Writers have been experimenting with appropriating forms for centuries. The epistolary novel is one example. But there are many other forms one can choose from to contain a short story or an essay besides the letter form. Almost any type of writing can be appropriated by fiction writers and nonfiction writers to create something smart, often whimsical, and provocative. You can write a short story in the form of a menu or an instruction manual. Or an essay in the form of a questionnaire or a contract. This workshop welcomes writers of both fiction and nonfiction who want to play around with ways to shape, contain, and deviate from the standard operating procedure of the short story and essay. We’ll use model essays and stories as our guides, and you’ll be presented with two prompts for each workshop: one a nonfiction prompt that appropriates a form and the other, a fiction prompt. You may choose either one to respond to. By the end of the week, you should have five different beginnings to polish on your own. We’ll engage in mild critiquing, sharing, and discussion of the published models I’ll give you.
Robin Hemley has published twelve books of fiction and nonfiction and has won numerous awards for his work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes in Nonfiction and Fiction, the Nelson Algren Award for Fiction from the Chicago Tribune, and many others. His work has been published in such journals and newspapers as The New York Times, New York Magazine, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, The Paris Review Daily, Orion, The Wall Street Journal, Lapham’s Quarterly, Conjunctions, The Sun, and many anthologies internationally. Among his books are the popular craft books Turning Life into Fiction and A Field Guide for Immersion Writing, as well as the anthologies Extreme Fiction (with Michael Martone) and I’ll Tell You Mine: Thirty Years of Essays from the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program (with Hope Edelman). A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, he also directed the Nonfiction Writing Program at Iowa for nine years and is a Professor Emeritus at The University of Iowa. He currently directs the Writing Program and is Writer-in-Residence at Yale-NUS College, Singapore, and is also an Associate Faculty Member at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.