Beyond the Writers' Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction

Beyond the Writers' Workshop: New Ways to Write Creative Nonfiction

by Carol Bly

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An innovative new approach to teaching and writing creative nonfiction from veteran teacher and critically acclaimed author Carol Bly.

Teachers and writers everywhere are facing the limits imposed by the prevailing models of teaching: community or MFA “workshops” or, at the high-school level, “peer review.” In Beyond the Writers' Workshop Carol Bly presents an alternative. She believes that workshopping’s tendency to engage in wry scorn and pay exaggerated attention to technical details, causes apprentice writers, consciously or unconsciously, to modify their most passionate work.

Inspired by a philosophy of individuality and moral rigor, Bly combines ideas and techniques from social work, psychotherapy, and neuroscience with the traditional teaching of fresh metaphor, salient dialogue, lively pace, and analysis of other literary work in her pioneering new approach. She also includes exercises and examples in an extensive practical appendix.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385499194
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/17/2001
Edition description: 1 ANCHOR
Pages: 400
Product dimensions: 5.18(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.87(d)

About the Author

Carol Bly was a critically acclaimed short story writer and essayist. She was the author of many books, including The Passionate, Accurate Story, a writing guide; My Lord Bag of Rice: New and Selected Stories; and an essay collection, Letters from the Country. She was a frequent and respected lecturer at conferences of the National Council of Teachers of English, Associated Writing Programs, and the National Association of Social Workers. She lived in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1Taking on Three Demanding Situations First3
Cultural Deprivation4
The New, Nontraditional Mission of Present-Day Writers9
Eight Elements of Bad or Scanty Teaching of Creative Writing15
Chapter 2A Fundamental Mistake in How We Learn to Write: Skipping the Long Middle Stage of Writing33
The Three Stages of Writing a Manuscript37
Chapter 3Using Empathic Questioning to Deepen Your First Draft46
Empathic Inquiry48
Some Final Thoughts58
Chapter 4How Stage-Development Philosophy Serves Writers59
A Basic Overview of Stage-Development Theory59
Assumptions of Stage-Development Theory65
How Two Authors Offer Us Stage Philosophies That Are Especially Pertinent to Writers70
Chapter 5We Have Pushed Off from the Animal Kingdom for Good: Good News for Writers from Neuroscientists76
Reentry and Literary Endeavor82
Becoming a Generalist92
The Love of Thinking94
Chapter 6Literary Fixes100
Driving the Exposition Inward101
Raising the Tone109
Changing Statement to Theater (Showing, not Telling)111
Combating Lying and Cowardice113
Removing Self-References116
Pushing Off from Mindless Male Realism and Mindless Female Realism119
Checking for the Skinflint Syndrome and Enhancing Your Manuscript as a Gift to the Reader121
Asking, for a Last Time, What Is Still Missing from This Manuscript?122
Small Language Fixes That Help Remove Humbug122
Starting Sentences with Dependent Clauses126
Getting Rid of We, Everybody, and All127
Chapter 7Seven General Issues in Teaching Creative Writing129
Writing Literature Can Be Taught129
Protecting Student Writers from the U.S.A. Junk Culture133
Curing Writers of the Bad Habit of Perseverating139
Convincing Writers that Surprise Is the Inevitable, Eternal Principle of Literature140
Practicing Professional Reticence142
Being Aware of Bullying143
Making the Classroom One of the Great Places on Earth145
Chapter 8Teaching Elementary School Children to Write148
Ways to Use the Appendix When Working with Children148
No Children's Writing Should Ever Be Subjected to Peer Review155
Validating the Serious as Well as the Fun-Loving Spirits of Children157
Offering Some Comment for Every Piece of Creative Writing a Child Does160
Giving a Child Two Opportunities to Answer a Question161
Teaching Children as Well as Ourselves the Psychological Skills that Protect a Person's Personality from Group Bullying or from Unfair Pressure by People in Authority162
Asking Children to Memorize One Hundred Stories by the Age of Eighteen163
Chapter 9Helping People in Middle and High School Learn to Write171
Adolescents and Monoculture171
Using the Appendix of This Book with Adolescent People173
No Peer Reviewing of Manuscripts178
No Teaching of Literary Techniques179
No Asking for Rough Drafts of Creative Writing182
Never Failing to Comment on the Core Content of Students' Papers183
Teaching Adolescent Writers to Continue Memorizing Stories, if They Started in Elementary School, and to Add Poems184
An Ethics Code for Teachers of Adolescents184
Chapter 10Helping College Students and M.F.A. Candidates to Write185
Leaving Behind the Natural but Useless Attitudes Common to Any Enclave of Creative Writers185
Ways to Help College- and Graduate-Level Writers Experience a Literary Change of Heart206
Chapter 11Teaching at Writers' Conferences, Community Retreats, and Summer Short Courses217
What These Courses Are, and the Burgeoning Population Who Use Them217
Three Kinds of Populations We Don't Serve Well Enough So Far222
Chapter 12Some Issues of Aesthetics and Ethics of Writing Literature235
Some Psychological Dynamics of Aesthetics and Ethics235
Distinguishing Hack Work from Literary Artifice246
Normalized Indifference Is Our Comfortable Stance on Any Subject until Something Jars Us247
How the Old, Familiar Dynamic Called Pain Avoidance Affects Creative Nonfiction254
Falsifying What Could Otherwise Be Interesting Psychological Evidence about Homo Sapiens in One or Another Setting261
Hatred of Literature by Those Left Out of It and Sometimes by Those of Us Who Participate in It267
A Psychological Tool for Ethically Minded Writers272
Writing Creative Nonfiction for the 400,000274
Appendix I.Fifteen Writing Exercises279
Four Exercises about Background or Place
1.Writing without Cliches about a Beautiful Place281
2.Ugly Place, Good Event: Ugly Event, Good Place283
3.Pathetically Shallow Use of Places Once Full of Serious Enterprise284
4.Paying Respectful Attention to Background Settings286
Easy Exercises
5.Good and Terrible Qualities in Human Nature--An Exercise for People over the Age of Fourteen288
6.Ignatow Poem Exercise289
7.A Catty Vignette292
8.An Essay Pot--A Group Talking Exercise295
9.Writing about Work297
Elegant Exercises
10.Attending to Other--Specifically Attending to Relatives, Nonhuman Creatures, or Plants301
11.Increasing One's Affection for Utterly Ordinary People303
12.A Writing Exercise for Extroverts306
13.An Irritating Person Exercise309
14.A Nearly Impossible Writing Exercise311
15.The Andover Format: Writing Your Life at Two Levels--One the Usual Sort of Memoir, and the Other Secret and Profound315
Appendix II.Usage Sheets322
Appendix III.Abbreviations and Notes for Referencing Margin Comment on Students' Papers328
Appendix IV.Formats and Strategies330
A Format for Writing an Essay329
The Vertical-Line Way of Taking Notes331
Analyzing a Literary Work of Art332
Appendix V.A List of Useful Sentences for Writers in a Tight Spot335
Appendix VI.Two Examples of Class Agendas for M.F.A. Students340
Appendix VII.The Robertson-Bly Ethics Code for Teaching Writing to Middle and High School Students349
A Reading List361
Permissions Acknowledgments373

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