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Learn how to approach tough topics in your own writing, including sorrow, anger, loss, and secrets. This class is for anyone who wants to become effective in plumbing a story from life. You’ll learn craft exercises that explore tone, setting, character, dialogue, and theme. Writers will connect their personal experiences to larger themes, and will explore how different writers apply distinct approaches to similar subjects. We’ll consider ways to tell our stories without self-pity or melodrama. We will use models of writers who take emotional risks with clarity. Participants can choose to work on sections of a memoir, or on personal essays in a variety of styles: letter, prose poem, manifesto, vignette, list, abecedarian, Wikipedia entry.
Due to COVID-19, all classes will take place online-either through Zoom or through Wet Ink, our asynchronous learning platform-through Spring quarter 2021.
All times are listed in Pacific Time.
Sonya Lea’s memoir, Wondering Who You Are has won awards and garnered praise in a number of publications including Oprah Magazine, People, and the BBC, who named it a “top ten book.” Her essays have appeared in Salon, The Southern Review, Brevity, Guernica, Cold Mountain Review, The Prentice Hall College Reader, The Rumpus and The Butter. Lea teaches at Hugo House in Seattle, and she’s leading a pilot project to teach writing to women veterans through the Red Badge Project. Originally from Kentucky, she lives in Seattle. Find her at www.wonderingwhoyouare.com.
Teaching philosophy: My superpower is my transparency—the sensual, subversive style of my writing that allows my whole self to be seen, even the ugly parts. I create a beautiful space for bravery to emerge. I don’t just teach writing—I write nearly every day. I have a disciplined creative life, and I want to show writers how to design one too.
My writing and teaching is informed by these things:
1. The exploration of identity, memory and time.
2. The form of the story follows its themes.
3. Successful prose writing includes having an understanding of one’s mind. Things like the role of intuition, obsession, disclosure, emotional risk-taking, and the inter-weaving of seemingly disparate elements play a part in creating transparency, and ultimately freedom.
4. The truths we write about are subjective and personal. From them we create a world that may be contrary to what external authority tells us is good for us.
5. The process of writing shows us how we each might wake up to who we are.
Writers I always return to: Margaret Atwood, Lidia Yuknavitch, Susan Orlean.
Reviews for Wondering Who You Are:
"...a memoir as addictive as a thriller...An admirable and heartening story about love, the resilience of marriage and what 'in sickness and in health' really means." Oprah.com
"Her stunning account of his recovery efforts and her willful refusal to give up on marriage to the stranger occupying her husband’s body is fantastically heartfelt and inspiring." Booklist (Starred Review)
"I was carried forward by the linguistic ferocity of a self-proclaimed badass, but also by great empathy for the husband whose medical tragedy lies at the heart of this story..." Chicago Tribune
"a quietly wrenching memoir that’s as much about what makes any of us who we are as it is about Lea’s own story." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"With poetic prose and remarkable candor, Lea shares the details of helping her husband regain a sense of purpose...and her own difficult transition." Seattle Magazine