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Despite the Pandemic, I still plan to run Skrivarakademin’s Creative Writing and Narrative Theory course this spring, with the first meeting delayed until Thursday, February 25th. Classes are scheduled on-location at Folkuniversitetet, Kungstensgatan 45 in Stockholm (nearest train stop is Odenplan, nearest subway stop is Rådmansgatan), with an online option available for those who wish to participate via video-link from home.

As with the two previous terms, I’ll be offering in-person and online participants. We have engaged groups and attendance is always very high. The last few years, spots have been very hard to get, but due to the Pandemic there are at the moment a few left.

The course meets for ten weeks, and covers basic elements of narrative writing, from punctuation and syntax to story mechanics. We also work with theory, and study professional examples. Many students report gaining both skills and self-confidence, and that they learn better self-discipline and editing skills. We also have a lot of fun together.

And good news: some participants from the fall 2020 class are currently writing a story cycle together with some of my other students. The paperback book is scheduled to be printed and released this May. Watch this space for more news about the project. And please contact me at kevin.frato@folkuniversitetet.se if you have any questions.

Looking forward to working with you this spring.

My newest book Creative Writing – A Classroom Guide has received an excellent review from the Swedish BTJ journal for librarians. Reviewer Alan Pejkovic writes in Swedish: “I denna korta, tankeväckande handbok ger författaren många goda tips på hur lärare i undervisningen kan använda sig av kreativt skrivande och går igenom hur skriftligt berättande får elever mer intresserade av läsning, förbättrar deras språkfärdigheter och låter dem uttrycka sin personlighet på ett medryckande sätt.” (BTJ-häftet nr 12, 2019)

… which means: “In this short, thought-provoking handbook, the author gives classroom teachers lots of good advice for working with creative writing; he also discusses how telling stories in writing makes students more interested in reading, improves their language skills, and lets them express their personalities –– all in an engaging way.”

Later the review mentions the book’s section on the workshopping process, as well as the writing exercises, which it notes are challenging and can be adapted to various age group (“Boken lägger fram ett antal intressanta, och ganska svåra, skrivövningar som kan anpassas till olika undervisningsnivåer.”).

In addition, the review mentions the attractive, inviting layout (done by Linn Yngborn), and the extra worksheets and resources available through publisher Natur och Kultur’s homepage.  It notes that the book can be used either in the classroom or by individuals, regardless of whether they are beginners or more experience writers.

Please contact me at kfrato@yahoo.com if you have any questions about the book, or how to use it.  And as always, please contact me if you’re interested in a school visit.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing short stories –– choosing material, structuring narratives, adapting language, editing, and marketing –– there are a few spots left for my weekend short story workshop March 9th and 10th at Skrivarakademin, Stockholm.  Sign up through the link above.  Questions?  Send me a note.

Unfortunately my intro-level course Creative Writing and Narrative Theory is fully booked this term.  My Novel-Development Workshop has one spot left, though though the course started earlier this week.

PS: I’m fortunate enough to have been granted a writing residency this spring, a week in a house on an island near the sea. If all goes well, my latest book with Natur och Kultur (see post under this) will be on its way to press by then, and I’ll be working on other things.

 

It’s been a few years since I organized a workshop with the popular and award-winning American poet Moira Egan, who currently resides in Rome. Luckily for us, Egan will be coming back to Stockholm May 5th & 6th to teach a two-day workshop with me at Skrivarakademin.

Egan is one of the foremost formal poets working in English –– her clever, brutally honest books Bar Napkin Sonnets and Hot Flash Sonnets established her reputation as a sassy neo-classical poet on both sides of the Atlantic.  She’s also a popular workshop teacher –– the reviews of her last workshop here in Stockholm were excellent.

The weekend workshop will focus on combining ideas with structures –– in short narrative and poetic formats.  The sign-up link for the workshop is here; to answer the question “personlig motivering” or why you want to take the course, simply write that you’re interested in improving your skills.

Hope to see you there!

There are still a few spots available in my two spring 2017 writing courses at Skrivarakademin in Stockholm.

Creative Writing and Narrative Theory, the entry-level course, runs on Mondays starting February 6th.  In this course I teach linguistic style, narrative mechanics, and simple narrative structures.

The Novel Workshop, for people working on longer projects, runs every other Thursday starting on February 9th.  This course works more in-depth with longer manuscripts, their structural strategies, linguistic elements, their psychology, etc.

Hope to see you there!

 

The other night I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of my author-colleagues from the Skrivarakademin, the vocational writing college I teach at in Stockholm.  I find fellow authors in general to be pretty cagey about their work, not wanting to talk about manuscripts until contracts have been signed and the actual production cycle is underway –– especially in times of publishing-industry uncertainty like this, when even authors with decades of experience and dozens of books to their names are nervous about whether their next manuscript will be accepted.

It might have been the wine, the blood-pumping-in-our-veins jazz, or the pots and pans banging in the kitchen next to us, I don’t know.  But for once people were actually talking about their manuscripts, and for once I actually spoke about mine.  Writing stories to be read in the classroom isn’t glamorous, it’s true, but it’s important work, I said, reaching tens of thousands of readers who deserve excellent literature –– and besides that, it pays well.  Also, my publisher takes care of me and sends me around the country speaking.  In the past, I haven’t been able to explain that to my colleagues and feel completely proud of my work, but after a half a dozen books for Natur och Kultur, which I myself regularly read and discuss with young people in classroom settings, I finally understand how important these books are.

Happily, I was also able to tell the other authors at the table that I’m currently in the editing phase with another publisher on the beginning of a new, long fiction manuscript. To research this project, I’ve been interviewing soldiers who’ve served in Afghanistan.

It turned out two other authors at the table were working with this same publisher, and were just as enthusiastic about their projects. We all have verbal contracts at the moment (as a matter of fact I’m still on a verbal contract with Natur och Kultur), so none of us can be sure our projects will ever see the light of day, but that didn’t dampen our enthusiasm.

Authors are usually modest to the point of timidity when discussing their work.  So it felt healthy to finally be able to discuss what we’re working on.

 

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About ten years ago I learned the word chronotope from an essay by literature professor Maria Nikolejeva.  Most people talk about setting or milieu in terms of literature, but these both emphasize place over time.  The word chronotope (Greek: chronos/topo, time/place) indicates the interface between time and space, and I like to keep this in mind when I’m writing fiction.  Some authors, especially of fantasy, view their settings as central characters; but the time period is just as important.  Kansas today is not what it was two hundred years ago, nor what it will be in two hundred years, or two thousand.  Present-day Stockholm is not the same as present-day Buenos Aires, Tuvalu or North Philadelphia.

Travelling makes chronotopes more apparent.  I was recently in Pompeii and Venice –– two places that have inspired a great deal of storytelling.  For example Mary Hoffman’s Stravaganza novels take place in a slightly-altered medieval Venice.  They were fascinating to read, but I had the sense that the chronotope was somewhat of a gimmick in the stories.

After spending a rainy day in Venice, I changed my mind.  Venice is a completely different concept regarding how to build a city, and how time leaves its mark on a place.  Pompeii (and nearby Herculaneum) were frozen in time by a volcanic blast, and their stories ended –– again giving us a unique insight into what a chronotope can mean to a story.

The story of Pompeii ended with Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 CE; Venice’s continues.

In recent weeks two people have asked me which course they should sign up for at Skrivarakademin –– Creative Writing and Narrative Theory, or the Novel Workshop.

Both courses are helpful, but in different ways.  I designed these course to save people years of confused, lonely struggle developing linguistic and narrative skills, to give writers the kind of understanding of their own writing that it took me two decades of writing, workshopping, studying, rejection, and publishing to acquire.  Honestly, all of us start out as struggling writers, but some of us struggle more than others.

When thinking about which course to take, think about your goals as a writer.  If you’re interested in developing as a writer, by all means start with the intro course Creative Writing and Narrative Theory, which systematically deals with skills and theories to help you build your style from the ground up.

On the other hand, if you’re in the middle of the manuscript that is giving you a mid-life crisis and breaking apart your relationship –– or keeping you from having one –– and just want help making sense of this project and getting it drafted (and you already have a solid set of intuited linguistic and narrative skills)… then the novel workshop is probably the right place for you.  It’s possible you’ll go back afterwards and tak the intro course; every once in a while people do just that.  But for now you’ll enjoy being with people involved in the same situation as you.  By the way, what if you’re attempting a complex novel that deals with serious historical topics over a long period of time, and you feel you’re in over your head?  Congratulations.  As Italo Calvino wrote in Six Memos for the Next Millenium, ambitious projects are what the novel format is for –– trying to encompass the complexities of life and attempting things that border on the impossible.  That’s how writers, readers and the novel itself as a format develop.

Of course there’s also the weekend Short Story Workshop in May, for those interested in learning short formats for sellable stories (with guest poet Moira Egan this time, who was extremely popular two years ago when she came to Skrivarakademin to tach for a day).

This spring’s Creative Writing and Narrative Theory workshop at Skrivarakademin, Folkuniversitetet (Stockholm, Sweden) will run for ten Monday evenings starting March 11th.

The Novel Development Workshop, for longer or connected words of fiction, will meet five Wednesday evenings starting February 20th.

If you have any questions about either of these workshops, please contact me at kevin.frato@folkuniversitetet.se.

By the way, for those working in shorter formats, I’ll also be running a short story workshop March 2nd and 3rd.

Yes, attendance is high at these workshops.

(Congratulations to the authors of Keyhole Stories, and thanks for a superbly well-organized and professional release party last night.  Well done to each and every one of you.)

Fifteen of my former students from Skrivarakademin in Stockholm are releasing their jointly written story cycle this Saturday the 7th of November downstairs at Folkuniversitetet between three and six p.m.   The project is called Keyhole Stories and is the result of nearly a year’s worth of hard work and fun.  The group has not only invented a common concept and chronotope; they’ve also created their 3d_book_cover_largeown publishing company, which has given them valuable experience in the nitty-gritty, day-to-day grind of the world of letters: communicating with authors, dealing with contracts and finances, editing and asking for re-writes, proofreading, negotiating with printers, nail-biting while waiting for delivery, etc.  I’ve led many groups through this process, but this time I took a step back and let them do most everything on their own.  And they did.

My ultimate goal in introducing these writers to this way of working was to plant the seeds of what I dream will someday become a small-press English-language publishing boom here in Stockholm, providing opportunities for local writers in English, and helping stories that need to be written and read find their way into the world.  I’m proud of everyone who’s been involved in this project.

The release party is free and open to the public.  Hope to see you there.

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From the press release: 

Keyhole Stories is the collaborative effort of fifteen writers. We come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but what we have in common is the experience of living in Stockholm, and an interest in writing fiction.

The setting of the stories take place in an old rental building on the island of Södermalm in central Stockholm. Catch a glimpse of a young boy at play in Sandra Jabre’s Viktor the Great, human trafficking and prostitution with Björn Rudberg, and the need for belonging with Jon Kahn. Spy on gangsters and villains from Andrés Miñarro and Vilhelm Gard, see what a smartphone will bring home with Avelino Benavides, and witness friendship and unrequited love with Emily Aisling Hall. There are elderly neighbours to watch over in two stories from Simon Linter and Matthew Corke, and the reflection of a suicide from Tove Backhammar. Witness finding a friend in food with Eva Wissting, dressing up with Claudia E. Bernal, Jay Wong’s playboy and morality adventure, and immigration and moving with the times from Andrew MacPherson and Tanis Bestland.

The question is… How well do you know your neighbour?