Back to All Events

The Wounded Storyteller: Crafting the Illness Narrative (online)


September 9-November 17

Cost: $435 if registered before 8/19/19; $485 after 8/19/19

Hosted online through Creative Nonfiction

Stories of illness can be hard to write and even harder to read, asking writers to render vividly long timelines, entangled ailments, periods of disorientation, and dense, technical language—while not overwhelming readers with the grief of loss or proximity to death. And yet these stories are essential to our understanding of what it means to be human.

In this workshop, writers will craft nonfiction narratives that explore the experience of illness. We’ll open by discussing the established therapeutic value of writing about such experiences, exploring the difference between writing that primarily seeks to heal and writing that seeks to reach literary audiences. Next, we’ll explore how craft choices can help us avoid the common narrative pitfalls of illness writing, using exercises on chronology, framing, structure, research, and character-building to glimpse the different ways our stories might be told. Near the end of our time together, we’ll consider the book-length illness narrative, and clarify for ourselves why we should tell illness stories at all—what our experience has to offer the world.

Whether you are just beginning to tell the story of your own illness, or you have a written a book you know needs tightening, this workshop will provide you with the craft tools and support to critically and creatively approach unwieldy stories of illness.

Week 1: The Challenge of Telling Stories of Illness
Week 2: The Tyranny of Play-by-Play
Week 3: Bite-sized Intensity
Week 4: The Terrible & the Beautiful: Character and Syntax
Week 5: Beginnings
Week 6: Time Management in Illness
Week 7: Framing
Week 8: Not Just Your Story
Week 9: Incorporating Research in Compelling Ways
Week 10: What Is the Point of Illness (and Telling Stories of Illness)?

Your course registration includes a FREE 4-issue subscription to Creative Nonfiction or True Story magazine (US residents only), or a free ebook; more details here.

See the complete syllabus here.

I am so grateful for Kati’s course, The Telling Itself: Illness Narratives as Healing and Craft. This was my first writing course and Kati created a fine introduction to the craft, helping me start on a new and fantastic journey. Kati distilled so much about the craft to create focus and liveliness, without the ideas being overwhelming or out of reach. She inspired an atmosphere of discovery and ease so each student felt her own voice and understood more of her own story in a way that could only occur by group effect. No one wanted the course to end!

The impact was deep—changing how I read, think, and write. Kati helped free something in me, dissolving a fear and a holding back, leaving me with excitement to keep journeying in the country of writing.
— — Julia Jurgens, illness writing student, Tucson, AZ
Kati is so open-hearted and wise in her craft. She is not afraid to share and examine difficult subjects; she encourages her students to expand their viewpoints, and step out of their comfort zone, while at the same time guiding us gently through terrain that can be challenging. She is one of the most knowledgeable and open-minded writers I know. In her class “The Telling Itself” I started a draft of a personal essay, about a very difficult subject, and I haven’t experimented with this form in years. Kati was also very helpful in her critique of my poems, even though her expertise lies mainly in prose. The other class members became equally engaged in the class, and the entire experience was extremely enlightening.
— — Lisa Marie Cole, illness writing student and creative coaching client, Tucson, AZ