The problems of modern illness are the craft problems of illness narratives. Overly technical language, periods of disorientation, the inextricability of one ailment from the next, and the onerous play-by-plays of treatment can make drafts of illness narratives challenging to read and even more challenging to revise.
In this 2-day (12-hour) workshop at Hugo House in downtown Seattle, we’ll use published illness writing as our launching pad for exploring how to successfully manage the chronology, scope, and language of modern illness experiences. We’ll practice framing the same story in different ways, glimpsing how our individual stories might make meaning for readers. We’ll talk about the possibility of collage structures for the illness essay, seeking to widen the narrative lens through which we view our own experiences. We’ll practice upgrading medicalized language into poetry.
The class will also consider the established therapeutic value of writing about illness experiences, exploring the difference between writing that primarily seeks to heal and writing that seeks to reach literary audiences. And we’ll dig into the importance of illness essays in the culture: why these stories are so worth telling at this moment.
Writers will receive readings ahead of time, and should arrive ready to engage their own illness experiences in writing and conversation.
It must be said: Sometimes being a person struggling with illness means things can't get so "intensive." By assigning some components ahead of time and offering a serious opt-in policy, I hope people will join us for as much of the weekend as they can manage--while also taking care of themselves. The schedule will include a 1-hour lunch break each day and stretching/breathing breaks at shorter intervals.