The Selfhood Narrative: Writing Our Lives into Existence
In the words of Maya Angelou, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” It follows then, that self-expression is a generative process—literally and figuratively giving birth to something that can live fully and richly on its own. In this sense, successful personal writing doesn’t simply just recap or reveal something that happened to us; rather, it brings an untold existence to life for audiences in ways that can help them navigate their own untold stories.
The power of such narratives is incontestable. Frederick Douglass, in re-telling his own life, described the hardships he endured—the untold stories he bore. While growing up in durance vile and planning his self-emancipation, he declaimed, “Meanwhile, I will write.” In doing so, he created what some critics describe as the only truly indigenous American written literature: the African American escape narrative. In essence, his story became the most critically American of stories.
In this two-week workshop, we will nurture the critical stories of our own lives—fiction or non-fiction, essay or narrative—with vivid and active language, imagery, and sound to lift our personal voices and let them sing. We will examine the elements that give stories full lives of their own via a series of workshops and exercises that will include reflections on our experiences in Morocco as reflections of our cultural understandings and re-births. We will provide constructive feedback to each other, acknowledging the importance of communal learning and the critical value of “lifting as we rise.” We will, as the title of Ntozake Shange’s book states, become “lost in language and sound.” Through the process of drafting, feedback, and revision and with the guidance of a university writing and English professor, students will come away with at least one completed, polished project and the tools to continue writing themselves more fully into existence.
This course is open to all levels, whether you’re a new writer, accomplished in another genre but unfamiliar with writing about yourself, or simply looking for an opportunity in a safe, unique cultural setting to raise your written communication skills. Class takeaways will include a greater understanding of techniques to make your personal stories more evocative; draw the reader in with compelling scene, language, and sound; and leave the reader with a powerful awareness of the critical value of your newly told stories.
The workshop will be led by Donald P. Gagnon, Ph.D., Professor of Writing and Literature at Western Connecticut State University. Dr. Gagnon is also a professor in the university’s Kathwari Honors program and was the inaugural recipient of the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching. His research and publications focus primarily on African American literature and theatre, and he has presented at national and international conferences such as those for the Modern Language Association, the College Language Association, and the American Culture Association, most recently on the women of August Wilson’s Century Cycle and the blues structure of George C. Wolfe’s signifyin’ on Shuffle Along.
This Travel Intake form is signed once. It is listed here for your review and will be sent again by your Retreat Leader. Please review this form, and the terms and conditions before booking. There will be no exceptions to our booking policy.