Where a story happens can be a key factor in determining what happens, if you’re interested in place. The setting you choose will offer up all kinds of gifts—powerful imagery, metaphorical meaning, unique characters, political and social relevance—if you pay close attention. In this workshop, you’ll delve into your own meaningful places, as well as explore new places and their gifts right here in Iowa City. We’ll consider examples of successful storytelling that foreground place, with an eye toward techniques that we can bring to our own writing. We’ll get outside, too, to gather details from the places in front of our eyes and beneath our feet, and we’ll practice selecting from those details to create effective descriptions. You’ll write new scenes in which character and place come together in active tension, creating both vivid characters and vivid places, whether they’re real or imagined, contemporary or historical, possible or impossible. “Story comes from place,” says Annie Proulx. Let’s test her theory. Writers at all levels are welcome.
Amy Hassinger is the author of three novels: Nina: Adolescence (Putnam 2003), The Priest’s Madonna (Putnam 2006), and After the Dam (Red Hen Press 2016). Her writing has been translated into five languages and has won awards from Creative Nonfiction, Publisher’s Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council. Her work appears in many publications, including The New York Times, Creative Nonfiction, The Writers’ Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She earned her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and serves as a Faculty Mentor in the University of Nebraska’s low-residency M.F.A. in Writing Program. Originally from Massachusetts, Amy now lives in Urbana, Illinois, where she produces the micro-podcast “The Literary Life,” sings in a jazz trio, and bothers her children.