Instructor: Russ Rymer Thursday, 3:00-5:45pm Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
This is a seminar in creative nonfiction writing that will take science and the environment as its subject matter. Students will research and write a series of magazine-style articles about science or scientists, intended for a general readership. Along the way, they will hone their interviewing and research skills and expressive capabilities, while contending with issues of factual accuracy, creative license, authority, and responsibility, along with the basic tenets of longform nonfiction. Ultimately students will explore the ways that hard science and subjective prose are interrelated forms. No prior experience with science is required.
Instructor: Sam Marks Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm Enrollment: Limited to 12 students.
This workshop is a continued exploration of writing for the stage, with an eye towards presentation. The semester will culminate in a staged reading of each student's work for the Harvard Playwrights Festival. Each reading will be directed by a professional director. Students will be encouraged to excavate their own voice in playwriting and learn from the final presentation. The class will examine the design of the stage, the playworld, and the page. Students will attempt multiple narrative strategies and dialogue techniques. They will bolster their craft of playwriting through generating short scripts and a completed one act. Readings will include significant contributors to the theatrical form such as Caryl Churchill and Samuel Beckett as well as contemporary dramatists such as Annie Baker, Jackie Sibbles Drury, Branden Jacobs Jenkins, and Jeremy O. Harris.
Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience in writing the dramatic form is strongly encouraged. Please submit a 5-10 page writing sample (preferably a play or screenplay, but all genres are acceptable). Also, please write a few sentences about a significant theatrical experience (a play read or seen) and how it affected you.
Instructor: Musa Syeed Tuesday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
The feature-length script is an opportunity to tell a story on a larger scale, and, therefore, requires additional preparation. In this class, we will move from writing a pitch, to a synopsis, to a treatment/outline, to the first 10 pages, to the first act of a feature screenplay. We will analyze produced scripts and discuss various elements of craft, including research, writing layered dialogue, world-building, creating an engaging cast of characters. As an advanced class, we will also look at ways both mainstream and independent films attempt to subvert genre and structure. Students will end the semester with a first act (20-30 pages) of their feature, an outline, and strategy to complete the full script.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a 3-5 page writing sample. Screenplays are preferred, but fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and plays are acceptable as well. Also, please write a short note to introduce yourself. Include a couple films/filmmakers that have inspired you, your goals for the class, as well as any themes/subject matter/ideas you might be interested in exploring in your writing for film.
Instructor: Josh Bell Tuesday, 6:00-8:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: limited to 12 students
In this workshop we will focus on the devotional poetry of John Donne, George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and GM Hopkins, looking first into certain texts of the Old Testament—Psalms, Song of Solomon, Book of Job—from which so much of devotional poetry extends. In conversation with these four poets, students can expect to build and execute their own plaintive lyric “I,” design new ecstatic/meditative soundscape, and plan and deliver the imagistic configurations that will best give them direct-line access to the God (or gods) of their own choice or invention. As this a poetry workshop, all assignments will be creative.
Instructor: Gish Jen Monday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
We have, in America, a writing culture. It is not a monolith. There is, however, a readily discernable mainstream, which may or may not suit us. In this class we will examine the historical and intellectual roots of the contemporary Western story, especially as it is taught in MFA programs, including its close association with individualism....
This course will introduce you to the fundamental elements of fiction writing. We will read a variety of work, including pieces by Alice Munro, Edward P. Jones, Joy Williams, James Baldwin, Bohumil Hrabal, Deborah Eisenberg, Yiyun Li and Ben Okri, using each text as a template for examining such aspects in fiction as tension, dialogue, point of view, arc and character. Through class discussions and a series of writing exercises, we will also pay close attention to the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and sometimes re-interpreted or subverted. As the semester progresses, the focus of the class will shift to your own work, which we will critique and discuss as a group in a workshop setting, with an eye toward drawing connections between craft principles and your own writing practice. You will later significantly revise your piece.
Supplemental Application Information
Please submit a 3-5 page sample of your own writing, along with an introductory letter, letting me know why you’re interested in taking the course and what you hope to get out of it. Also, please share a few of the novels or story collections that mean the most to you (or the ones you resist but still can’t shake) – and tell me why you chose these books.
Instructor: Joan Naviyuk Kane Thursday, 12:00-2:45pm | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
Writers of literary, lyrical nonfiction negotiate complex power dynamics with their selves, communities, subjects, and readers. In this workshop we will conduct an intensive study of the craft techniques writing of creative nonfiction, focusing on the balance between the politicization of witness, descriptive detail, and narrative voice. Given that one of the great imaginative allures of lyric prose is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker, how do writers of creative nonfiction contend with social context? What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping (each writer will be workshopped at least twice per semester) as well as discussion, of course. Participants will generate drafts, revise new work, and investigate the fundamentals of the genre of creative nonfiction.
Supplemental Application Information: Applicants are requested to submit 3-10 pages of prose (double-spaced), a 2-3 page cover letter in which they may address how long they’ve been writing seriously, what previous study they have done in literary arts, any additional experiences that seem relevant to their application, what type of direct criticism and revision they are seeking from a workshop, craft approaches they would like to know more about, and discussion of any other writers in which the writers’ craft and/or ways in which the writers’ work has served as a model for the applicant’s own literary ambitions.
Instructor: Russ Rymer Time: TBA | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
This is a short-story writing workshop that uses other creative genres – music, poetry, painting, film and photography – to advance students' fiction-writing abilities. Students will consider techniques and principles essential to other arts and apply them to their writing, enhancing in the process their comprehension of literary forms. Readings will include such modern short story masters as Helen Oyeyemi, Mavis Gallant, Angela Carter, and Edward P. Jones. Students will take some photographs, but the aim of the course isn't to improve graphic skills or art criticism abilities (no prior experience with photography or music or movies is required). The aim is to write great short fiction, using other mediums as muse and guide for inspiring, analyzing, and improving original prose. Final product is a publishable short story.
Instructor: Tracy K. Smith Time: TBA | Location: TBA Enrollment: Limited to 12 students
In their quest for clarity, revelation and consolation, poets engage with, reflect upon and speak back to the world in a range of ways. In pursuit of these very same aims, poets also listen closely to what has already been said by others at registers spanning intimate exchange, public discourse and sacred utterance. In this poetry workshop, we’ll engage in an exploration of found materials—letters, news articles, historical texts, police reports, instruction manuals and more—to see what new forms of dialogue they might invite, and what light they might shed upon the questions, concerns and apprehensions of our current time. With readings by Muriel Rukeyser, Robin Coste Lewis, Nicole Sealey, Michael Kleber-Diggs and others.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a writing sample of 5-10 poems and an application letter explaining your interest in this course.
In this course, we will explore the evolution of a story from a factual anecdote or incident to a fictional creation. The aims of the semester are to learn to listen to someone else’s story in interviews, and to endeavor to find, from there, the necessary bones for a fictional narrative. What is most urgent? What is most emotionally affecting? What are the details from an interview that stay with you? And from there: what, from a broader account, is the story you are moved to relate? Once you make that choice, how do you do further research, if necessary? How do you select the point of view, the frame, the characters for your fiction? What are the ethics and responsibilities of these choices?
In these riven and challenging times, storytelling is vital: learning to listen, to engage, and responsibly to relay what we discover. Each person we encounter is a bearer of wisdom and vast experience; so many urgent stories remain untold. How might we, as fiction writers, address reality, without simply writing about ourselves
Several published writers will visit the class to share their experiences of research, and of the relation in their work of fact to invention. We will read published examples of fact-based fiction, and discuss the authors’ choices.
The first third of the class will involve preparing and conducting interviews with a chosen subject, and sharing those interviews with the class. The second third will involve refining the story’s arc, research and formal decision-making, and writing a first draft. Finally, we will workshop the revised stories that have emerged from this process.
Supplemental Application Information: Prior experience writing fiction is helpful but not required. Please submit a writing sample of 3-5 pages of fiction, narrative non-fiction, journalism or personal essay, along with an application letter explaining your interest in this course, any writing experience you feel is relevant, and listing examples of work that moves and/or influences you, explaining why it does.
The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text (please see ‘Syllabus’), with the aim of isolating some concept or aspect of the genre under discussion in order to take bearings for your own. The assigned reading is obligatory. We will be looking at questions of genre, and at the reasons for the quotation marks bracketing the word genre in the heading. We will also look at the convergences and divergences in the various kinds and modes mentioned in the title of the course. We will be thinking of generic topoi, conceptual underpinnings, imagination, style, world-building, storytelling, resolution, among other things.
In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of 50 minutes each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students. Our goal is for each of you to have two turns, and approximately 5-10,000 words of your work critiqued, by the time semester ends. The final project involves significant redrafting of a story or a portion of a novel.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of creative writing in prose (fiction is preferable, but non-fiction is also fine) along with a substantive letter of introduction in which you write about why you’re interested in this course; what experience you’ve had writing; some of your favorite writers; what some of your favorite works of fiction are and why.
This workshop is designed to explore and hone the writing of fiction. We will read and respond to some exceptional published stories in a variety of genres, and each other’s works in progress. We will compose and revise at least thirty pages of fiction—in whatever number, size, and form suit the writer—over the course of the semester. We will also discuss and practice some of the pragmatic matters of a fiction writing career, including giving readings, editorial engagement, and submitting work for publication.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a writing sample of 3-5 double-spaced pages of fiction, and a one double-spaced page letter of introduction about you, your writing, and your hopes for the course.
Intended for students with prior fiction-writing and workshop experience, this course will concentrate on structure, execution and revision. Exploring various strands of contemporary and recent literary fiction – writers such as Karl Ove Knausgaard, Rachel Cusk, Chimamanda Adichie, Valeria Luiselli, etc – we will consider how fiction works in our present moment, with emphasis on a craft perspective. Each student will present to the class a published fiction that has influenced them. The course is primarily focused on the discussion of original student work, with the aim of improving both writerly skills and critical analysis. Revision is an important component of this class: students will workshop two stories and a revision of one of these.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of fiction, along with a letter explaining why you'd like to join the workshop, what you hope to get out of it, and what you're working on currently. Please also list your previous writing experience. Your literary and narrative interests are also relevant - what books, films or other artworks speak to you and/or influence your work?
The course will consist of two halves. In the first hour of each class, we will be doing close readings of an assigned text (TBA), with the aim of isolating some aspect of the craft of writing in order to take bearings for your own. In the second half of the class, divided into two equal segments of an hour each, we will be workshopping the writing of two students. Our goal is for each of you to have two turns, and approximately 5-10,000 words of your work critiqued, by the time semester ends. The final project involves significant redrafting of a story or a portion of a novel.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of creative writing in prose (fiction is preferable, but non-fiction is also fine) along with a substantive letter of introduction in which you write about why you’re interested in this course; what experience you’ve had writing, especially what Creative Writing workshops you’ve already taken at Harvard; some of your favorite writers; what some of your favorite works of fiction are and why.
Some say that to write well, you need to find your authentic voice. In this workshop we will explore a different proposition—that a writer can adopt many voices, depending on the situation and the story. We will experiment with different kinds of narrators, and we will practice writing dialogue as we study the structure and craft of the short story. The syllabus will include stories by writers such as Franz Kafka, Anton Chekhov, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Eudora Welty, Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Jamaica Kincaid, Lydia Davis, Gish Jen, T.C. Boyle, Zadie Smith, and Helen Oyeyemi. In the first weeks of the course, you will write short sketches. You will then write two short stories which we will workshop in class. At the end of the semester, you will choose one of these stories to revise and submit as your final project.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit 3-5 pages of prose—either fiction or nonfiction—and a cover letter. In the letter, please share a little about yourself and your interests, why you would like to take the class, and what you like to read.
In this advanced workshop, we will read widely in the tradition that begins with Montaigne and write essays of our own in a variety of lengths and forms. A principal goal of the course will be to develop a voice on the page and learn how to deploy the first person, not merely as a means of self-expression but as a tool for telling a true story, conducting an inquiry or pressing an argument.
Supplemental Application Instructions: To apply, submit a brief sample of your writing in the first person along with a letter detailing your writing experience and reasons for wanting to take this course.
The arc of this workshop will trace the process of researching and writing a single long piece of science journalism: finding and pitching story ideas; reporting in depth and at length; outlining and structuring your story; choosing a narrative voice and strategy, crafting leads and “overtures,” and making connections between your story and its larger contexts. As a group, we’ll also work as editors on one another’s ideas and pieces. And since reading good prose is the best way to learn to write it, we’ll be closely reading an exemplary piece of narrative science journalism each week. Students will be expected to complete a draft and revision of a substantial piece by the end of the term.
Supplemental Application Information: To apply, submit a brief sample of your non-academic writing along with a letter explaining your reasons for wanting to take this course and describing your science experience, if any.
For almost two centuries now, words have accompanied photographs, sometimes to sublime effect. In this writing-intensive workshop, we will model our work on the various ways writers have responded to photographs: through captions, criticism, fiction, and experiments. Assigned readings will range from William Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature (1844–46) to Zadie Smith’s Through the Portal (2018). Students will learn close-looking, research, and editing, and will be expected to complete a “words and photographs” project using their own photographs or photographs made by others.
Supplemental Application Information: Please submit a photograph and up to a page of text responding (or perhaps not responding) to it, as well as a cover letter saying what you hope to get out of the workshop, and mentioning three books in any genre that have been helpful to your writerly development.
An intense seminar for those interested in understanding the changing role of journalism and in learning the art of reporting and writing narrative stories. The course is intended for those contemplating careers as journalists or because they want a better sense of how journalism really works. Coursework will include two narrative articles that are ready for publication. Readings will include some of the best examples of modern journalism, from magazine features by authors including Gay Talese to multimedia narratives such as The New York Times' "Snow Fall."
Supplemental Application Information: The application should include a letter saying why the student wants to take the workshop, why writing and journalism interests them, and which websites, magazines, newspapers and other news sources they read. A writing sample is optional for this course application.