Even Smaller: Adventures in Short-form Writing
with Tina Barry
October 4, 2023 | 4 Weeks |
In this month-long workshop, we’ll explore one of the hottest genres in literature: the short-short. Open to fiction and non-fiction writers and poets, you’ll study and try your hand at the briefest genre-bending forms—50-word Dribbles, 100-word Drabbles, paragraph-long creative non-fiction, and pieces that teeter between a prose poem and a micros—all forms editors and readers are hungry for.
I’ll offer examples of short-writing from contemporary masters of the craft, who will weigh in on how they launch very short pieces, and what their goals are for creating tension, sound, and images that delight—everything long pieces demand but in a tighter frame.
By the end of the month, you’ll “graduate” with four new drafts, that you’ll have the option of revising, with lots of constructive feedback from me and other workshop members. And you’ll have acquired a fine-tuned sense of how to bring the most exciting moment of your narrative to the surface.
Learning & Writing Goals
In this course, students will:
- Study the development of very short pieces, including how to create tension, sound, and images that delight.
- Learn how to pare down early drafts so that every word counts.
- Acquire a fine-tuned sense of how to bring the most exciting moment of the narrative to the surface.
- Learn about potential literary publication opportunities and where to submit your work.
In this course, students will:
- Write at least four new micro fiction drafts.
- Have the option to revise at least one draft after receiving constructive feedback.
Week One: A Brief History of Brief Writing
We’ll look at the history of very brief writing. I’ll offer several goals for crafting compelling short pieces. Then we’ll read the work of a master of the form. You’ll try your hand at postcard stories and, if you’re feeling ambitious, write an epistle that’s so much more than I did this then I did that.
Week Two: Poem with a Plot
We’ll look closely at narrative poets whose work tells stories much like micros, and short-form writers whose narratives walk the tightrope between poetry and fiction. You’ll write with lush, descriptive language and an ear for rhythm and sound. Your story can be linear, with a set beginning, middle and end or it can resemble a prose poem, with the narrative unfolding in unexpected ways. If you can’t decide on prose or poetry, you can have both with the Haibun, a Japanese form that combines prose with haiku.
Week Three: Form Fitting
We all make lists: to-dos with a day’s errands. We break down projects into lists, and what would a holiday be without a list of gifts for family and friends? In this lesson, you’ll use a list to tell a story. You can also opt for a new form called the “Cadralor,” composed of five numbered, unrelated stanzas or graphs, with the fifth pulling the threads together.
Week Four: In Dribs and Drabs
Two of the most challenging forms are the 50-word Dribble and the 100-word Drabble. Those without prior short-form writing might find the assignment formidable, but by week four, you’ll be micro-mavens who are experts at polishing short pieces into gems.
Student Feedback for Tina Barry:
Tina Barry is an outstanding teacher who is always responsive and supportive. Throughout the course she helped us grow as writers through suggestions and comments that conveyed respect and care. Kathleen Thomas
Tina is wonderful at giving very detailed feedback to us as soon as we posted our work. Her input on my writing was very helpful. Lori McDonald
I’ve taken several online courses with Tina Barry, and she is by far one of the best poetry teachers I’ve had—online or elsewhere. The assigned readings for each lesson were stimulating and varied, and her prompts inspired some of my best poems. She was quick to respond with insightful, clarifying and concise edits and comments – her ability to read the poems on many levels deepened my understanding of my own work. She has an exquisite ear for language and the musicality of a line, and craft-wise, her thoughtful feedback not only helped me to improve the poems I submitted to the workshop but also carried over to the way I continue to write and re-write my poems. Elizabeth Burk
A+ Again! Tina’s classes always inspire poems for me… she’s one of my favorite all-time teachers. Susan Vespoli
Excellent. Tina gave consistently thoughtful feedback – on various aspects of the poems, from structure to tempo to content – and was able to meet each writer where they are which is crucial, I feel. As a beginner I felt encouraged but also nudged to consider things I hadn’t before. Anne Samulevicius
Tina did an excellent job of both helping us generate ideas and providing feedback. The feedback by the teacher and students helped me improve my poems in surprising and interesting ways. I found it helpful to hear what was striking or moving in the poem, or what was confusing. The prompts were helpful in generating new ideas for poems as well! Pat LaDouceur
I had an enriching experience these past four weeks. The other participants were excellent writers, willing to comment, and share ideas. Tina, of course, had excellent suggestions all of which I’ve already incorporated into the pieces written during the course. I was able to overcome a months-long dry spell, suddenly writing about minutia I might otherwise have overlooked. It certainly feels great to break through my writer’s block. My fingers are flying over the keyboard and scribbling with pen in my journal. Thanks again to Tina and Writer’s.com for making this hot, COVID-filled summer productive and enjoyable. Sharon Thompson
Tina Barry excels to the highest level. Her lessons and assignments are always engaging and thought-provoking. Tina creates an atmosphere that inspires and encourages all of us to be both daring and focused. I have been in several of Tina’s workshops; in each one my writing and commitment to writing has deepened from her guidance, support and respect for me and all participants. Kathleen Thomas
My experience was great! The group was very engaging. Tina was exceptional. Crystal Manboard
Tina’s suggestions to all the participants was respectful and helpful. I feel like I know her now! The alternate prompts she offered for each lesson helped me find the inspiration to begin that writing assignment. Charlotte Randolph
Too many workshops are led by poets who know how to publish, but cannot teach or lead. Tina Barry does all of the above brilliantly, giving lesser beings hope that their words matter, because they matter so much to her. She refuses to be boring, and presses you—no, dares you—not to be either. Pamela Brown
A workshop with Tina Barry has always been a memorable and valuable investment in my writing life. The depth of Tina’s preparation is evident from the start. Throughout the workshops, Tina stays in contact with every participant with excellent and challenging critiques and comments. I have never been disappointed. CR Green
What makes Tina stands out as a teacher, my teacher last year, is her capacity to combine deep knowledge of form, craft, and an eye for pointing to what may make your poems better. During the class I took with her, I benefited as much by the keen comments she offered to the other students, as her comments on my poems. It was an education in itself. Her commitment to her students is as deep as her commitment to teaching excellence. Tina is an avid listener to your words, respecting and pushing you to your best work. Juan Mobili
I have taken several classes from Tina Barry and found them stimulating and exciting. They are of the highest caliber, for she encourages us to look at new ways of writing, examining ourselves and translating thoughts into poetry. I have saved her lessons, which have encouraged me to continue my quest for becoming a better poet and writer. Her comments have always been thorough, considerate, encouraging and complete. I continue to seek her out because of her expertise. Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios, Professor Emerita, American University
I enjoyed Tina’s classes and found that her excellent insights and group leadership skills combined to give me new themes and knowledge for writing. She is always available for an immediate response to students’ questions and observations. I really like her flexibility in encouraging independent, differing writing styles. Karen Waldron