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Seeing Is Believing: Crafting Great Characters from Real Life

  • Iowa Writer's House 332 East Davenport Street Iowa City, IA, 52245 United States (map)

When: Friday, September 15th, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Saturday, September 16th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Sunday, September 17th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Where: Iowa Writers' House, 332 East Davenport St

Cost: $265 ($235 early bird pricing through September 1st)


Whether you are working on a memoir or are a novelist eager to take your character development to a new level, this workshop will reveal new ways to write compelling and emotionally rich portraits of people that feel instantly recognizable in their honesty and complexity. 

Drawing from the literary journalist’s toolkit, writers will master strategies to approach the familiar with new eyes and to access imagery and details that help us truly see another person on the page. By reading and discussing ways other writers have used the raw material of everyday life to craft compelling, emotionally resonant characters, you will walk away with clear ideas for bringing these techniques to your own writing process. And finally, through a series of writing exercises, you will have a chance to bring together all the strands of what you are learning into a single portrait in miniature, and you will receive supportive feedback that leaves you feeling inspired to continue on your own. 


Inara Verzemnieks is the author of the memoir Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe, published by W.W. Norton. Her essays and journalism have appeared in such publications as the New York Times Magazine, Tin House, the Atlantic, the Iowa Review, and Creative Nonfiction. A Pushcart Prize winner and the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing, she teaches in the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. Before that, she worked as a newspaper journalist for thirteen years. 


Before I became a teacher, I worked for thirteen years as a daily newspaper reporter documenting the stories of the people who inhabited the city where I lived. Again and again, people invited me into their homes and granted me access to their private moments of hope and wonder, fear and vulnerability, loss and transcendence. I still think of the couple who collected so many velvet paintings that the canvasses soon blocked every drawer, every door, until their home was overrun with unicorns and nudes and sad-eyed hounds; of the man who converted the upper floor of his Victorian into an aviary because the thrumming of dozens of birds’ wings was the only thing that distracted him from his despair; of the elderly couple who handed me a crumpled paper bag upon our parting, only to discover, inside, the letters that launched their sixty-year love affair.


Everyone has a story to tell. If you are financially unable to attend this workshop, scholarships are available through our generous partners and donors. Apply here.


Helping another person attend a workshop is helping them achieve their dreams. Thank you for making our world a better place.


Earlier Event: August 23
Scarlet Room Write-In