Poiesis: Cross-Genre Generative Writing Workshop

Instructor:  mia susan amir
Dates:  Workshops: Tues. 6:00pm – 9:00pm, Jul. 7th – Aug. 4th
Day-long Writing Retreat: Jul. 25th
Dress Rehearsal for Community Reading: Aug. 4th
Community Reading: Aug. 7th
Number of Sessions:  7 (Incl. Dress Rehearsal & Community Reading)
Maximum number of participating writers:  9
Registration fee: 
$150.00 – $250.00, sliding scale based on income level
Limited bursaries and scholarships available
 TBD, Vancouver, BC, Unceded Coast Salish Territories


Poiesis is 5-week cross-genre generative writing workshop appropriate for individuals with all levels of experience in creative writing. Participants will be part of an intergenerational, innovative, and collaborative community that centers play, encourages experimentation, and fosters supportive space for risk-taking in the exploration of creative voice. Through this workshop we will also consider the crucial role of creative voice in the work of sociopolitical and cultural reclamation and transformation.

Using interdisciplinary, embodied, interactive arts-based techniques and approaches to the creative process participating writers will:

  • Read some great short pieces in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and genres that evade classification
  • Explore readings at the level of craft and use them as a provocative tool in generating new work
  • Use the body, environment, memory, archive and imagination to discover where language and story reside
  • Generate a new creative work, 1 – 5 pages in length in the genre of their choice, each week of the workshop
  • Develop familiarity with their physical voice, and skills in the craft of reading their writing aloud
  • Receive supportive feedback from both the instructor and their peers

We will have lively and thoughtful discussions about:

  • Aesthetics
  • How to sustain a creative writing practice
  • Story-writing and storytelling as inherently political and politicized act
  • The role of storytelling in: healing and transformation; community and movement-building; visioning and constructing a more just world

Examples of writers whose work we may explore:

Alison Bechdel, Chris Abani, Claudia Rankine, D’bi Young, Elmaz Abinader, Gloria Anzaldua, Gregory Scofield, June Jordan, Kiese Laymon, Leanne Simpson, Linda Hogan, Patrick Chamoiseau, Patricia Hampl, Sarah Jones, Thomas King, Warsan Shire.

Workshop Structure:

  • 4 evening workshops, 3-hours in length will run once a week for the full duration of the Intensive.
  • Each workshop will include some combination of the following: a physical and writing warm-up, the investigation of assigned texts, creative writing prompts, discussions exploring theory and craft, and the sharing of participants’ original work
  • Some of our workshops will include field trips to local sites close to the workshop venue
  • Each participant will have 2 one-on-one meetings with the instructor
  • Participants will attend a 1-day weekend writing retreat on Jul. 25th
  • Participants will attend a dress rehearsal for the Community Reading on Aug. 4th
  • Participants will be invited to share new work generated through the workshop at the Community Reading on Aug. 7th

Participating writers will leave this workshop with:

  • Prompts and exercisers to support their continuing work beyond the Intensive
  • New craft skills in creative writing and oral storytelling
  • Four new pieces of writing that have received feedback
  • An experience of publicly sharing their work
  • A new community of creative minds to work with in the future

A note about the Registration Fee:

Successful applicants will be required to pay a sliding scale Registration Fee. Those earning a living wage should consider paying the full amount. Limited Bursaries and Full Scholarships, as well as payment options, are available for those interested in applying but for whom the fee is a barrier. Those wishing to be considered for a Bursary, Full Scholarship, or alternative payment option are required to submit a Letter of Need with their application, as detailed on our application page.

Guiding Philosophy:

Our unique and common stories often live in our bodies, our homes, the places we work, the ways that we love, where the daily impacts of the systemic forces that shape our lives are most real and yet most individualized, isolated, unseen, and unnamed. Our narrative silences are what ultimately allow dominant social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, religious, relational and emotional stories to remain intact.

If as Thomas King says, “the truth about story is that’s all we are,” then we can consider the telling of our stories, stories that disrupt and dissolve what we take for granted, as a necessary and sacred act; because the truth about story’s power, is that’s what we become. As Freire writes, “it is in speaking their world that people, by naming the world, transform it,” and when we write our stories, we work to fill the abyss where narratives reliant on our individual and collective silences would otherwise operate. Writing our stories assists us to excavate the meaning of our experiences, helps us to see, know, and reclaim ourselves, to look beyond the perimeter of the spaces we have been limited to and/or limit ourselves to. (Freire, Herman) What Linda Hogan writes of ceremony can in this sense apply to the act of writing our stories:

…[it] is a part of a healing and restoration. It is the mending of a broken connection between us and the rest. The intention of a ceremony is to put a person back together by restructuring the human mind. This reorganization is accomplished by a kind of inner map, a geography of the human spirit and the rest of the world. We make whole our broken-off pieces of self and world. Within ourselves we bring together the fragments of our lives in a sacred act of renewal, and we reestablish our connection with others.

In speaking our world, we bring our stories into dialogue with the stories of others. We make communal our inheritances. (Freire) In telling our stories, to and with each other, we can find the critical spaces where our stories intersect and diverge; observe the impacts of the large world in our small lives; and strengthen our ability to build recognition across difference by witnessing evidence of our common humanity. In telling our stories, we can stitch together, as Freire suggests, a more objective understanding of the world in which we live; increasing our ability to enact meaningful change rooted in a deep engagement with our lived experiences.

As Fenton Johnson writes, memoir, as “a vehicle for subjectivity,” offers a poignant entry point “to truth, the enduring, timeless wisdom that enables us to have and keep faith in ourselves and in each other, in our collective capacity to live in harmony with each other and with our planet.” Memoir as an act of dialogue expects and requires others who are participant to, invoked in, and implicated directly by the stories we write; and who are on their own quest to remember and name.

Telling our stories holds the potential for political shift, spiritual recovery, and social healing, where we can start to create as opposed to react to narrow framings of the world; where expression of our truths and identities are able to emerge from a generative place. In writing our stories we leave the territory of hegemonic polarization and enter what Gloria Anzaldua terms Nepantla, “a liminal space, a space where you are not this or that […] but where you are in a kind of transition […] in the midst of transformation.”