A True & Beautiful Story: Crafting the Lyric Biography
Organizer: Janan Alexandra and Harrison Blackman
Place: The Home for Cooperation
CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP
AT HOME FOR COOPERATION
Instructors: Janan Alexandra and Harrison Blackman
A TRUE AND BEAUTIFUL STORY: CRAFTING THE LYRIC BIOGRAPHY
In this three-hour workshop, students will learn how to record details through an interview process and repackage them to create concise lyric biographies—biographies that rely on emotional depth and imaginative practice rather than a standard accounting of facts. Participants will study narrative conventions from classic examples of lyric biographies, collaborate on a group portrait of a fictional character, interview a fellow member of the class, and by the end of the workshop, craft and share a 100-150 word lyric biography of their subject. This workshop combines investigative interviewing techniques with poetic inquiry, through which we hope to facilitate connection and dialogue.
The Lyric Biography
The Lyric Biography is a collaborative exercise that invites us to think (and write) creatively about who we are, where we come from, and how we experience the world. “Lyric” comes to us from the Greek lurikos and from lura (lyre), and I like to think it’s a word that brings us closer to musicality, beauty, and a certain emotional truth or depth in language. A lyric biography works differently than a standard biography in that it relies on imaginative thinking and wonder rather than on the strict accounting of a person’s life. Instead of asking each other the usual slate of questions (when were you born? what are the major accomplishments of your life? how many siblings do you have?), we get to consider images, stories, dreams, memories, and specific feelings as sources of information that reveal something about who we are. The lyric biography is interested in the practice of building community and fostering connection among possible strangers, and across differences of various kinds. At its heart, this exercise is an intimate collaboration that grows out of the exchanges we have with each other.
- Notebook/Paper + pens
- Smartphone with a recording app (optional)
Janan Alexandra was born in Nicosia, Cyprus to a Lebanese mother and an American father. She recently completed her MFA in poetry at Indiana University and has returned to Cyprus as a creative research Fulbright scholar to work on her first full length poetry manuscript. As a queer poet of the Arab diaspora, Janan’s work often looks deeply at questions of identity, belonging, memory, and heritage. She has received support from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Martha’s Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, and the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. In addition to writing poetry and essays, Janan teaches creative writing and plays the violin in a folk duo called Sweet May Dews. You can read some of her recent work in Ninth Letter, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, The Rumpus, Mizna, and elsewhere online and in print.
Harrison Blackman is a writer, editor, and journalist originally from Southern California. He earned an MFA from the University of Nevada, Reno and graduated from Princeton University. His creative work often engages in genres such as that of literary mystery and thriller, while his research engages with urban history and the modern history of the Hellenic world. A Fulbright fellow, Harrison’s work has also been supported by grants from the Lewis Center for the Arts and the Truman Library Institute. His writing has appeared in such publications as The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Brooklyn Rail, Literary Hub, The Santa Fe New Mexican, and Ploughshares; he also consults on film and TV projects. Learn more at www.harrisonblackman.com.
You can register to the workshop through the following link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfZrBKpiMwcx-IVerN6DmafCmGnnQSNO1bnCC5Cx0RvbLf6Xw/viewform