The Writing University podcast features recordings of illuminative craft talks from the renowned writers, novelists, poets, and essayists who present at the Eleventh Hour Lecture Series during the University of Iowa's Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Episode 128: Poetry and Questions of Peace - Zach Savich
Is peace the absence of conflict or a state that can exist within conflict? How can writing cultivate, reveal, practice, and advance personal and shared forms of peaceable assembly? What's the relationship between peace and protest, politics and private experience? This lecture will consider diverse poems that help us think about these questions, including work by poets such as Ghayath Almadhoun, Yehuda Amichai, Gwendolyn Brooks, Kenneth Koch, Hayan Charara, Jane Hirshfield, and others. We'll consider how literature can help us make peace, again and again, and what can be made from that.
Episode 127: Writing the Elegy - Challenges and Approaches - Suzan Aizenberg
Most of us who write feel the need to remember our dead in elegies, memoir, or fiction, a task that can be more difficult than we at first expect. Often our first challenge is to speak at all, to find language adequate to our grief. Then come other questions: given the injunction not to “speak ill of the dead,” and our own love for those we’ve lost, how do we avoid unrealistically idealizing them and thus stripping them of their complex humanity? How do we convey, in the short space of a poem or an essay, how our mother or grandmother or child or spouse was different from anyone else’s? How do we make the work about the person we remember and not primarily about us and our pain—should we even be trying to do so?—etc. In this Eleventh Hour we will consider these and other questions, looking at samples of successful elegies, considering how they succeed, and doing a bit of free-writing towards work of our own. Although the samples we will consider will consist primarily of narrative poems, lessons we can take from them will apply regardless of genre.
Episode 126: Me, Myself and I - The Transformative Power of Reflection in Nonfiction - Juliet Patterson
We often think about the tool of reflection in writing as a mode of thought or tone of voice we employ when we ruminate, meditate, contemplate or explain—in short, when we provide what Phillip Gerard calls, “finished thought.” But we might also think about reflection as a turning, as a sometimes distorting, but transformational power. In this talk, we’ll look briefly at four qualities of reflection that might encourage artistic transformation in our writing and try some short exercises that will give you some practical tools to “think” about yourself differently on the page.
Episode 125: Better Talky Talky - The Art and Craft of Strong Dialogue - Kelly Dwyer
Many book editors and agents say that they read the first paragraph of a manuscript, and if they like it, they skip ahead to read some dialogue. If the dialogue is strong, they go back to page one and keep reading. If the dialogue is weak, the editor or agent sets down the manuscript, and the chances for publication (with that particular house or agency, anyway) end there. Knowing how to write good dialogue, then, is crucial to publication—and readership (and of course, if anything, is even more crucial in the arts of playwriting and scriptwriting).
Episode 124: Notan - How Visual Art Informs Writing - Sandra Scofield
As a painter, I am constantly recognizing ideas about composition in art that speak directly to what I do as a writer. One concept that is especially useful is Notan, a Japanese term that means "light-dark balance." We can also think of positive and negative space, or symmetry and asymmetry--all ideas about shapes and patterns that are the foundation of composition. Consider the ways that you, too, can utilize this ancient mindset to heighten the quality of composition in your work.
Episode 123: Writing From the Central Channel - Diana Goetsch
The “central channel,” a somatic and energetic space well-known for centuries in contemplative disciplines, is rarely discussed in connection with writing. Understanding the central channel, and how to apply it to writing, can reveal much about us as artists, and it can open up our craft. This will be an informative, and often humorous presentation—from a poet, essayist, and editor of dharma texts—with examples from many genres, and ample space for discussion.