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Essay Writing Workshop Using Borrowed Form

Naomi Kimbell

TESTS, MENUS, AND OTHER CONSTRAINTS: Writing Borrowed Form Essays by Naomi Kimbell

START DATE: Monday, October 22, 2018

END DATE: Monday, November 19, 2018

DURATION:  4 weeks

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This class focuses exclusively on borrowed form (or hermit crab) essays. Participants will engage in a close reading of examples of borrowed form essays and respond to discussion questions. They will also choose one borrowed form to use to write their own essay. They can choose to write a new essay using the form, or rewrite an essay that’s already complete using the form to see how that affects the work.

I was initially drawn to work with Naomi Kimbell after reading her honest, innovative writing. Naomi brings an incredible depth of living with her whole heart and mind to her work and teaching. Her passion, curiosity and extensive knowledge of the craft of writing is inspiring. In her writing course she shared diverse and stimulating prompts that included still photographs, different forms, and the writing of authors which opened new spaces inside me and helped deepen the texture and dimension of my poetry. Naomi has a gift for encouraging people to express their unique voice. She listens and communicates with keen intelligence and deep compassion. I appreciate the way she weaves together her sense of humor, new perspectives, great questions and her practical and diligent work ethic. Naomi is an engaging and motivating teacher. ~ Youpa Stein

Naomi seeks a straightforwardness that does not embellish, but, rather, gets to essences—essential ideas, the essence of a story, the deep impulses that drive us to act as we do...she’s a writer of exceptional talent—one of the few who endeavor to compose personal stories as literary works...she finds the unusual within the commonplace, the surprising within the predictable. ~ Judy Blunt, author of Breaking Clean

Naomi Kimbell chooses her words like a poet. She reads Richard Hugo and Robert Wrigley, and Homer. Like these authors, Naomi is a careful, descriptive, and smart writer. Because Naomi is a true scholar, she knows things ... She has an ear for beauty, and BS—like no one else I’ve ever met. ~ Karin Schalm, author of Poems of Peace in these Warring Times

Naomi Kimbell knows the boundaries of nonfiction, and lucky for us she knows the perfect ways to challenge them. Whether she’s writing about family dynamics or mental illness, Naomi does more than tell a story—she engages the reader in all of her essays as form and content interact. With a fresh and invigorating writing style, her words bring you into each essay and, believe me, once inside you’ll never want to leave. ~ Chelsey Clammer, author of BodyHome and Circadian


WEEK 1: The Syllabus

During week one, we will read Jill Talbot’s essay, “The Professor of Longing,” as essay in the shape of a course syllabus. Students will respond to discussion questions in the discussion forum and reflect on the opportunities in using this structure to convey personal experience. Using the syllabus as a model, students will draft some writing (a paragraph or so) using this form, and post in the discussion forum.

WEEK 2: The Pain Scale

During Week 2, we will read “The Pain Scale,” by Eula Biss, and respond to discussion questions in the discussion forum. For this week’s writing experiment, students will select a scale of measurement of any type, and, using the same experience they wrote about in week one, draft some writing using the scale of measurement you chose, and post in the discussion forum. Students will compare the writing in week two to week one, and reflect on how their writing changed across the two forms.

WEEK 3: The Bulleted List

In week three, students will read Chelsey Clammer’s essay, “On Three,” written as a bulleted list. Students will respond to discussion questions in the discussion forum and experiment with the text they generated in week one and week two, reshaping it into a list format, and post in the discussion forum. Additionally, students will survey a variety of potential forms and choose one to write a complete essay (1000 words max). Consider: menus, tests, maps, surveys. Feel free to experiment with any form you think will lend itself to the story you want to tell.

WEEK 4: Workshop

In week four, students will submit, read, and evaluate one another’s essays in an online workshop format. This class will help readers hone their skills in critical reading and evaluation of texts, as well as help develop their skills in providing helpful, supportive feedback. Comments received during this week should help the author significantly revise her work, allowing her to more fully realize its potential.

Materials needed: The instructor will provide all reading materials, lessons and handouts.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Naomi Kimbell grew up in Missoula, Montana, a small city on the Idaho-side of the state. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Montana, and her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Crazyhorse, The Iowa Review, and other literary journals and anthologies. When she’s not writing, she likes to wander through the woods, across hillsides, and visit small towns, taking photographs and shooting video to create impressionistic films with ambient scores. Since receiving her MFA in 2008, she has taught creative nonfiction, developmental, and college writing courses at the University of Montana, and she has facilitated memoir and cross-genre workshops for individuals with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injury, people with severe and disabling mental illness, children and adults with chronic and terminal illness, and elementary school students. To learn more, view films, and read her work, visit her website at

COST:  $125, which includes weekly assignments, individual feedback from the instructor, and access to a private group for student interactions.

BUY NOW: TESTS, MENUS, AND OTHER CONSTRAINTS: Writing Borrowed Form Essays with Naomi Kimbell (4 weeks, starting 10/22/2018) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 10/22/2018


Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. Just before class begins, she will e-mail you with instructions on how to get started.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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