Master Classes

Descriptions of Joiner Institute Writers Workshop Festival Master Classes. 


21st Century Verse:  The Art of Black Poets
Danielle Legros Georges

This two day Master Class will focus on the work of selected Black poets writing today. We’ll examine how these writers have addressed violence against black bodies, racism and war, the politics of power, black subjectivity, black joy, love, and the world. Their poems—in their formal strategies and fields of focus—will serve as models for the writing we will engage in ourselves. This workshop is meant as a generative one, one meant to provoke, challenge and inspire us into discussions and ultimately poems.

Deep Deception: the Art and Craft of the Poem
Bruce Weigl

A poetry master class with award winning poet Bruce Weigl.

A Letter to the World – Epistolary Poems
Fred Marchant

Poets from the ancient world to the present tense have often found the idea of a "letter in verse" very appealing. Sometimes that letter poem is addressed to a real person in a real time and place. It could be to a friend, a lover, a teacher, a relative, a public figure, etc. It could be about a private concern or a public one or some combination thereof. Of course there are many other possibilities. One could write a letter to an imaginary figure such as a young poet or a venerable sage. One could also write to someone no longer alive, and one could even write to someone not yet born. One could write to a god, a spirit, an animal, or an inanimate object, and those very same gods, spirits, animals, or objects could be imagined as writing back to you.

In this class/workshop we will examine and discuss some of the many modalities of the epistolary poem, and we will look at some potentially inspiring examples of letter poems by other writers. As this is a "generative class" we each will also begin at least one new letter poem and, time allowing, perhaps more than one. We will share that work with each other, and discuss the virtues and liabilities we find in the form. We might also wonder whether the electronic age has undermined the very idea of a letter, and how a "letter in verse" might take on a new value and meaning. In general, and to borrow from Emily Dickinson, we will consider whether poetry itself is our "letter to the world."

Speed Poetry: 20-Minute Strategies for Getting Started
Martha Collins

On the model of “speed dating,” this master class will offer a handful of poetic strategies, each including a brief discussion of one or more published poems and a prompt that will get you started on a new poem of your own. In recognition of the Joiner anniversary, some of these will revisit workshops from previous years that focused on formal elements (syntax, line) and topics (difficult ones!); one will be related to translation. You should leave this class with the beginnings of several new poems.

David Bowie's Scissors
Brian Turner

In this workshop, we'll explore different approaches to the art and poetics of fragmentation, stitching the pieces together and adding some lightning--whatever it takes to make Frankenstein talk again.

Note: Please bring 5-25 pages of typed, double-spaced material (your own poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and/or journal entries) to class. 



Re-imagining the Other: Writing without Stereotyping
Amir al-Azraki with Anne Loyer

Drama/All genres

What is stereotyping? What is a stereotype? Are there true and false stereotypes? How can knowing about the Other's culture and history help you create authentic characters? Is realism the only mode of representation for creating authentic characters? This class practically explores the best ways to create authentic and convincing characters in drama.  It tackles the problematics of stereotyping and pigeonholing in creating dramatic characters and situations, especially those related to Arabs/Muslims.



The Rest of the Story: Voice and Agency … On and Off the Page
Michael Patrick MacDonald

New York Times Bestselling Author of All Souls, Michael Patrick MacDonald will present a mini-curriculum from his community-based writing project which uses transformative life-writing to promote voice and agency. After twenty-seven years of work intersecting trauma, social justice & healing (as a community organizer, author and as a professor at Northeastern University) he is bringing his transformative life-writing to community groups working to build agency among residents in communities most impacted by social injustice.

"The Rest of the Story" has been used with Crittenton Women's Union which helps women transition from poverty to economic self sufficiency, and is currently in a three-year project with the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute's community of survivors of homicide victims. In the fall it will be conducted with young people facing gentrification and displacement, and with a group of survivors of loss to the heroin epidemic in eastern Massachusetts.

Write Like Hell (Writing through trauma)
Sean Davis

A person can live a full life without acquiring trauma from their experiences. Some of us live fuller lives than others, but how do we live with these permanent emotional and psychological stresses we accumulate along the way? Studies of the last 30 years have proven that writing about our lives can help people find ways to live with, and even come to terms with, these scarring moments. After three deployments in my military career I returned home and found myself struggling with the haunting memories I picked up during a revolution in Haiti, the war in Iraq, and rescue operations in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Writing pulled me out of a self-destructive lifestyle with thoughts of suicide. In my workshop, I hope to help others to do the same by teaching techniques, sharing confidence, and providing the tools for other trauma survivors to finding a path to heal.

“NOT Knowing—Opportunity for Creativity,”
Lady Borton

Non-Fiction/All genres

This two day Master Class will cross genres (drama, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, children’s literature) but center on non-fiction (narrative non-fiction, biography, autobiography, memoir, histories, columns, blogs, journalism, and investigative journalism). The classes will explore concepts and techniques from all genres and include exercises to crystalize new learning. The two classes will be different, with a quick summary of the first master class headlining the second. Participants are welcome to attend either or both sessions.

Taxis, Rickshaws, & Helicopters
Brian Turner

In this workshop, we'll explore different approaches to short form nonfiction--stealing any literary gasoline, Humvee, or Deuce and a Half we can find to get us traveling through the world and learning about it as we go.

Note: Please bring 10-20 photos to class--either printed or in digital format (as long as you can view them while in class). These photos should be taken by you and have something to do with travel, whether it's to distant countries or while wandering through your own city or neighborhood. 



From Image to Word
Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

This workshop is designed for those who seek direction or are stuck in a rut or just want to explore new ways of tapping into their creativity.  The visual prompts provided are chosen to spark the written word.  Each participant will select a photo and write an original piece using the image selected to create character, setting and a possible conflict. Workshop participants will be taken through an exercise that they can utilize for this or any other creative project that needs a new perspective.  After a period of writing, each participant will be invited to share his/her work with the group.  An important part of the workshop is listening and giving constructive criticism on the work read.  Each participant will leave with the first draft of a new piece and written feedback from fellow writers and the workshop facilitator.

Flash Fiction Writing!
Sean Davis

Flash fiction is a story stripped down to its core. Each story hinges on a single word, a phrase, or a line of dialogue. This workshop we will learn by writing. We will read the work of a few amazing stories and explore the limits of language. This is a workshop for real writers. We will experiment with conveying a sense of character, narrative arc, and emotional resonance in 6, 50, 100, and 1500 words. Come prepared to push your skills to their limits. 

Representation of Diaspora in Muslim/Arab Writings
Amir al-Azraki

The class will examine selected Muslim narratives written in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. It will explore several artistic experiences written from various socio-cultural locations. It allows an entry into the discussion of Muslim narratives with an understanding of the diversity of Islamic and Arab culture, and their diversified expression. Shedding light on the general Muslim condition in diasporic contexts, the class will focus on the cultural and identity-based entanglements, expressions and experiences of the unhomely and of exile, and on the formation of new worlds, (hyphenated) identities and meanings represented in modern Muslim literature.