UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program (GSWP) will present 11 courses this spring for community writers, including an introductory writing workshop with acclaimed novelist Tommy Hays, and new courses like Writing in the Age of Loneliness, and Exploring Questions of Spirituality and Faith through Poetry and Creative Nonfiction.
Writers across genres and at different levels of experience will find courses that will interest and benefit them, taught by some of Western North Carolina’s finest authors. Classes, which range from five to 15 weeks, will be offered in many community locations in Asheville, Black Mountain, Burnsville and Hendersonville.
Riding the Rocket Ship: Revising Your Poems, with Tina Barr – “The best poems seem like rocket ships; they suddenly ‘take off,’ into arenas we might not expect,” says Tina Barr. “Whether you are just beginning to write or are more experienced, learning how to ‘accelerate’ in new directions is a process of growth. We want our imaginations to explore, explode, surprise us as writers. This workshop will focus on providing optional exercises as strategies to ‘fuel’ your news poems, and develop poems-in-progress in new directions.” Barr’s six volumes of poetry include Green Target, winner of the Barrow Street Press Book Prize; Kaleidoscope; The Gathering Eye, winner of the Tupelo Press Editor’s Award, and three chapbooks, all winners of national competitions. This 10-week class meets Mondays, 1-3:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 18, at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State Street, Black Mountain, N.C.
Writing in the Age of Loneliness: Eco-Literature & the Writer’s Task, with Nickole Brown – Biologist E.O. Wilson, noting mass extinctions of plant and animal species, said our current era may be called by both scientists and poets, “Eremozoic” – the age of loneliness. In designing this course, Nickole Brown asks, “What is our responsibility as writers to this epoch? How can one write about plants and animals without producing work that is sentimental, overly personified, flat-lined with facts, or, worse, rendered incapable of communicating from its own rage? Course participants will study others’ solutions and try their hands at writing through the darkness with awareness, control, and, yes, even hope.” Brown is the author of Sister, reissued this year by Sibling Rivalry Press, of Fanny Says, winner of the 2015 Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry, and, To Those Who Were Our First Gods, winner of the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize. This five-week class meets Mondays, 6-8:30 p.m., Feb. 11, March 4, 11, 18 and April 15, at Hanger Hall, 64 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville.
The Bare Necessities: An Introduction to the Craft of Creative Prose, with Tommy Hays – “In the writer’s world, craft is another word for hope,” says Tommy Hays. “The more the writer understands the possible approaches to material, the more likely it is to find a way into the story one wants to tell. This class is for anyone interested in learning the essential elements of writing fiction and creative nonfiction. Each week will be devoted to an aspect of craft, which we will explore through discussion and in-class writing exercises.” Hays is the author of four books, including the middle-grades novel, What I Came to Tell You, a Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Okra Pick and VOYA Top Shelf Pick that received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; The Pleasure Was Mine, which has been chosen for numerous community reads and was a finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award; and In the Family Way, which won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. Hays, recently honored with the Carolina Mountain Literary Festival’s Charlie Award, is executive director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and core faculty for the Master of Liberal Arts & Sciences Program at UNC Asheville. This 15-week class meets Wednesdays, 6-8:30 p.m., beginning Jan. 30, at RiverLink, 170 Lyman St., Asheville.
Creating Bridges Rather than Barriers: A Creative Nonfiction Workshop with Chris Highland – “In our wall-building times, we need to discover new verbal passages – modes of expressing our most sensitive viewpoints in ways that include rather than exclude,” said Chris Highland. “In this course we will consider various styles of presentation, not to ‘evangelize’ but to open the way to honest discussion where everyone feels heard. The focus will be on telling stories of our deeply cherished beliefs (or non-beliefs) in an honest yet invitational manner, refining our writing to enhance understanding across fences of faith and freethought.” Highland, who has a Master of Divinity degree, writes the Highland Views column, addressing issues of faith in the Asheville Citizen-Times. He’s also the author of A Freethinker’s Gospel, My Address is a River and other works. This 10-week class meets Wednesdays, 6-8:30 p.m., beginning Feb. 20, at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, 52 N. Market St., Asheville.
Exploring Questions of Spirituality & Faith through Poetry & Creative Nonfiction, with Jessica Jacobs – “In this course, we’ll closely read what writers of all faiths and no faith have written in their grappling with ideas, stories, rules and rituals about the meaning of life that have shaped the world in which we live, and add our voices to a conversation that stretches across geography and time,” says Jacobs. “Intended for writers of all levels, classes will be a blend of spirited discussion, contemplative meditations, and generative exercises. And, in the biblical spirit, our reading and writing will encompass both poetry and prose (specifically, in our case, creative nonfiction).” Jacobs is now at work on paired collections of essays and poetry, which both explore questions of faith. Her book, Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe, won the New Mexico Book Award and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. A new collection of her writing, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, is forthcoming from Four Way Books. This five-week class meets Tuesdays, 6-8:30 p.m., Feb. 12, March 5, 12 and 19, and April 16, at Hanger Hall, 64 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville.
The Devil You Know: The Art, Skill and Thrill of Writing Your Memoir, with Brian Lee Knopp – “Memoir writing is a heroic quest for clarity amid chaos, a daring rescue of the truth trapped inside your life’s labyrinth,” says Brian Lee Knopp. “How do you do it? By building up memory muscles, strengthening your capacity for empathy and informed imagination, and improving your language reflexes in order to convey your experience in the most vivid, convincing and authentic narrative possible. This course will require in-class and at-home writing assignments and class pre-writing or ‘life-storming’ sessions—all dedicated to transforming a life lived into an unforgettable work of art.” Knopp is the author of the best-selling memoir Mayhem in Mayberry: Misadventures of a P.I. in Southern Appalachia. He also created and contributed to the Asheville literary community’s collaborative mystery novel, Naked Came the Leaf Peeper, and his nonfiction work has appeared in Stoneboat Journal, WNC Magazine, and Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine. This 10-week class meets Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 21 at RiverLink, 170 Lyman St., Asheville.
Staying the Course: A Creative Prose Workshop with Vicki Lane – Vicki Lane, author of the Elizabeth Goodweather mystery series from Bantam Dell, has designed this workshop to help participants produce page-turners of their own. It is aimed at writers with a work in progress, almost completed, or completed but in need of a final polishing. “We will focus on the effective use of key techniques such as creating an intriguing opening, crafting a likable and/or engaging protagonist, weaving in back story in small, manageable doses, setting up a dilemma that begs to be resolved, and making the most of action scenes,” says Lane. “We will attempt to weed out the mistakes that mark the amateur writer and help each student to become a discerning editor of his own work. The goal will be to polish those pages till they are ready to catch the attention of an agent, an editor, or a publisher and make them ask for more.” This 15-week class meets Thursdays, 6-8:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 31, at the Asheville School, 360 Asheville School Road, Asheville.
Shape-Shifting Poems: A Writing Workshop with Eric Nelson – “In free verse, the shape of the poem is entirely the writer’s decision,” says Nelson. “This course will focus on the many different shapes that poems can take and how the shape influences tone, rhythm, and content. Trying out different shapes while you are drafting a poem can help you discover what you want to say, or what needs to be added, or what should be cut. Throughout the term, we will read, discuss, write and workshop poems in a variety of shapes.” Nelson’s six books include the award winning collections Some Wonder (Gival Press Poetry Award), Terrestrials (Texas Review Poetry Award), and The Interpretation of Waking Life (University of Arkansas Poetry Award). He taught poetry workshops at Georgia Southern University for 26 years before moving to Asheville. This 10-week class meets Wednesdays, 2-4:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 20, at UNC Asheville’s Kellogg Center, 1181 Broyles Rd., Hendersonville.
Methodical Madness: A Fiction Workshop with Heather Newton – This course is for writers of fiction who want to generate new work, and have work critiqued for revision in a supportive workshop setting. Says Heather Newton, “Students should come committed to writing in response to prompts and giving and receiving thoughtful criticism as members of a community of writers. You may submit two pieces of up to 12 pages for group critique. For the last class, you will submit a piece of work to a publication or contest. Our text will be The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante, who, along with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, reminds us that when it comes to writing, ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.’” Newton is program manager for Asheville’s Flatiron Writers Room writers’ center. Her novel, Under The Mercy Trees, won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, was chosen by the Women’s National Book Association as a Great Group Reads Selection and named an “Okra Pick” by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. This 10-week class meets Mondays, 6-8:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 25, at Flatiron Writers Room, 5 Covington St., Asheville.
The Poet as Witness: A Poetry Workshop with Pat Riviere-Seel – “What is the poet’s role and the poet’s obligation in making art? How do our poems bear witness?” asks Pat Riviere-Seel, who has designed this workshop for beginning as well as experienced poets. “We will look at examples of a wide variety of poems of witness and discuss strategies, techniques and craft elements for writing our own poems. We’ll use prompts to write a poem each week and discuss the work in class.” Riviere-Seel is the author of three poetry collections: Nothing Below but Air, No Turning Back Now, and The Serial Killer’s Daughter, which won the Roanoke-Chowan Award. She served as the Distinguished Poet for Western North Carolina from 2016-2018 in the NC Poetry Society’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series, and she received the 2017 Charlie Award at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival. She has served as poet-in-residence at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro and has worked as a newspaper journalist, publicist, and lobbyist. This 10-week class meets Tuesdays, 4-6:30 p.m. beginning Feb. 19, at First Baptist Church, 11 Town Square, Burnsville, N.C.
Prose Master Class with Elizabeth Lutyens – “This small–group workshop is for those seeking an intensive writing experience,” says Lutyens. “It is limited to experienced writers who are working on an ongoing project: a collection of essays or stories, a novel, a memoir. The writer should have at least sixty pages ready to submit for three critiques during the semester. An equally important commitment is for class members to offer the best possible attention to the work of others. For each of the three rounds of workshops, the methods will vary, from traditional craft-based discussions, to free-form explorations of resonance as well as craft, to writer’s choice.” Admission to the Prose Master Class is by permission from Tommy Hays or Lutyens, who has led this class for 10 years. A former journalist, Lutyens is at work completing a novel, and she is editor-in-chief of The Great Smokies Review, the online literary magazine published by UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. For more information about the Prose Master Class, contact Hays (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Lutyens (email@example.com). This 15-week class meets Tuesdays, 6-8:30 p.m. beginning Jan. 29, at the Asheville School, 360 Asheville School Road, Asheville.
The Great Smokies Writing Program is committed to providing the community with affordable university-level classes taught by professional writers. To ensure that students receive individual attention from the instructor, enrollment is limited.
For those who qualify for in-state tuition, five-week courses cost $155.81; 10-week courses cost $311.62; 15-week courses cost $467.43. The costs are higher for out-of-state residents. For more information or to register, visit the GSWP website.