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Essay Writing Workshop Using Borrowed Form

Naomi Kimbell

SHAPE-SHIFTING THE ESSAY: Learn to Write Using Borrowed Form by Naomi Kimbell

START DATE: Monday, June 3, 2019

END DATE: Sunday, June 30, 2019

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.

Many thanks to Naomi Kimbell for dreaming up the “Music, Truth, and the Towns Inside Us” class I just took. I loved it. I’d read Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town years ago, but I must confess I didn’t completely understand the nuances of all that he was saying. It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in a thoughtful discussion. Naomi not only knows how to write, but also how to guide. I felt like she provided a safe space to experiment and submit my work for review and comments. She was prepared and available throughout the course. I would absolutely take more classes with Naomi. ~ Victoria Melekian (previous WOW class participant)

Naomi’s class is one of the most inspiring classes I’ve ever taken! I’ve never been a flowery writer, and often focused more on meaning, rather than sentence structure and word choice. Writing a lyric essay is something I’ve always dreamed of, but I didn’t really understand the concept until I took her class, “Music, Truth, and the Towns Inside Us: A Cross-Genre Exploratory Workshop.” It literally changed my life! I now understand how to edit sentences and words down to syllables and consonants to make my prose sing. She created a vibrant learning atmosphere, full of rooms, prompts, videos, and discussion. I usually like to write in silence, but our first assignment was writing to music she selected. The words that flowed from my pen amazed me, and that was due to Naomi’s instruction and safe learning environment. My classmates’ work was extremely impressive, and we had so much fun providing feedback on each other’s essays, poems, fiction, and free-writes. Naomi’s insight into the book we were reading, The Triggering Town, along with her thought-provoking discussion and encouraging feedback made this class exceptional. I’d love to take every class she offers. Her teaching style is compassionate and knowledgeable, and her suggestions for use of language are detailed and eye opening. Taking her class helped me look at the world with wonder. In the past my writing has been described as flat and reporterly. Well, never again. Now I want to go back and revise all my essays for sound. I know Naomi’s class has made me a better writer, and I can’t thank her enough! ~ Angela M. (previous WOW class participant)

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

WEEKS AT A GLANCE:

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 lives and writes in Missoula, MT. 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. Her essay, “Whistling in the Dark,” was recognized as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays, 2010, and her essay, “Bounty,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in nonfiction. In addition to writing creative nonfiction, Naomi writes reviews of independent literature for the Atticus Review, has been featured on the Submittable Blog, and is currently working on a novel.

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 using her essays, invented landscapes, and found sounds. She lives with her husband and her bird at the base of a mountain that, from a certain angle, looks a little like an elephant in repose.

Since receiving her MFA in 2008, Naomi Kimbell 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 www.naomikimbell.com.

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

BUY NOW: SHAPE-SHIFTING THE ESSAY: Learn to Write Using Borrowed Form with Naomi Kimbell (4 weeks, starting 6/3/2019) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.

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

For Class Session Starting 6/3/2019

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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:
classroom[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com

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