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Writing the Senses: Beyond "Sensory Detail"

Wednesdays, 4 weeks
Jan 12
Feb 2
6:00 - 8:00PM CST
Lee Conell
Online via Zoom
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“The further we distance ourselves from the spell of the present, explored by our senses, the harder it will be to understand and protect nature's precarious balance, let alone the balance of our own human nature,” writes Diane Ackerman.

We’re often told to add sensory details to liven up a piece of writing, as if “sensory details” are a mere ingredient in a recipe designed to produce the ideal prose-y metaphorical baked good. But what happens when we take the sensory experience of our lives more seriously, using that experience as the starting place for not only generating new creative work but for staying present in the writing process itself?

Through engaging with both in-class readings as well as writing exercises that engage the senses—including paintings, music, and maybe even a few non-metaphorical baked goods—this class aims to jumpstart ideas for new projects and add depth and texture to ongoing writing projects you're drafting or revising. Each week will be centered around exploring one to two “senses,” with the goal of drafting textured, dynamic prose. Along the way we’ll also pay attention to the sensory experience of language itself and to the way exploring the senses on the page might open up new pathways linked to memories and dreams.

Lee Conell is the author of The Party Upstairs, a novel released July 2020 from Penguin Press. She’s also the author of the story collection Subcortical, which was awarded The Story Prize Spotlight Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and an American Fiction Award. She has received a 2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as writing fellowships from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vanderbilt University, and the Yiddish Book Center. Her fiction appears in the Oxford American, Kenyon Review online, Glimmer Train, and elsewhere; her stories have won the Nelson Algren Award from the Chicago Tribune, and have been shortlisted in Best American Short Stories and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She’s taught fiction writing at Vanderbilt University, Sewanee: The University of the South, Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, and the Nashville Public Library. Some interviews and features with Lee can be found at The MillionsMemoriousSplit Lip Magazine, the Chicago TribuneThe Collagist, and American Short Fiction.

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Lee Conell is a returning teacher the Porch. Welcome back!

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