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Beginnings and Before Beginnings – A Study of Novel Form and Style w/ Omar El-Akkad

May 8 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Online, N/A, Portland, OR 97207

Beginnings and Before Beginnings – A Study of Novel Form and Style

WITH: Omar El-Akkad

WHEN: Begins May 8th.

WHERE: This class will be hosted on our rich interactive online platform WetInk, with four lessons stretched over four weeks. In addition, Omar will host a weekly ‘office hours’ Zoom where students are welcome to come and discuss the ideas in the class and all things writing-related. (Zooms will be on Saturdays, May 15, 22, 29, and June 5, from 5PM-6PM PST.)

HOW MUCH: $350. Payment plans are available, contact Daniel Elder at registration@corporealwriting.com

SCHOLARSHIPS: Click here to apply.

Beginnings and Before Beginnings

Zadie Smith once said she spends about 80 per cent of her efforts on the first 50 or 60 pages of a book, in an attempt to get the perspective right – afterward, the rest of the story tends to work itself out much more easily.

There are plenty of valleys along the road to a completed novel-length project – the places where the logical structure threatens to come apart, or when characters seem forced to do something outside their nature in service of the plot; the middle of the writing, when the novelty of the work has worn off but so much more still needs to be done; the final few pages that seem never to adequately fold the whole thing up. But in this class, we will focus on the very beginning. By studying a number of opening pages, paragraphs and sentences from writers such as Garth Greenwell, Julie Otsuka, William Faulkner, Svetlana Alexievich and others, we will explore the myriad ways writers have chosen to construct the front doors of their stories.

In addition, this course will also include a component focused on everything that comes before the beginning – research methods, information structure and ways of arranging all the experiences and narrative decisions that go into the planning of a novel. We will study the ways that writers have built the load-bearing beams of their books well before they started writing the books themselves, with an emphasis on how best to keep the research from overwhelming the creative process.

Finally, the course will also function as a workshop for student writing. Students will be expected to provide feedback on one another’s work, and we will spend some time each week in class discussion about the work. The instructor will also provide feedback on each piece.

Week 1: Introductions and Workshop submission scheduling; Lecture – Planning, Research and Initial Intent: Ways of Structuring a Novel-Length Project

Week 2: Short Lecture – Worldbuilding; Student Writing Workshops; Beginnings Lecture – Style

Week 3: Beginnings Lecture – Structure; Student Writing Workshops

Week 4: Short Lecture and Q&A on the industry – publishing contracts, agents, etc. Student Writing Workshops; Wrap-Up

Omar El Akkad is an author and journalist. He was born in Egypt, grew up in Qatar, moved to Canada as a teenager and now lives in the United States. The start of his journalism career coincided with the start of the war on terror, and over the following decade he reported from Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and many other locations around the world. His work earned a National Newspaper Award for Investigative Journalism and the Goff Penny Award for young journalists. His fiction and non-fiction writing has appeared in The Guardian, Le Monde, Guernica, GQ and many other newspapers and magazines. His debut novel, American War, is an international bestseller and has been translated into thirteen languages. It won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award, the Oregon Book Award for fiction, the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and has been nominated for more than ten other awards. It was listed as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, Washington Post, GQ, NPR, Esquire and was selected by the BBC as one of 100 novels that changed our world. His short story “Government Slots” was selected for the Best Canadian Stories 2020 anthology. His new novel is forthcoming from Knopf.

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Portland, OR 97207


Corporeal Writing