The Well-Tempered Paragraph: Memoirs in Miniature


How much of a life can be squeezed into a paragraph? This will be the challenge during our weekend retreat, as we tackle this most common unit of composition. Reading and appreciating these small blocks of type, none of them common, will be our first task. Our focus will be on those sparked by a memory. We will read from After the Fact, by poets Marvin Bell and Chris Merrill.  We will read from Margaret Renkl's Late Migrations. We will also read paragraphs you love, those pulled from your bulletin boards or bracketed in the books on your desk.

And we will respond with work of our own, producing paragraphs some might call prose poems. Others might feel more like anecdotes. In any case, your writing will shine and deepen, as fellow writers awaken what Philip Lopate calls "that shiver of self-recognition."

In their famous Elements of Style, Strunk and White ask us to "remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind." Yes, let's certainly employ the former, the visual shape on the page. As far as the latter, well, we will have some fun. Can you write a book like this? Yes, you can. To start you right off upon registration, my introductory letter will include examples and prompts, so you'll hit the ground running, with paragraphs ready to be read and answered in kind. Writers at any level of experience are most welcome.

To prepare for this workshop, bring 1 or 2 examples of paragraphs whose craft you appreciate, from your own reading experience. Bring lots of blank pages. Our goal is to fill them up, to give you plenty of material to expand all year long. While most of our time will be spent creating new material, there will be a short workshop on Sunday for those who want more notes. Of course, everyone will be a reader!

In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; provide feedback on writing you produce in our weekend.

Cecile Goding photo
Event status
Event Categories