Introduction to Creative Writing: Fiction and Poetry Workshop

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Fall 2017

What is a workshop? It’s a place where things are made or repaired. True to name, our emphasis in this course will be on making poetry and fiction: generating new work, sharing that unpolished work, and revising that work into better versions of itself. As writers, we will read contemporary poetry and fiction to study what others have made with words. We will read not for a secret meaning, but to better understand what tools are available to us, and to what effect. Because much of writing is a solitary practice, one of the most valuable aspects of a workshop is the opportunity to share what you have made, and see what others have made. Your workshop mates will be a resource over the course of the semester. Through offering up your drafts for each others’ discussion, something like a community will form. We will approach each other’s writing not as broken and in need of fixing, but as in-progress works from which we all can learn. Each week we focus on a particular element of craft, as we work our way through the writing process, from generating new ideas to drafting to revising. We start the semester with what poetry teaches us of the potency, pleasure, and pain of language. Mid-course, we turn toward longer-form narratives, studying and practicing elements of craft to draft a complete short story. By the end of the semester, you will complete substantial revisions on your drafted work, and compile it into a final portfolio. We’ll draw from imagination and the world around us. Welcome, welcome. Here we go.

Queer Poetics

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Spring 2018

This course is a workshop on formal experimentation, lyric possibility, and queer methods of making meaning. One way to define Poetics, as Roland Barthes suggested, is as the study of “how meaning is possible, at what cost and by what means”. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick defined Queer as “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.” Students will work at this juncture of Queer Poetics through close reading and creative and critical responses. How is queer meaning made? What roles do power, desire, and identity play in these practices?

Poetry Comics

Description coming soon


“Just this last semester, I invited Oliver to give a Poetry & Comics reading and workshop at Mount Holyoke College, as part of our Trans/Queer Writers series. Oliver’s session was a model for what a visitor can do in a short period of time: He read some of his work, answered questions, then led the participants (a mixed group of undergraduates, grad students, and librarians) in a poetry-comics making workshop. Oliver was prepared with surprising prompts, funny anecdotes, and all the necessary supplies for participants to leave with mini-zines they’d created. His pedagogical engagement with this group was so easy and charming that even normally-shy students felt comfortable asking questions and sharing their work. After the workshop, I thought quite a bit about how I might adapt some of Oliver’s strategies in my own courses. I’d enthusiastically recommend Oliver’s workshops for writers of any experience, and hope he will come back soon!”
– Andrea Lawlor, Mount Holyoke College

“We had the absolute pleasure of hosting Oliver as a volunteer Workshop Leader at our organization and I was deeply impressed not only with his overall creativity and lesson planning skills but his student and volunteer engagement blew me out of the water with its kindness and consideration. His very presence creates a warm and inviting space. Add that to his great skill at scaffolding writing activities so that students of all ages, abilities, and levels can find a comfortable creative space in his workshop and you’ve got a great facilitator. He responds immediately and adeptly to student needs as they arise, approaching classroom management with the flexibility and tact necessary to succeed. He communicates in a timely manner and is willing to go the extra mile every step of the way. Every student who participated in Oliver’s workshop produced fantastic creative writing and every volunteer who supported let me know what a great example of literary leadership Oliver provided. If I could have Oliver back every single semester, I would do it in a heartbeat.”
-Neekta Khorsand, 826DC