Writing Women

Improving | Fiction

What kind of writing effectively captures the textures and quandaries of women’s lives? What techniques will you need to bring these textures into your own writing?

Taught by Katherine Angel, with a guest tutor TBC

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the measures in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, this course will now NOT be taking place in London. Instead, it will be conducted online. Due to this change it will be slightly different to the description below. Get in touch for more information.

Renewed attention is currently being paid to writings which address the particular textures of women’s experience, and the complex situations in which they find themselves in times of intense and overt misogyny. Novelists, memoirists, and essayists alike are evoking women’s lives as they unfold in and are shaped by injustices such as racism and classism. But how does a writer capture and represent what an individual woman’s life feels like – and which women are we talking about exactly?

Looking at techniques from a range of forms, and focusing on linguistic elements rather than strict genre categories, we will ask what makes good writing about women. How do we evoke the complex webs of injustice that shape women’s lives without being clunky, preachy or didactic? How do we persuade readers of a viewpoint, without either speaking to the gallery or alienating an audience? How we do portray, intimately, what an experience feels like, and how do we link it to wider social phenomena? And how do we mine our own individual lives – or those around us – in our writing?

The course will look at extracts by a wide range of writers – including Sophie Mackintosh, Carmen Maria Machado, Kirsten Roupenian, Zeba Talkhani, Maggie Nelson, Andrea Long Chu and Reni Eddo-Lodge – and use extracts from their work to illustrate and concretise contemporary trends in women’s writing.

Whether you are a novelist, a short-story writer, a memoirist, an essayist, or a combination of these, this course will help you create compelling writing through an examination of sensory evocation, narrative action, tone, and structure, across both fiction and non-fiction. Writing exercises will help you build technical confidence and skill, regardless of the genre your writing may sit in, and individual sessions with Katherine Angel will give you tailored feedback on your own writing.
27th - 31st July 2020

Availability: In stock

14 Places

The sessions will consist of a class from 10:00 to 13:00, followed by writing exercises and one-to-ones in the afternoons, with writing space available until 16:00.

Day One: Under the Skin

In this session we will explore how an evocation of sensory detail – allowing the reader to be zipped into the narrator’s skin, as Mary Karr has put it – can convey a huge amount about both character and the context in which that character develops. Focusing on physical sensation tells us not just about an individual, but implicitly about the political and social world in which she lives.

Day Two: Narration and Action

What counts as action? What is an event? Is something that doesn’t happen an event, equivalent to something that does happen? Is a feeling an event? In this session we will look at narration and action; at how a writer recounts a story, how she manipulates time and both action and non-action, to build up a complex picture of a woman’s gendered experience of the world.

Day Three: Guest Speaker

Guest Tutor TBC.

Day Four: Tone is Everything

It is not easy to write well from one’s own life—to make a story out of a situation, as Vivian Gornick puts it, and to ‘pull a narrator’ out of one’s ‘agitated and boring self’. How to mine the self without being self-indulgent, or boorish? In this session we will look at how tone is crucial; how the attitude a writer takes to herself is key to an exploration of gender, power, and race.

Day Five: Structure and What to Include

The essay is enjoying a renewed popularity, with publishers publishing many women writers of essay, and the form is being brilliantly put to feminist ends. What is an essay, and how does its exploratory, open-ended form enable exploration? What makes a good essay exciting rather than loose and overly meandering, and full of possibilities rather than closing down of ideas? And how does a writer wield multiple elements without losing or confusing a reader? The balance is difficult to get right, and we’ll figure out what makes it work. A clue: structure is key.

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Katherine Angel is the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell (Penguin, 2012), Daddy Issues (Peninsula Press...

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman