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  • The (Extra)Ordinary Moment: The Art and Craft of Micro-Memoir // with Elizabeth Lukács Chesla

The (Extra)Ordinary Moment: The Art and Craft of Micro-Memoir // with Elizabeth Lukács Chesla

  • 02 October 2024
  • 29 October 2024
  • Online
  • 20

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"...an ideal genre for exploring the parts of our past (and present) that feel more difficult to share."

Micro-memoir, a form of flash nonfiction, invites you to tell a compelling personal story in under 300 words by focusing on the moment, the tiny flashes that illuminate the larger self. A unique hybrid form, the micro-memoir combines the brevity of poetry with the storytelling strategies of fiction to magnify, as writer Bernard Cooper says, “some small aspect of what it means to be human.” With such a limited length, the micro-memoir is as much a craft of what is not said as what is, making it an ideal genre for exploring the parts of our past (and present) that feel more difficult to share.

In this generative four-week class, you’ll learn ways to create tiny written snapshots of your life, distilling experiences to their essence and capturing them in powerful prose.

Weekly readings will offer insight and inspiration while weekly prompts will invite you to craft your own micros. You’ll give and receive kind, constructive feedback in a supportive community through our online platform as well as our optional Zoom classes, which will provide additional writing exercises and the opportunity to ask questions, dive deeper into texts, and share your ideas and explorations with each other.

Week by Week

Week 1: What is micro-memoir, and what gives it its power? We’ll define this hybrid genre, exploring how it is different from longer nonfiction pieces, what it shares with and how it differs from prose poetry, and what fiction and poetic techniques writers use to enhance the telling of their life stories. We’ll consider why it’s an increasingly popular form, survey a wide range of examples for strategies and inspiration, and experiment with exercises to generate ideas for your own micros. What are the “decisive moments” you want to capture?

Week 2: Despite its brevity, the backbone of a micro-memoir is still story: something happens to someone and impacts them in some way. But the brevity of the genre means that it needs something other than the typical exposition-to-resolution narrative arc. This week, we’ll compare and contrast the structure of micros with those of longer traditional pieces to show how micro-memoirists wrangle and subvert traditional elements of plotting and pacing to pare down the story arc and capture the moment and its power.

Week 3: We remember in flashes, and the essence of a memory is often triggered by or held in an image or detail—some small, often ordinary thing that comes to reflect or encapsulate a deeply meaningful human experience. This week, we’ll explore ways to use active imagery and detail in micro pieces to allow ordinary things to carry the extraordinary emotional weight of our experiences. We’ll carefully consider word choice, too, to make sure each word is pulling its weight.

Week 4: “Flash,” says writer and editor Dinty Moore, “is as much erasure as it is composition.” This week, we’ll experiment with making more from less by making your micros even smaller. What happens when you cut 300 words down to 200, 100, 50? We’ll explore when, why, and how to pare your micro down and make a smaller flash burn brighter. We’ll also look at resources for writers of micro-memoir, including craft guides and journals that publish micros, and possibilities for weaving micros together into a larger work. We’ll close the course with an optional Zoom wrap-up and reading session.

Recommended text: The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teachers, ed. Dinty W. Moore, 2012.

Who Should Take This Class

This class is for anyone interested in memoir, creative nonfiction, and/or flash forms. It may be especially useful for people who want to tell their stories but don’t know where to begin: you’re invited to start small and see where it takes you.

If you are already experimenting with the memoir form, join us to experiment with this form and see if some of your stories can do more with less.

This course gives participants who want to tell their story a new genre to explore. While it may sound intimidating, the micro-memoir is actually quite accessible as a form and offers a great deal of opportunity for experimentation that can help writers find their voice and clarify what stories they want to tell, and why.  By zooming in on the moment rather than trying to tell a grand life story, participants will also gain confidence as storytellers and authors of their own experience.

We offer scholarships based on income as well as some partial scholarships for people living with serious illness and/or disability or people of color through the Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund. Please fill out this scholarship application form so that we can find the best way to make the class accessible to you.

Format

This is an online class, hosted on the online teaching platform Wet Ink. The day before class begins, you will receive an email invitation from Wet Ink. There are no browser requirements, and Wet Ink is mobile-friendly. The Wet Ink platform allows you to log in and complete the coursework on your own time. Coursework for each week will be posted by 6:00 AM EDT each Wednesday beginning October 2. 

Weekly, optional 60-minute Zoom sessions will take place on the following schedule:

  • Monday, October 7: 12:00-1:00 PM Eastern time (11:00 AM CT, 10:00 AM MT, 9:00 AM PT)
  • Tuesday, October 15: 8:00-9:00 PM Eastern time (7:00 PM CT, 6:00 PM MT, 5:00 PM PT)
  • Monday, October 21: 12:00-1:00 PM Eastern time (11:00 AM CT, 10:00 AM MT, 9:00 AM PT)
  • Tuesday, October 29: 8:00-9:00 PM Eastern time (7:00 PM CT, 6:00 PM MT, 5:00 PM PT)

Sessions will be recorded and made available only to the class. 

This class utilizes personal reflection, group discussion, and writing exercises to explore the art and craft of micro-memoir. You should plan to spend about three hours per week on the class writing and sharing your responses to the readings, discussion questions, creative writing prompts, and posts by your peers. The class is formatted so that you can engage with the material any time throughout the week. At the end of the class, you will receive an email that contains an archive of all your content and interactions.

About the Facilitator

Elizabeth Lukács Chesla is the author of You Cannot Forbid the Flower, an award-winning hybrid novella based on her father’s experiences in World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The daughter of Hungarian refugees and a mother of three, she earned her MA from Columbia University and spent a decade teaching writing and literature in New York City before moving back home to the Philadelphia suburbs to raise her family. She is the author of multiple books on reading, writing, and critical thinking skills and holds a certificate in Transformative Language Arts Foundations. Liz serves as an assistant fiction editor for Consequence Forum and editor and writing coach for emerging authors. Her short prose has appeared in Quarter After Eight and Flare: An Anthology of Chronic Illness Told in Flash Narratives. She writes, edits, and teaches from the suburbs of Philadelphia. You can find more about Liz at https://elizabethchesla.com/

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