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Off Campus Writers' Workshop - OCWW

Jennifer Solheim - Getting from Abstract to Concrete in Fiction (or, How to Make the Political Personal)

  • May 20, 2021
  • 9:30 AM - 12:00 PM
  • Remote


Registration is closed

Remote (OCWW may add a live event with separate registration)

In this time of ongoing public crises, many of us feel a tension between creating fictional work and engaging directly with the problems we face. Ideally, we find ways of bringing these concerns into our fiction. But even if the issue affects us directly, how should we approach writing fiction about large social and political concepts, including public health and education, #blacklivesmatter, immigration, LGBTQ rights, and #metoo? How do we make the political particular to our characters and their time and place? And how do we balance our righteous indignation with the curiosity and humility necessary to writing good fiction? In this generative workshop, we begin by looking at examples of politically and socially engaged fiction by Lucia Berlin, Edward P. Jones, and Leila Slimani before we turn our attention to the concerns most pressing to each of us. Through prompted freewriting and exercises, we will each develop a bank of socially- and politically-related objects and images to draw from in our fiction, as well as develop a character, setting, and situation specific to a social or political issue.

Bio: Jennifer Solheim’s short stories and essays have appeared in the Bellevue Literary ReviewConfrontation, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Pinch, among others, and received Honorable Mentions from Glimmer Train. The author of The Performance of Listening in Postcolonial Francophone Culture (2018, Liverpool University Press), she also serves as a Contributing Editor at Fiction Writers Review. She holds a PhD in French from the University of Michigan and an MFA in writing and literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars; in 2019-2020, she was a BookEnds Fellow in the StonyBrook novel completion program, co-directed by Susan Scarf Merrell and Meg Wolitzer. She currently teaches at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Jennifer will accept manuscripts for critique. Please see the Manuscript Guidelines on our website for details.

We offer free student memberships at a discounted rate of $5.00 per session. You must send verification of your student status. Please contact Claudia Katz at for details.

9:00-9:30 Socializing 

9:30-12:00  Program

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