January 2, 2020
$360 | 10 Weeks
In the first volume of Sudden Fiction, the editor Robert Shapard writes, “It may well be that the new popularity of the short-short story began in the spirit of experiment and wordplay in the 1960’s.” In this class, students will approach writing flash fiction as an opportunity to experiment with approach, form, structure and style.
Attention to style and structure is very important to the writer of tiny fictions, just as it is important to poets. That’s why this genre is often described as a borderline genre, in between poetry and prose. With that in mind, some of our assignments may begin with a form typically used in poetry, but instead of the line, we will be working with the sentence and the paragraph.
Under the guidance of Barbara Henning, students can craft ten new flash fictions during this course or choose instead to work on writing less and revising more. Each week, Barbara will post a lecture and an assignment, and she will respond to your submissions, giving you critical and supportive feedback. Her objective is to introduce students to new approaches for writing and to encourage a supportive community of writers.
Please note that this course can seem like a graduate-level course (if students are inclined that way), involving theory and extra content to delve deeper. However, if you are interested only in the workshop part of the course, it is fine to skip the optional readings.
Many published writers take this class, but beginners are also welcome.
Tentative Weekly Plan
Week One: Introduction: An Overview of the Class. Discussion of some elements in fiction with excerpts from critics on fiction, as well as Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” and a chapter from Ann Carson’s Autobiography of Red. Informal journal writing for the first week.
Week Two: Haiku in Prose Discussion of haiku and the importance of images and detail in fiction. Read examples of haiku by Kerouac, Richard Wright, Basho and Issa. Read a short selection from Banana Yoshimoto’s novel, Kitchen. Write a short travel narrative with at least three or more haiku embedded. Class critiques of each other’s work (to continue every week).
Week Three: Experimental Fiction? Discuss the differences between experimental and traditional fiction writing, as well as stories by Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lydia Davis, Anne Waldman, Grace Paley and William Carlos Williams. Assignment: Write an auto-flash fiction using material from your journal.
Week Four: Auto-Flash Fiction Discuss automatic/autobiographical fiction writing and stories by Kenneth Koch and Yasunari Kawabata. Descriptive writing assignment.
Week Five: The New Novel Writers Read selections from Alain Robbe-Grillet and Nathalie Sarraute. Discussion of the new novel project. Three possible assignments: Writing long sentences, sestina prose, or dream assignment.
Week Six: Vertical Fields & Dream Narratives Discussion of stories by Fielding Dawson, Robert Walser, Lynn Crawford, Harry Matthews, Barry Yourgrau, Richard Brautigan, Robert Creeley, Lydia Davis, Jayne Anne Philips and Kenneth Koch. Text-inside-a-text assignment, following-a-line-or-a-shade, retelling an old story, or the hyper-language-conscious narrator assignment.
Week Seven: A Text Inside a Text/ Retelling/ or/Tilling the Telling Discussion of stories by Julio Cortazar, Dale Herd, David Kaplan, Charles Baxter, Raymond Carver, Steve Katz, Robert Walser, Franz Kafka, Lydia Davis and Gertrude Stein. Assignment options: Sentence-paragraph life story; a fictional monologue that mostly tells rather than shows; a modern parable; a narrative with disruption.
Week Eight: One Sentence at a Time & Anti-Stories Discussion of stories by T. Coraghessan Boyle, Lewis Warsh, Linh Dinh, Laura Riding, Ron Sukenick, Ed Dorn and Franz Kafka. Assignments options: restricted senses; I wanna be someone else; writing about a crime while resisting focusing on the crime; and accepting the unacceptable.
Week Nine: Something’s Wrong Here. Discussion of stories by Pagan Kennedy, Mitch Berman, Eugenia Montale, Ferdinando Sorrentino, Ed Dorn. Assignments: Write a story that unfolds from a list.
Week Ten: Narrative Lists & Exercises in Style Discussion of stories by Steve Katz, Jamaica Kincaid, Bobbie Louise Hawkins and Cathryn Alpert. Transformation assignment with examples from Raymond Queneau and Clarice Lispector.
The assignments were stimulating and [the teacher's] responses rapid and enlightening. I learned a great deal. ...this is the best site I have come across for writing. ...Keep up the great work, the wonderful selection of classes, the tremendous instructors. Michelle Vanstrom
I loved the class content & assignments... The content was of a very professional/university level; it is exactly what I would want from an on-line class... Barbara's critiques were very clear, delivered as ideas to ponder and consider; and gave me much to work with during the class and even now, as I continue to revise & study. Christine Robert
This class was one of the best courses I have done. It gave me new insight, as well as practical experience, into writing prose which is alive with concrete images. Barbara's guidance and enabling feedback pushed my writing to a new level. I highly recommend it. Anne Schuster
. The prose poem course with Barbara Henning was excellent. She was a generous and stimulating teacher, and gave us great ideas and materials. I'd really like to take her course again. Gabrielle Daly
The lessons and assignments were well conceived and comprehensive. Considerable effort went into designing the content of the course. Barbara was a very attentive mentor, gave honest and valuable feedback, and a pleasure to work with. Mary Raihofer
Barbara is a superb teacher. She tailors her comments precisely to each student's needs. She is a joy to study with. Your classes are fantastic! Helen Salter
This was my first online class experience and I must say that it exceeded all of my expectations. Barbara was the best! She is so competent, receptive, and generous with her time and attention to our writing that I can only say she could not have been better. The resource materials she provided as well as each week's assignments will be useful to me for years to come. In summary, it was a terrific experience and one that I will highly recommend to others. Colleen Burns
I want to thank Barbara for such an enlightening, hands-on flash fiction class. She introduced us to some wonderful new authors and challenged us with an array of writing techniques. Chris Wenzel
Barbara is a brilliant teacher, very highly skilled, very helpful and very kind and encouraging. The whole set up of the classes worked extremely well and the instruction and feedback was excellent. The classes I have taken with Writers on the Net have not only been very rewarding in what I have learned but also sheer pleasure in the doing. Many thanks. Ray Prowse
Very happy. Barbara provided an eclectic mix of information and inspiration, which I never would have encountered on my own. The depth of her lectures encouraged us to think more deeply, more profoundly than I have in any other class. Kirsten Whatley
Overall, I was very happy (delighted) with the class. Barbara is always attentive to each student/writer. The writers Barbara brings to her classes are really terrific, writers, people – and I do feel I have a small network which connects ever so often online through writers.com! That is really incredible. Barbara put together a unique class which let us read very different writers, but all converging on a theme of broadening our approaches to writing about a person, one self. That was fascinating and I do not think that I would have gained that perspective in any other course. Anne-Marie Audet
Absolutely fabulous. I loved the books and the assignments were interesting as well as challenging. Great content! Barbara Henning is one of the best teachers I've ever had -- and I've had many. She is first rateI This is my 3rd class under Barbara -- and I hate to see each of her classes end. You've got a winner here. Barbara Henning is a model of excellence. Sue Brannan Walker
Barbara always provides provocative readings and this class was no exception. I liked the fact that we read whole texts his time around. The pace of the class was brisk, but not so much that I couldn't manage my time. I am struck also by how much like a graduate level seminar her classes are: excellent readings, outstanding commentary and writing on the part of her students, and meaningful discussions. Thanks for another fantastic class! Cheri Ause
[Barbara] was warm and supportive and expected hard work and great things from each of us -- which we all tried to satisfy. Were you happy with the class content - the lessons and assignments? Yes, very much so. Barbara's enthusiasm for the stories and writers she choose was infectious, and she provided enough material and suggestions and writing ideas to keep me challenged and busy for years to come. Ann Winfred
The prose poetry class with Barbara Henning was fabulous. The content was more helpful than I ever thought possible. Barbara is an incredibly talented poet and teacher. I found her critiques kind and helpful. I write very short pieces and Barbara helped me focus them and weed out the unimportant, expanding upon what worked in my work. I've already recommended it to several people and I am excited about working with Barbara again. Jennifer Grant
Barbara's class was tied with one other workshop that I took for the best instruction in writing fiction that I have ever had. I would be taking her prose-poem class right now if I had not rashly made other plans before understanding just how deeply her flash fiction class was going to hit. [Barbara] was the most important element of the class. Her taste is fine, but entirely different from mine, so I was exposed to many new and enjoyable perspectives on fiction. She is consistently gentle and encouraging, without failing to offer help where it is needed and can be immediately used. Toby Jensen Perkins
Barbara is very fast and effective in her responses. She provides in-depth comments, yet still leaves space for the writer to decide what changes might/should made. I really value her criticism. I will continue to have Barbara do some private evaluations for me and I hope to take more of her courses (probably her next flash fiction). I will definittely be taking more classes! Jean Wollam
Barbara Henning is remarkable. She always responds right away and gives expert advice on writing. I recommend your classes. They are taught by professionals, and are well organized. I was thrilled. Claudia M. Reder
I learned so much. The assignments were very enjoyable and allowed students to experience a new/different way of thinking and/or approaching the writing of prose poems. Barbara is the kind of teacher who skillfully guides students so that their work becomes what they had intended it to be; she has a very effective and subtle critique style. Kathryn Woronko
Very happy with the class content. Each assignment prepared me for the next, the reading materials and lectures educated, informed, and enlightened. Very happy with the teacher. I feel very lucky to have had such a talented teacher AND talented writer for a teacher. Her suggestions are concrete, workable and clear, and her comments help me think more clearly about the writing. She is also flexible, willing to work with what I wrote even when it didn't always quite conform to the assignment. Mica Mortensen
This was a really terrific class. It exposed me to a poetic form AND to several different schools of writers of which I was ignorant. There were times when I really didn't get some of the assigned readings, but that's more than okay. It helped clarify my own poetic opinions. The assignments were clear and thoughtful. I did some good writing. Barbara was responsive, both to the assignments and to the other conversation in the class about art & audience & other miscellaneous topics. She clearly loves poetry and the prose poem. I've recommended it already. Sue Swartz
Barb was a terrific instructor! She was very prompt and helpful in her responses and very clear in her lectures and assignments. I felt that she genuinely cared about our writing and about helping us to grow & improve. I thought the lessons and assignments were well thought-out, informative, and enjoyable. They offered challenge without being overwhelming. Katherine Lo
Delighted. The readings were carefully chosen and the assignments often yielded breathtaking revelations about writing. The variety of choices was terrific--now I have a dozen or more exercises saved up to try later on. I found the short short formats to offer me tools that will work in my longer fiction as well. Barbara is brilliant--and thoughtful, and kind. Always available even while she was traveling, and very clear in her comments on everyone's stories. Uma Krishnaswami
Barbara is an outstanding teacher. She was caring and respectful in her responses. Her suggestions were helpful and always presented in the context of ideas to consider in revision. When I had a question about her reponse to one of my postings, she was very thoughtful in her response. I hope to have future opportunities to take classes she teaches. Although I have an MFA, this was my first on-line class and I plan to enroll in another one in September. I also have recommended the classes to others who are interested in takin an online writing class. The class format, topics, and feedback from instructor and students are supportive and motivating. Thank you for providing wonderful classes and opportunities for writers. Kathleen Thomas