
Week 6: Choose Your Own Adventure
- I will suggest several example essays each week that will either be available online, or offered as .pdf.
"I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your class. Prior to this, I had given up all creative writing and thought I could only produce academic writing. I cannot thank you enough for all of the kind and helpful comments you have left on my experiments, and the confidence you have given me to start actually writing things that I am proud of. This has been my favorite class I have ever taken, and I am sad that I didn't take a class of yours earlier."
"This one of the best classes I've ever taken - seriously. I had never written creatively before, but your and class' encouragement, critique, and enthusiasm was unmatched. The types of assignments we had pushed all of us out of our boxes and let us learn a new skill/style."
"Jack has an amazing way of engaging conversations and my peers were immensely helpful with their feedback. I felt both encouraged/validated while also seeing the room for improvement within my pieces. I never felt discouraged after receiving feedback, and Jack fosters a great culture within his class."
ONLINE COURSE STRUCTURE:
This class is entirely asynchronous which means you complete the weekly assignments on your own schedule. There are no set meeting times in order to allow for greater participation; your cohort will consist of writers from across different time zones, which allows for a wonderful diversity of voices.
Along with your weekly deadlines there is plenty of interaction with Jack and your peers within Wet Ink, our dedicated online classroom. Craft materials, lectures, reading assignments, and writing prompts are all available through the online classroom. Students also post work and provide and receive feedback within the online classroom environment.
You can get the work done as you see fit week-to-week, so it is perfect for any schedule. There are discussion questions each week inspired by the assigned readings and topics in the lecture notes. Students are encouraged to take these wherever is most compelling and/or useful for them. Jack engages with these discussions throughout the week and you will receive feedback from all assigned writing activities.
HOW DOES WET INK WORK?
Wet Ink was built and designed specifically for online writing classes. Wet Ink is private, easy to use, and very interactive. You can learn more about the Wet Ink platform by Watching a Class Demo.
Class starts Monday, February 5th, 2024