Flash Essay on the Edge

lyric, hybrid, and experimental forms in short

July 2015


“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…” Chief Justice Potter Stewart

This generative writing workshop emphasizes the production of new work. Each week an optional prompt and maximum word count will encourage you to generate four or more pieces of new nonfiction. These can be individual flash essays, a connected series of vignettes or lyric fragments, or the building blocks of a single personal essay, literary journalism feature, memoir chapter, or hybrid of one or more CNF forms. You are welcome to share your responses with the class, or not, as you choose.

David Lazar once famously said that “The desire of the essay is to transgress genre.” In this course we will conspire to transgress as many of nonfictions boundaries as we can in one month and a few thousand words. We will stick to short essays, between 500-750 words, so that you can try your hand at a host of forms and formats.

We will also read and look widely at a variety of examples of both online and print works that blur, stretch, shove, and dismantle the conventional limits of essays.

Each week we will focus on a new edge and attempt to define how and when it can be useful to the essayist. Week one will cover the lyric essay (including readings on nature, video games, and cadavers, oh my!). Week two will look at some examples of genre bending: the prose poem; research, unhinged; fictionalized true stories. In week three we will look at image heavy work such as webcomics, graphic memoirs, Instagram-essays, and more. And we will close our month at the far edges of format experimentation: the essay as drug fact label, the essay as questionnaire, as map. Can an object be an essay? Can an essay be a videogame?

As we go, we will be discussing where and how to publish this work, both in print and online.

 About the Instructor

Chelsea Biondolillo has a dual MFA in creative writing and environmental studies from the University of Wyoming. Her chapbook Ologies, featuring experimental and lyric essays, won the 2015 Etchings Press chapbook contest. She has pushed the boundaries of prose in Sonora Review, Passages North, Brevity, Hayden’s Ferry Review, NanoFiction, DecomP, Diagram, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. She is currently working on a lot of things, including a book about vultures that combines travel, memoir, ecology, and natural history.

“I didn’t know so many things were essays!” – former student

This course will “meet” throughout the month of July. You will have continuous access to a shared, secure course space throughout the span of the workshop, and will receive a set of exercises, examples, and prompts at the start of each week.

At the end of each week you’ll have the opportunity to turn in a flash essay using one of the formats discussed that week for formal feedback from your instructor, who will give you editorial comments as well as suggestions for expansion in your reading and craft. You’ll also be able to ask questions in the course space, including in an “office hours” forum.

Go at your own pace, but generate as much as you can, and you are encouraged to post your results, marathon-style, to the class space (and give feedback if you’ve got time!). There will also be a forum available on the course page where you and the rest of the workshop group can communicate with one another about ideas, questions, and your favorite sources for inspiration, ideas, and motivation.

Apiary’s workshops are designed to provide both one-on-one instructor feedback and guidance, and a learning environment and supportive community to share in with your peers.

What you can expect

  • a password-protected space in which to share work with your workshop leader and peers
  • 4 rounds of weekly feedback and instructive support with your workshop leader (submission amounts per week will vary, based on the form/format being studied, but will average approximately 750 words per week for feedback, developmental suggestions and suggested readings); and encouragement of peer feedback
  • “office hours” in the form of private messaging and forum responses
  • focused attention to the development and exploration of your own craft and language. This is about your work, and where you want to go.
  • a supportive environment for your writing, always.

Flash Essay on the Edge
four weeks

Open til July 5 (midnight PST)!

Image credit: Tommaso Meli