Storytelling in Memoir and Creative Nonfiction 6-Week Zoom Class, Starts Tuesday, November 7th, 2023
Starts Tuesday, November 7th, 2023
Class will meet weekly via Zoom on Tuesdays, 6PM - 8PM CST / 7PM - 9PM EST
Note: This class will skip Thanksgiving (11/21) and conclude on December 19th, 2023
Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.
Taught by Leslie Contreras Schwartz, a multi-genre writer, 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, and 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. She is the winner of the 2022 C&R Press Nonfiction Prize for the lyrical memoir, From the Womb of Sky and Earth. Leslie is a poetry and nonfiction faculty member at Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing.
Learn more about Leslie in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.
Storytelling in memoir and creative nonfiction comes alive for readers when they are immersed in personal experience in all its vivid sensory details and a singular point of view. But prose is not confined to a single style in a piece of writing—it can range from plain-spoken and matter-of-fact to wildly lyrical and imagistic, all for different effects and to elicit a range of emotions from the reader. Lyricism embraces language that draws upon its musical origins, and offers writers a mode of writing that invites creativity through non-narrative intensity, resonating imagery, and immediacy.
This class will embrace poetry’s use of creating its own internal logic—countering what one expects in prose—through the practice of associative leaps and fragmentation, repetition, rhythm, and voice to craft genre-bending nonfiction.
You will learn how to use the tools of poetry to create lyrical moments in your writing that allow you to engage with the most intuitive parts of your creative mind. This creative nonfiction workshop is open to writers with all levels of experience; we’ll discuss the concept and practice of the lyric and lyrical language, a mode of writing defined by its emotionally-charged, image-focused, and melodic qualities.
We’ll read contemporary nonfiction by writers such as Jesmyn Ward, Louise Erdrich, Matthew Gavin Frank, and Ross Gay that make use of lyrical language, and we’ll discuss how the writers employ this craft element intentionally to create compelling pieces. In addition to readings, this class will focus on generative writing exercises, allowing practice writing in prose, poetry, and hybrid forms.
Our class will focus on incorporating lyrical language into nonfiction through weekly generative exercises, drawing inspiration from Saeed Jones, Carmen Maria Machado, Jesmyn Ward, and Lydia Yuknavitch.
Discussions and generative exercises will help students develop new pieces of writing that experiment creatively with genre-bending prose; the asynchronous mode allows for flexibility and greater participation in class discussions and interaction.
Students will receive weekly feedback and will have access to handouts, lectures, and reading excerpts through the online classroom.
Excerpts from How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones, In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado, Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward, and The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch, among others.
COURSE OUTLINE:Week 1: Introduction to lyrical writing
Week 2: Jones
Week 3: Machado
Week 4: Ward
Week 5: Yuknavitch
Week 6: Workshop of longer piece
- Students will understand the difference between lyrical and other qualities of language and be able to define lyricism and use it comfortably in their own writing.
- Students will gain an awareness of how writers use lyrical language as a craft device to create compelling nonfiction through close readings of contemporary writers and lively discussion.
- Students will engage with writing lyrically through generative writing exercises, experimenting with style and form, as well as contributing to discussions that develop a deeper understanding of this mode of writing.
"I highly recommend working with Leslie Contreras Schwartz if you are looking to be inspired and challenged to do your best writing work. Her constructive and insightful feedback helped me to address major issues in language & style, structure, and character development. She encouraged me to write bravely by delving more fully into my protagonist’s struggle with details and description, resulting in a much more compelling novel. Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a brilliant and talented editor. I am so glad that I asked her to edit my full manuscript."--former student
Class Starts Tuesday, November 7th, 2023
Classes will meet weekly via Zoom on Tuesdays, 6PM - 8PM CST / 7PM - 9PM EST
- This class will skip Thanksgiving (11/21) and conclude on December 19th, 2023
If you have questions, please use the Chat Button or contact us via email HERE.
Instructor Leslie Contreras Schwartz is a multi-genre writer, a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow, and the 2019-2021 Houston Poet Laureate. She is the winner of the 2022 C&R Press Nonfiction Prize for the lyrical memoir, From the Womb of Sky and Earth.
She is the author of five collections of poetry, including The Body Cosmos (Mouthfeel Press, 2023); Black Dove / Paloma Negra (FlowerSong Press, 2020), a finalist for 2020 Best Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters; Fuego (St. Julian Press, 2016); and Nightbloom & Cenote (SJP, 2018), a semi-finalist for the 2017 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize, judged by Ilya Kaminsky.
Her work has appeared in AGNI, Missouri Review, Iowa Review, [PANK], Verse Daily, Pleiades, Zocalo Public Square, Gulf Coast, and the anthologies Houston Noir (Akashic Books, 2019), and 2019 Best Small Fiction. Recent work has been featured with the Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day.
She has collaborated or been commissioned for poetic projects with the City of Houston, the Houston Grand Opera, and The Moody Center of the Arts at Rice University. Contreras Schwartz is currently a poetry and nonfiction faculty member at Alma College’s MFA low-residency program in creative writing, and a lecturer in creative writing at Rice University. Contreras Schwartz was born in Houston, Texas, with Mexican American and Mexican roots going back several generations in Houston and Texas. She is a graduate of The Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and earned a bachelor’s at Rice University.