Playing with Form in Fiction
Serious writers are playful writers! The writing life demands perseverance and resilience, but sometimes writers find themselves unsure of how to move forward through a story or the uncertainties that loom large in the world beyond our keyboards. One solution: Play! In this generative writing workshop, we’ll discuss (and practice) how to discover/uncover who our characters are and what their stories are about, through experimentation and play with form. We’ll explore how the conventions of a form can simultaneously constrain and illuminate character, stakes, and meaning.
“Deesha Philyaw uses the comic, the allegorical, and the geographic to examine Black intimacies and Black secrets. Her work is as rigorous as it is pleasurable to read.” –Kiese Laymon
“Tender, fierce, proudly Black and beautiful.” –Kirkus Reviews
Deesha Philyaw is the author of the debut short story collection The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (West Virginia University Press, 2020), which won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, and a 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction; the collection was also a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where Black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. Nine stories featuring four generations of characters who grapple with who they want to be in the world, the collection was praised as “luminous stories populated by deeply moving and multifaceted characters,” by Kirkus Reviews and “addictive while also laying bare the depth and vulnerability of Black women,” by Observer. Author Tara Campbell notes, “The love in Philyaw’s stories runs the gamut from sweet to bitter, sexy to sisterly, temporary to time tested, often with hidden aspects. The word secret in the title is earned, and some of the secrets are downright juicy.” The Secret Lives of Church Ladies is being developed for television by Tessa Thompson for HBO Max.
Philyaw’s work has been listed as Notable in the Best American Essays series, and her writing on race, parenting, gender, and culture has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, McSweeney’s, The Rumpus, Brevity, dead housekeeping, Apogee Journal, Catapult, Harvard Review, ESPN’s The Undefeated, The Baltimore Review, TueNight, Ebony and Bitch magazines, and various anthologies.
Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and will be the 2022-2023 John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is a past Pushcart Prize nominee for essay writing in Full Grown People. Philyaw lives in Pittsburgh, PA.