Workshops are at the heart of the Juniper Institute. Here, writers generate new work and present that work, or other work-in-progress, to their assigned faculty workshop leaders and peers. Workshop sizes are kept small so that every writer’s work gets dedicated attention. In addition to focusing on specific pieces of writing, writers actively interrogate larger issues of form, style, content, language, and process.
Every workshop has its own climate and conventions: some lean toward the generation of new work, some toward the honing of existing pieces, and others emphasize a combination of both. While details are subject to revision, here?s how the 2015 faculty describe their approach to their Juniper workshops:
Poetry Workshop with Heather Christle:
In our week together we will take a look at your poems and where they might travel, taking movement as our guiding theme, whether through time, space, voice, subject, form, or any of the other opportunities for motion we discover together. Our focus will be on your work, but to bolster those conversations we will also discuss other texts: poems that jump to and fro, poems that roll, poems that lie in stillness. We'll try out some experiments with various forms of writing in motion, so please come prepared to generate new lines, and with a good sense of adventure. Along the way we will consider what we might learn from the movement of beings and objects from other fields, and—if luck is on our side— grow bold and ambitious in response.
Poetry Workshop with Matthea Harvey:
In this poetry workshop we will experiment like mad— trying our hands at erasures, inventing graphic poems, writing exquisite corpses, etc. When discussing students’ poems, we will rigorously attend each poem's metamorphosis, paying attention to whether it wants to sprout wings, antlers, both or neither. We will try to plot out the poem's most unique path according to the signposts the rough draft gives us. Our focus will be both minute and broad—examining poems on a cellular level, and then talking about larger issues, like autobiography, imagination and compositional techniques.
Poetry Workshop with Zachary Schomburg:
In our workshop, we will zero in on the poem's narrative while keeping in mind ideas of restraint and concision in language, of letting go of the need to explain and contextualize its ideas and images, in order for a poem to accomplish a lot in a little space. We will learn to complicate a poem's narrative by not strangling it. We will read and discuss the success of the narrative within a few short poems published recently by our contemporaries, and then we will spend the majority of our time doing just that for each other's poems.
Poetry Workshop with Dara Wier:
In our workshop you'll be invited to bring us your best poems, your most difficult poems, your poems in progress, your most questionable poems, your almost there poems, your inklings of poems. And with them your concerns, fears, risk-taking questions, and gut feelings, your instincts, your experience and your understanding of why poems matter, to you, and to us all. You will be invited to bring us poems by poets you admire so we can gain a collective reading experience we can talk about, refer to, and enjoy. You'll be given a chance to tell us about how you happened to come to be writing poetry and what you hope your poetry will be up to as it evolves. You'll be invited to ask questions, tell stories, direct our conversation toward subjects you feel significant to poets gathering over poetry, in order to love it, to question it and to further its life in the future. Your work is the heart and soul and brain of our meetings and it will be our main focus.
Fiction Workshop with Brian Evenson:
We'll focus in this workshop on how good writing gets better, and look at revision as a strategy not only for making work better but for exploring new directions. The focus of the workshop will be your stories, and I'd ask you to bring with you a story that you'd like to revise and don't mind playing with. We'll look at cases of editorial revision (such as Lish's revision of Raymond Carver's work), dramatic authorial revision (such as Wells Towers' publishing two versions of the same story), think about structural revision and sentence revision, explore exercises related to revision, and, above all, think specifically about the story you bring, what it's doing, and where it might go next. We'll look at 2-3 stories per class.
Fiction Workshop with Noy Holland:
Our time here is short and happily intense. I think you will use it best and hardest by producing new work while you are here, by internalizing—through the act of writing—the varied lessons that arise among us. My idea is to approach the work in units. We might spend a whole workshop, for instance, looking at adjectives and adverbs; another workshop looking at dialogue; another at the angle of perception; another at rhythm and syntax. After each workshop, I ask that you embrace what you’ve discovered by producing work that responds to those discoveries—in direct and meaningful and immediate ways.
Does this mean you are not invited to bring work with you? No, not really. If you are deeply engaged in a project, it may make sense to use your time in active revision; you may want to share not new work but newly revised work. But to get what you can from the workshop, you need to be open, in the moment, to deep changes, to seeing what you have brought as raw material, endlessly malleable. This can be difficult to do in as short a time as we have. Ideally, you will come to see everything you have written through the lens of what you learn while you are here, and this re-seeing takes time, often quite a long, welcome, wrestling kind of time that writers find in the weeks that follow.
Fiction Workshop with Joy Williams:
Participants’ new, raw material will provide the basis for this workshop. We will be working on three to four stories per session; the last session will be devoted to individual manuscript consultation (number of participants permitting). In addition to working with participant’s manuscripts, we’ll also be discussing some (more or less, classic or strange) stories to explore the techniques to make them effective.
Creative Nonfiction Workshop with Paul Lisicky:
The ideal writing workshop is a place where a variety of forms are encouraged and respected, where we attempt to create a version of a model literary community: a thriving ecosystem, as Richard Powers might call it, rather than a monoculture. It requires an openness at every turn, a dedicated generosity, and a willingness to consider each piece on its own terms. We'll look at a variety of outside work (Nick Flynn, Peter Trachtenberg, Mary Gaitskill, among others), but your writing will be our primary text. We'll make time for in-class exercises and relevant discussion. Along the way, we’ll work hard, have fun, and make sure delight isn’t an enemy to seriousness.