Dear nonfiction and fiction writers: Are you imagining characters—either yourself or others—who constantly swim against the tide? This class will serve the protagonist who, for whatever reason, finds herself consistently misperceived by others. Maybe she is mixed-race yet white presenting. Maybe they are nonbinary, but society is forcing them to choose a single gender. Maybe she has blond hair and blue eyes yet feels like a minority because she grew up in a Mexican barrio. Winning readers as an outsider or underdog requires more than arguing a worldview, and in this generative workshop we will discuss the techniques—supposition, imagery, plot, humor, accrual—that engage readers while leading them into new terrain. To expand the literary canon, we move from the familiar to the unfamiliar, but what do we use as our bait? Through close reading and an exploration of ready-made structures and forms, we will excavate the beating heart of your character’s conflict. By the end of the week, you will leave with at least two healthy drafts.
Deborah Jackson Taffa is the director of the MFA CW program at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, NM. Winner of the PEN Jean Stein Grant, her memoir WHISKEY TENDER is forthcoming from HarperCollins Harper in 2023. A recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, Hedgebrook, Tin House, Public Space, Rona Jaffe, and the University of Iowa in Iowa City where she earned her MFA degree in Creative Writing, she is a citizen of the Quechan (Yuma) Nation and Laguna Pueblo. Her work can be found in the Boston Review, LARB, A Public Space, Salon, and elsewhere.