PEN Center USA Craft Sessions

PEN Center USA aims to provide the literary community with versatile, generative, genre-based Craft Sessions. PEN Craft Sessions focus on the art of writing by exploring a specific element of craft, pedagogy, or publishing.

Past instructors have included Charles Yu, Roxane Gay, Carmiel Banasky, David Francis, Bret Anthony Johnston, Mark Sarvas, Terry McMillian, Doug Kearney, Chris L. Terry, and others.


Memoir, Essay, and Hybrid Forms
Nonfiction Craft Session with Dinah Lenney

March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30
PEN Member Price (Includes 1 of the 5 sessions for free.)
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What distinguishes the lyric essay from the prose poem? The list, or letter, or recipe, from the rant, rave, or meditation? This five-week workshop will challenge students to put the cart before the horse; to experiment with voice and structure in an examination of the relationship between form and content; and how one inspires the other. Expect to read a range of writers working in a variety of styles, and expect to be inspired to broaden your skills as you begin to think in different ways about how best to get to the truth. You’ll be writing a lot in and out of class, and you’ll come away with new subjects as well as new strategies for approaching every stage of the process, from first draft to final revision.

Dinah Lenney most recently co-edited Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction, with the late Judith Kitchen. She’s the author of The Object Parade and Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir and co-authored Acting for Young Actors with Mary Lou Belli. Dinah holds a B.A. from Yale, a Certificate of Acting from the Neighborhood Playhouse School, and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies including The New York Times, the Los Angeles TimesAGNI, Creative NonfictionFourth Genre, the Harvard ReviewThe Rumpus, and The Paris Review. She serves as core faculty in the Bennington Writing Seminars and the Rainier Writing Workshop, and as senior editor of nonfiction for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Living in Your Own Narrative
Poetry Master Class with F. Douglas Brown

Thursdays in May
May 4, 11, 18, 25
PEN Member Price (Includes 1 of the 5 sessions for free.)
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In a time when falsified facts are increasingly becoming the norm, replacing not only truth but real creativity as well, this workshop offers a space where stories can unfold unthreatened. Writers will be asked to examine their own narratives or narratives they are creating and re-imagine them, in some cases stripping down setting, character, or voice to get to the active language that moves readers off the page.

F. Douglas Brown offers writers the opportunity to re-interpret the landscape of their own lives, but also the tools to continue remodeling that voice in the world. Participants are asked to bring one or two poems or short fiction pieces that have yet to be finished or fully realized. Various poetry or prose forms will be employed to encourage experimentations as the participants "rebuild" each draft.

F. Douglas Brown of Los Angeles is the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize recipient for Zero to Three (University of Georgia 2014), selected by Tracy K. Smith. He also co-authored Begotten with poet Geffrey Davis, a chapbook that is part of the Upper Rubber Boot Books Floodgate Poetry series. F. Douglas Brown is both a Cave Canem and Kundiman fellow. His poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, Bat City Review, The Sugar House Review, and Muzzle Magazine. He is the co-founder of Requiem for Sandra Bland, a quarterly poetry reading series at Art Share LA, examining social justice issues, and ways to address police brutality in our communities. Brown, an educator for over 20 years, teaches English at Loyola High School.