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Future Classes

"Saving Face: The Old-fashioned Art of Physical Description & How to Make it New" at the Loft Literary Center

It can feel old-fashioned or even trite to make much use of physical description. Yet contemporary writers can use it to great effect, enhancing characterization, increasing subtext, and creating a sense of physicality that powerfully compels the narrative. Beyond that, readers like to picture characters!

So how do we employ physical description without becoming cliche or sentimental? More importantly, how do we avoid basing our physically described characters on tired or even oppressive stereotypes?

Through study of sample texts (likely to include work by Maud Casey, Angela Flournoy, Kiese Laymon, and Monique Truong), in-depth discussion, and concrete exercises, we'll uncover the complicated relationship that human beings have with faces, bodies, and anything else (clothes, jewelry, body modifications, expression, gesture etc.) that has to do with physical appearance. We'll also write some physical descriptions of our own, with practice integrating them in dynamic scenes.

Saturday, 12/2/17, 1 - 5 pm, Open Book

Register at the Loft Literary Center

"Awkward is my Superpower: Writing Sex" at the Loft Literary Center

Bring a sex scene you're already sweating over or start from the naked blank page.

The class will explore techniques and strategies for writing about sex and will include close reading of examples (likely to include work by Amy Bloom, Carmen Maria Machado, Toni Morrison, and Colm Toibin) as well as concrete writing exercises to implement the techniques we discover.

Then we'll share. Yes, in this case, we must. Getting it out there, feeling your face go red--it's essential to the process. We'll discuss our sex scenes like adults. Well, it might be a bit awkward... But that's okay! Workshopping the sex will help make the scenes better. But it will also help us all get over ourselves, so we can write about sex a lot more confidently. (I won't tell you what to write, but to keep the space safe for everyone, the scenes you share must be of consensual sex.)

By the way, the focus of the class is literary sex--the scenes may sizzle or fizzle, but we'll emphasize writing sex in a way that develops character and moves the story forward.

Wednesday, 2/14/18 (V-day!), 6 - 9 pm, Open Book

Register at the Loft Literary Center

"Reading the Other" at the Loft Literary Center

Our first meeting will focus on examining our own identities through reading, discussion, and brief writing exercises, with a focus on excerpts and essays from Toni Morrison's Considering the Other. In this way, we'll determine what "other" means to each of us. Then--and this may be difficult--we'll choose two short books to read that are wildly outside of our collective comfort zones. The teaching artist will bring recommendations (such as Long Division by Kiese Laymon, Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao, Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi), but we'll also consider ideas brought in by the group.

In the remaining sessions, we'll discuss those books intensively to interrogate ourselves, our identities, and our understanding of the "other." The class will center discussion and inquiry, but will include related writing exercises that can be applied to creative work (enhancing the crafts of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) or for personal growth and self understanding. This class is for any reader who's hit a rut and wants to try out something new; it may even provide clarity for those alienated by the political climate, as we'll find other worlds, and new ways of looking at this busted one.

Class will meet in the Loft Book Club Room; grab a glass of wine or a cup of coffee at the cafe on the first floor and join in the conversation!

Wednesdays, 2/21/18, 3/21/18, 4/18/18, 6-9pm, Open Book

Register at the Loft Literary Center

"Once Upon a Time: Writing the Modern Fairy Tale" at the Loft Literary Center

Fairy tales offer a specific kind of magic. They're a way to understand the dark undercurrents of our world and even offer tools to subvert them. Whether you've already been working in the modern fairy tale form or just think you'd like to, this class is for you.

Each class, we'll study two fairy tales in relation to a specific element of craft, deepening our understanding of storytelling. Then, we'll transition into writing our own fairy tales, with each session featuring two specific, magical prompts to get things started.

Themes of the class will include character, flatness, intuitive logic, abstraction, magic, darkness/evil, humor, world building and subversion, and endings (happy or otherwise). Readings for class will include work by Isabel Allende, Angela Carter, Jamey Hatley, Lily Hoang, Kelly Link, Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi, Liann Yim, Joy Williams--and maybe even the Brothers Grimm.

This class is for any writer who wants to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of storytelling. Those who love to write fairy tales will love it--because that's what we'll do. But even those who want to write more realistically will benefit from studying this style.

Thursdays, 3/29/18 - 5/3/18, 6-8pm

Registration coming soon at the Loft Literary Center

Present Classes

"Eight Weeks, Four Drafts: Advanced Topics in Revision" at the Loft Literary Center (online)

This is an intense revision course designed for writers who are ready to study advanced craft topics and implement the techniques into their own work. The course will spend two weeks each on Perspective, Time, Subtext, and Intimacy. Classes will alternate between study of each craft topic (craft essays, analysis of published texts, concrete writing exercises) and sharing revisions and receiving peer feedback. The teaching artist will also provide one manuscript review per writer.

This class is a great next step for writers who have taken "Eight Weeks, Eight Drafts" or "Six Weeks, Six Drafts: Demystifying Revision." However, it can certainly be taken independently. Writers should already have a strong grasp of fiction basics such as plot, setting, point of view, etc. and at least one piece of writing that is ready for revision. The course is designed for fiction but can also apply to creative nonfiction.

Readings will include work by Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Charles Baxter, Christopher Castellani, Stacey D'Erasmo, Joan Didion, Fleur Jaggy, Carlea Holl-Jensen, Edward P. Jones, Jamaica Kincaid, Veronica Montes, Ruth Ozeki, and Joan Silber.

9/20/17 - 11/15/17, online

Past Classes

"The Ins and Outs of Publishing in Literary Journals" at the Loft Literary Center

The world of literary journals is changing. There used to be just a handful of esteemed and respected magazines. Now there's an absolute jungle of print and online journals that publish creative work. Many of them are brilliant and some... well... less so. It can be confusing. But it doesn't have to be.

This class will empower writers to navigate the lit mag world with confidence, enable writers to find good journals for their work, and inspire writers to submit with pride. We'll start by discussing and implementing concrete strategies for navigating the world of literary journals, including how to find them, how to judge them, and how to assess whether or not your work will fit there. Then we'll go through the step-by-step basics of story submission--what to say in a cover letter, whether or not to pay submission fees, tracking your submissions, and interpreting rejection notes.

This class is perfect for any writer who is ready to publish, but it's also great for the writer who is not quite ready, but will be someday.

"Writing the Apocalypse" at the Loft Literary Center

Are you fascinated by the end of the world? Or scared to death that it's upon us? Literature gives us a such a great way to explore and exploit our fears and fascinations.

In this class about apocalyptic writing, we'll look at various apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and dystopian visions, written by a diverse sampling of contemporary writers. We'll analyze them to see how they work and what they say (counterintuitively) about the real world we live in. We'll explore the reasons readers are drawn to apocalyptic tales and the ways we can become activists and voices for change through writing them.

Then, through use of concrete writing prompts and exercises, we'll write our own end-of-world tales. If time allows, we'll even get to share them.

#apocaloft

"Online Summer Sampler" at the Loft Literary Center

This fun, low-stakes (and low-cost) class is designed for people who have never taken an online class and want to know how one works. People new to the Loft, or even new to Creative Writing are welcome.You will get to sample several online classes, get to know some of our teaching artists, and dabble in different genres. Enjoy weekly writing prompts you can enjoy doing by the pool while sipping your favorite summer beverage. The only prerequisite is that you are ready to begin writing!

Week 1:
Get Started Writing Invention Techniques - Jack Smith (from Micromanaging Your Short Story)
Descriptive Writing - Jackie Cangro (from Back to Basics)

Week 2:
Poetry Personifcation - Jennifer Burd (from Mastering Metaphor)
Ekphrasis - LouAnn Muhm (from Poetry Inspired by Art)

Week 3:
Fiction Point of View - Brian Malloy (from Introduction to Short Story)
Beyond Point of View - Allison Wyss (Adapted from Four Revisions in Eight Weeks)

Week 4:
Multigenre & Mashups Hermit Crabs - Dorothy Bendel (from Finding the Right Form)
Patchwork Poems & Paragraphs - Sarah Sadie (from Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy? Writer)

"Six Weeks on Talking: Writing Dialogue" at the Loft Literary Center

Good dialogue is magical. Bad dialogue, however, can make you cringe. So how do you write the good kind? How can a conversation reveal and complicate a character, advance a story, and still sound true to the way people speak? It's not easy. So instead of a one-day seminar, why not study the craft more intensely?

This course will cover some quick tricks, sure. But it will also dig a lot deeper. We'll look at dialogue from all angles: what characters say to each other, what they better not say to each other, what the writer must push them to say, how they say it, and even how to make known what is left unsaid.

To get deep into dialogue, we'll read and discuss essays on craft and analyze successful passages in great works of fiction. Each class will also feature concrete writing exercises to put what you learn to practical use.

The course is designed for fiction writers, but those working in creative nonfiction will also find it useful.

#dialoft

"The End is Nigh: A Storytelling Course at the End of the World" through the Minneapolis Storytelling Workshop


What's your zombie contingency plan? (We know you have one.)

Maybe you're terrified of the apocalypse or maybe you find it strangely comforting. But if you love TV and movies set in the end times, this course is for you. Drawing from sources such as Black Mirror, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Walking Dead, we'll examine the appeal and the terror of this popular trope. We'll also develop tools for world-building, managing backstory, and setting the stakes in your own stories.

Over two 3-hour sessions, your two instructors (Allison Wyss and Erin Kate Ryan) will show clips, facilitate sophisticated discussion, and provide you with innovative writing prompts to deepen your understanding of apocalyptic storytelling. You'll also have the opportunity to share work generated by the prompts in a supportive environment. Unless the world ends first.

This class is for any writer who wants to enhance their storytelling ability. It's also an appropriate course for folks who love apocalyptic television and want to explore it in a more intense and inspirational way.

This course is offered through the Minneapolis Storytelling Workshop.

"How'd They Do That: A Craft Based Book Club for Writers" at the Loft Literary Center

In this book club for writers, we'll read and discuss one novel each month. Together, we'll do some close reading to discover the techniques at play in the writing. Then we'll zoom out to analyze the overall structure of the novel and figure out how it works. The teaching artist will facilitate discussion and have prepared topics related to each novel. However, much of the time will be spent addressing the particular wonders that each writer finds in the book, with special emphasis on how the author makes it all happen and how we can employ those techniques in our own writing. This group is a great way to practice the writer's art of close reading.

The techniques we practice will be endlessly useful as you apply them to other books you read. It is also a uniquely wonderful way to explore the particular art of novel writing, because we'll have the opportunity to dissect entire books, discovering how they engage and compel us as readers.

Please read A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki before the first meeting. For the second meeting, read Lucky Us by Amy Bloom; for the final meeting, The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. This will take place in the Loft's cozy Book Club Room, complete with sofas, plush chairs, and a view of the downtown skyline, with access to the rooftop patio. Wine, soda, and treats allowed! At the end of each session, the teaching artist will assign an optional writing exercise designed to incorporate the specific techniques addressed.

"Awkward Is My Superpower: Writing Sex" at the Loft Literary Center

It's so hard to write about sex! But it's also important. Writers can bring a sex scene they're already sweating over or start from the naked blank page. The class will begin by exploring techniques and strategies for writing about sex and will include close reading of examples and concrete writing exercises. Then there will be time to implement the techniques we discover.

Next, We'll share. Yes, in this case, we must. Getting it out there, feeling your face go red--it's essential to the process. We'll discuss our sex scenes like adults. Well, it might be a bit awkward--but that's okay! Workshopping the sex will help make the scenes better. But it will also help us all get over ourselves, so we can write about sex a lot more confidently.

By the way, the focus of the class is literary sex rather than sex for the sake of sex. The scenes may sizzle or fizzle, but this class is about writing sex in a way that develops character and moves the story forward--we'll talk about that, too.

"Buffy: The Storytelling Course" through the Minneapolis Storytelling Workshop

You love Buffy. You dream about Firefly. And you want to understand how Joss Whedon has cast such a spell.

Hundreds of scholarly books and articles have been written about the Buffyverse and other Whedon franchises. It's time for us to sit down, peel back the scaly demon skin on Whedon's work, and find how it has made such a social, linguistic, and literary impact on the world, far beyond its genre or niche audience. Each class will include in-depth conversation of one aspect of Whedon's writing (focusing primarily on the Buffyverse but drawing also on Firefly and Dollhouse as appropriate), including character complexity, subversion of traditional mythology, universe building, and the sweet, sweet pain of withholding satisfaction.

Over four 3-hour sessions, your two instructors (Allison Wyss and Erin Kate Ryan) will show clips, facilitate a sophisticated discussion of the topic, and will provide you with innovative writing prompts to help you begin to understand narrative -- the Whedon way. You'll also have the opportunity to share work generated by the prompts in a supportive environment (kind of like Spike's cozy crypt).

This class is for any writer who wants to enhance their storytelling ability. It's also an appropriate course for the Whedon fan who wants to explore his work in a more intense and inspirational way.

"How'd They Do That: A Craft Based Book Club for Writers" at the Loft Literary Center

In this book club for writers, we'll read and discuss one novel each month. Together, we'll do some close reading to discover the techniques at play in the writing. Then we'll zoom out to analyze the overall structure of the novel and figure out how it works. The teaching artist will facilitate discussion and have prepared topics related to each novel. However, much of the time will be spent addressing the particular wonders that each writer finds in the book, with special emphasis on how the author makes it all happen and how we can employ those techniques in our own writing. This group is a great way to practice the writer's art of close reading.

The techniques we practice will be endlessly useful as you apply them to other books you read. It is also a uniquely wonderful way to explore the particular art of novel writing, because we'll have the opportunity to dissect entire books, discovering how they engage and compel us as readers.

Please read The Turner House by Angela Flourney before the first meeting. For the July meeting, read Dare Me by Megan Abbott; for the August meeting, The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. This will take place in the Loft's cozy Book Club Room, complete with sofas, plush chairs, and a view of the downtown skyline, with access to the rooftop patio. Wine, soda, and treats allowed! At the end of each session, the teaching artist will assign an optional writing exercise designed to incorporate the specific techniques addressed.

"Eight Weeks, Eight Drafts" at the Loft Literary Center (online)

So you've written a story. Maybe you've even brought it to a workshop and received feedback. Now what? Revision can be scary, even paralyzing.

But Robert Boswell offers a way through the mystery with his exceptional strategy of "Transitional Drafts." The gist is to work on one thing at a time, starting with the "easy stuff." Then, as the conscious part of your mind does the easy work, the subconscious part gets started on the harder aspects, so that eventually, none of it seems all that difficult.

In this class, we'll work through eight revisions together—one for each week of the class. So at the end of the course, your story will be eight drafts more beautiful. And if it's not finished after eight drafts, you'll be equipped to take it the rest of the way on your own.

Through online discussion and practical writing exercises we'll explore the process of revision, focusing on Boswell's theory in particular. We'll also practice concrete and proven writing techniques to move your stories forward. There will be opportunity to share your revisions with the class. Expect light feedback from classmates and intensive feedback from the instructor, who will read and comment on at least one full draft of your story.

"Connecting with your Characters: The Art of Intimacy in Fiction" at the Loft Literary Center

Stacy D'Erasmo's The Art of Intimacy: The Space Between asks "What is the nature of intimacy? What happens in the space between us? And how do we, as writers, reflect it on the page?"

She's talking about the spaces that carry meaning—that connect characters to each other and to the reader. This class will give you an opportunity to engage with D'Erasmo's ideas through in-depth discussions of each chapter. Each week will also include concrete writing exercises and prompts to help you put the ideas to practical and tangible use.

This course covers an advanced concept for fiction writing. Students who enroll in this class should already feel reasonably comfortable with more basic concepts such as plot, character development, setting, dialogue, etc. But students should also expect to get a lot of practice with those basic elements as they enhance their understanding of this more advanced aspect of fiction.

"Flash Fiction: The Power of Brevity in a Multitasking World" at the Loft Literary Center

This class is located downtown and scheduled during your lunch hour. It will get your creative juices flowing!

Each week we'll read a little bit of flash fiction and discuss how it works. Then you'll get a writing prompt related to the discussion—you get to choose whether to write flash fiction or focus on a small part of something bigger.

Expect a writing prompt each week, some lively discussion, and the opportunity to receive light, constructive feedback from other writers.

At the end of this class, you will have six brand new pieces of fiction, a fuller understanding of flash fiction, and the inspiration to keep writing.

"Midwestern Characters: The Polite, the Restrained, the Grotesque" at the Loft Literary Center

Midwestern writers owe a particular debt to Sherwood Anderson. In Winesburg, Ohio, Anderson presents a series of "grotesques" tied loosely together by the geography of their town and by the interest of one central character. The somewhat crudely drawn yet deeply resonant "grotesques" are imprisoned by convention yet yearn for something more.

This class will explore what a grotesque is and how it relates to the characters we are all trying to write about. We'll explore how this particular type of character operates, what the grotesques do for the book, and even what they say about the region they represent. We'll also look at how more contemporary authors have been influenced by Anderson's distinctive genre. The class will explore the unique structure of the book and how Anderson unites disparate elements into a cohesive whole. We'll discuss how to categorize such a work (novel, collection, novel-in-stories) and whether or not such categories matter to it.

Additionally, we'll use the careful analysis of Anderson's grotesques to inform our own work as writers. Each class period will feature at least one writing prompt or exercise related to the discussion. Students will build their own grotesques, their own towns, and their own stories. The exercises can also be used to deepen and complicate characters already underway. There will be some opportunity to share work with the class and receive light feedback.

Each student should acquire a copy of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. The instructor will also provide handouts of work by contemporary Midwestern writers.

"Beneath the Surface: Exploring Subtext" at the Loft Literary Center

Charles Baxter's The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot "examines those elements that propel readers beyond the plot of a novel or short story into the realm of what haunts the imagination: the implied, the half-visible, and the unspoken."

It's an illuminating work on a tough subject. All writers should read it. This class will give you an opportunity to do more than read it, however. We'll engage with the ideas over the course of six weeks with in-depth discussions of each chapter. Each week will also include concrete writing exercises and prompts to help you put Baxter's ideas to practical and tangible use.

Subtext is an advanced concept for fiction writing. Students who enroll in this class should already feel reasonably comfortable with more basic concepts such as plot, character development, setting, dialogue, etc. But students should also expect to get a lot of practice with those basic elements as they enhance their understanding of this more advanced aspect of fiction.



"Once Upon a Time: Writing the Modern Fairy Tale" at the Loft Literary Center

Do you love fairy tales? Do you want to write them? Whether you've already been working in the modern fairy tale form or just think you'd like to, this class is for you.

We'll look at modern fairy tales, as well as a few traditional ones, to discover their magic. Each class period, we'll study two fairy tales in relation to a specific element of craft, deepening our understanding of storytelling. Then, we'll transition into writing our own fairy tales, with each session featuring a specific, magical prompt to get things started.

Themes of the class will include character, magic, darkness/evil, humor, world building/setting, and endings (happy or otherwise). Readings for class will include stories by Aimee Bender, Angela Carter, Neil Gaimon, Kelly Link, Joy Williams—and maybe even the Brothers Grimm.

This class is for any writer who wants to gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of storytelling. Those who love to write fairy tales will love it—because that's what we'll do. But even those who want to write more realistically will benefit from studying this style.

So you've written a story. Maybe you've even brought it to a workshop and received feedback. Now what? Revision can be scary, even paralyzing.

But Robert Boswell offers a way through the mystery with his exceptional strategy of "Transitional Drafts." The gist is to work on one thing at a time, starting with the "easy stuff." Then, as the conscious part of your mind does the easy work, the subconscious part gets started on the harder aspects, so that eventually, none of it seems all that difficult.

In this class, we'll work through eight revisions together—one for each week of the class. So at the end of the course, your story will be eight drafts more beautiful. And if it's not finished after eight drafts, you'll be equipped to take it the rest of the way on your own.

Through online discussion and practical writing exercises we'll explore the process of revision, focusing on Boswell's theory in particular. We'll also practice concrete and proven writing techniques to move your stories forward. There will be opportunity to share your revisions with the class. Expect light feedback from classmates and intensive feedback from the instructor, who will read and comment on at least one full draft of your story.

"Six Weeks, Six Drafts: Demystifying Revision" at the Loft Literary Center

So you've written a story. Maybe you've even brought it to a workshop and received feedback. Now what? Revision can be scary, even paralyzing.

Robert Boswell offers a way through the mystery in his exceptional essay "Transitional Drafts." The gist is to work on one thing at a time, starting with the "easy stuff." Then, as the conscious part of your mind does the easy work, the subconscious part gets started on the harder aspects, so that eventually, none of it seems all that difficult.

In this class, we'll work through six revisions together—one for each week of the class. So at the end of the course, your story will be six drafts more beautiful. And if it's not finished after six drafts, you'll be equipped to take it the rest of the way on your own.

During class we'll discuss the process of revision. We'll also practice concrete and proven writing techniques and exercises to move your stories forward. There will be time to share your stories and their revisions with the class. Expect light feedback from classmates and intensive feedback from the instructor, who will read and comment on multiple full drafts of your story.



"Reading Like a Writer: The Best Book Club Ever" at the Loft Literary Center

It's fun to read! We wouldn't be writers if we didn't think so. But we can read for more than fun. We can also read closely, figuring out how each word works in a sentence, how each sentence works in a story.

In this class, writers will learn the basics of close reading and how it relates to the craft of writing. They'll learn specific techniques for improving their writing. But, more importantly, they'll end the class equipped to study their favorite writers on their own.

Each week, we'll read one chapter of Prose's Reading Like a Writer plus one short story and focus on a specific element of craft. Word by word, we'll uncover the secrets of the masters. Additionally, each week will include a writing exercise to practice specific skills.

This is a great class for writers of any level looking for techniques to improve their writing. More advanced writers may already know the techniques this class teaches, but can still benefit from close reading with a diverse group of people, because every person tends to find different secrets hidden in the text. For this reason, I love to teach close reading—I learn something new every time.

"Academic Writing/Introduction to Composition" at the University of Maryland

"Beginning Fiction Workshop" at the University of Maryland

© 2015 Allison Wyss. Image courtesy of Stacia Yeapanis.