Experimenting with Storytelling Forms: Writing the Hermit Crab Essay

Many of us were taught to write personal essays in the traditional way, where the events happen chronologically and we tell one story in a straight-forward way. This is not the way I tell stories. 

The people who taught me how to tell stories, my mother, second mom Millie, aunt and grandmother, weaved tales that brought in other stories and memories. They braided stories together. They jumped around. Their stories weren’t chronological and they definitely weren’t linear, so I’ve always found the traditional essay stifling to my creativity. When I discovered experimentation in storytelling forms, my writing opened up. Turns out I’ve been “experimenting” for a long time. 

This is the way I tell story: I weave. I braid. I collage. I’ve also written essays in the form of a recipe: “Soap Ministry for the Grieving and Unmothered” won the 2019 AWP Kurt Brown Prize in Nonfiction. I’ve written list essays and I’m now working on writing a google map essay.

If you braid stories together, yours and your mother’s, your sister’s, your brother’s, etc. you’re experimenting. 

If you’ve created an essay in the form of a list, or a recipe, like I did, you’ve experimented. 

If you’ve jumped from one time period to another, and circled back, you’ve experimented. 

Experimentation is about messing with form, structure and time. 

In this first class of the Experimenting with Storytelling Forms Series, we will be taking on the questions:
– What is the hermit crab essay?
– Why do writers use this form?
– How do writers use this form? (You’ll be given a list of model essays when you register.)
– Why is this form effective?
– How can you use this form in your story-telling?

When: October 20th, 7-9pm EST
Where: Online via Zoom
How much: $33 (if you can’t make this date, you can have access to the private video recording for an additional $6, or $39)*
To register or ask questions: Send an email to writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com

Experimenting with Storytelling Forms is a tuition-based series brought to you by Vanessa Mártir and the Writing Our Lives Workshop. The classes are scheduled for the third Thursday of the month, October to December, 7-9pm EST. The other classes in the series are:
– Writing the Braided Essay on November 17th, 7-9pm
– Writing Flash Nonfiction on December 15th, 7-9pm

* All classes are $33 and $39 for access (for one week) to the private video-recording. You can take one class, two classes, or all three.

Let’s play and explore, and learn different ways to tell our stories!

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