Group Details

We are thrilled to welcome you to Write the World’s new public group, Elements of Craft. From March 23rd through May 16th, we will dive into a variety of writing styles, techniques, and forms that will elevate your writing to new heights and deepen your understanding of the craft.

Your group leaders, Anna and Chris, will introduce a new technique each week to be explored through two prompts. As recent college grads and fellow lovers of words, we are excited to share some of our favorite elements of writing, digging deeper into common techniques while also venturing into the relatively obscure. We hope that you will contribute your own discoveries, too!

This group is open to all writers on Write the World. We look forward to getting to know each other in this smaller sub-community within the larger WtW platform. Each week, we will select a piece written in this group to be featured as our "Monday Musings" pick on the site. And at the end of our eight weeks together, you will be equipped with a portfolio of your work that will represent some of the most valuable, intricate, and downright cool elements of writing as a craft. 

You can jump in at any point, but we hope that you will join us from the start! Group members will have the opportunity to receive an “Elements of Craft” profile picture to be used on your WtW account.

Join now and stay tuned for new announcements and prompts starting Tuesday, March 23rd. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us by cc’ing both Anna, at agibbs@writetheworld.com, and Chris, at chris@writetheworld.com.

We can’t wait to explore the elements of craft with you!
-Anna and Chris

Announcements

  • 4 weeks done, 4 weeks to go!

    It’s hard to believe that we are officially halfway through our 8 weeks of Elements of Craft. To those of you who are new to the group: welcome! Whether you’ve been here since week 1 or this is your first introduction to Elements of Craft, we’re glad you’re here. Let’s do a quick recap of what we’ve covered so far, in case you want to check out (or revisit) any prompts or resources!

    ~~~
    Week 1: Place
    Prompt 1: Setting the Stage. Write a story grounded by place names.
    Prompt 2: Hometown. Write a poem about an imagined hometown.
    Free Writing” challenge in the Announcements: Write a poem or story in a place you don’t usually write.
    Further reading: 
    Week 2: "Form Reflects Content"
    Prompt 1: Sestina. Write a 39-line poem using 6 repeated end-words.
    Prompt 2: The Sonnet. Write a 14-line poem that speaks to your mind, body, and soul.
    Free Writing” challenge in the Announcements: Write a villanelle, a strict form that repeats certain lines. 
    Further reading: 
    Week 3: Imagery and Symbolism
    Prompt 1: The Symbol. Write a piece with a telling image.
    Prompt 2: Image Bridge. Write a short story with a series of connected images.
    Further reading:  Try this out: Find out which fictional character you are by taking this fun quiz.

    Week 4: Playing with Punctuation
    Prompt 1: Breaking the Rules. Write a piece without conventional punctuation.
    Prompt 2: Changing the Rules. Write a poem with thoughtful punctuation choices.
    Free Writing” challenges in the Announcements:
    • Revisit an old poem and significantly shorten it to capture a sharp image.
    • Revisit an old piece and change the punctuation to affect meaning and/or tone.
    Further reading: Try this out: Take our Oxford comma survey to tell us how you feel about the extra comma!
    ~~~

    And you’re all caught up! This week we will kick off the second half of Elements of Craft with an exploration of meditative writing. We look forward to seeing your brilliant pieces. 

    We’ve also included a special Elements of Craft profile picture in the “Resources” tab, just for you! To access the image, click the resource link, download the image as a jpeg, and then go to your profile to change your profile picture. We look forward to seeing you around the global community!

    Here’s to four more weeks,
    Anna & Chris
    about 3 hours ago
  • Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

    As we’ve discussed this week, punctuation is powerful. It can change tone, delivery, and interpretation, not to mention the entire meaning of a sentence. To observe the power of a carefully placed punctuation mark, check out some examples from Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves:

        A woman, without her man, is nothing.
        A woman: without her, man is nothing.

        The panda eats shoots and leaves. 
        The panda eats, shoots, and leaves.

        Let’s eat, grandma!
        Let’s eat grandma.

    And my personal favorite:

        Dear Jack,  
        I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to     being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re     apart. I can be forever happy – will you let me be yours? 
        Jill 

        Dear Jack,
        I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to     being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men I yearn! For you I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re     apart I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
        Yours,
        Jill

    Punctuation week is coming to a full stop, but I have one more mini-prompt for you. Return to an old piece, and copy-and-paste the original version into a new “Free Writing” piece. Then change the punctuation! See how you can affect both tone (for example, periods vs exclamation points!), as well as meaning (see examples above).

    Great work this week!
    Anna
    1 day ago
  • The Art of Capturing a "Precise Instant"

    Founded by Ezra Pound in the early 1900s, the Imagist movement promoted the conservation of words. Those in the movement believed in the use of sharp, precise language to convey a particular image. They probably wouldn’t have much liked James Wright’s poem, “A Blessing,” because he uses a lot of (in their opinion) unnecessary figurative language: "skin over a girl’s wrist," "shyly as wet swans," etc. 

    Pound described writing an Imagist poem as an attempt to “record [a] precise instant.” To see what he means by that, read his very short poem originally published in Poetry magazine in April 1913:
     
        “In a Station of the Metro”
        The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
        Petals on a wet, black bough.
     
    When Pound first wrote the poem, it had 30 lines. By the time he finished editing six months later, it had just 14 words. In cutting so much of the poem, Pound would have been extremely intentional in what he chose to keep. For instance, why ‘bough’ instead of ‘branch’? Why a semicolon instead of a comma? Why the use of “apparition,” a much longer word than any of the others?

    If you feel so inclined, spend a few minutes today revisiting one of your old poems. Make sure you save the original version –- then be ruthless in your cuts to sculpt the most precise image possible! I hope you consider sharing the new Imagist version of your poem in “Free Writing." 

    Also, if you have some time, check out Pound’s essay “Vorticism,” in which he describes (somewhere towards the middle of the essay) the process of writing the brief masterpiece “In a Station of the Metro.”

    Hope you have a lovely weekend,
    Anna
    2 days ago
  • The Oxford Comma Debate

    As we dive into punctuation this week, we can’t help but address a very important and controversial subject: the Oxford comma. 

    As you may know, the Oxford comma (also known as the “serial comma”) is the final comma in a list of things. For instance, in the sentence “I went to the store to buy apples, bananas, and grapes,” the comma after “bananas” is the Oxford comma. The choice to use the Oxford comma is stylistic and varies across publications. Its correctness also depends on the writer’s country and language. While fairly common in the US, many other countries use it situationally or not at all.

    Those who use the Oxford comma argue for its ability to avoid ambiguity. Check out this sentence with the Oxford comma:

        "I love my parents, Taylor Swift, and Batman."

    It’s clear that this person loves three things (parents, Taylor Swift, Batman). Now read the sentence without the Oxford comma:

        "I love my parents, Taylor Swift and Batman."

    Without our extra comma, the sentence could be interpreted two different ways: either the person loves three things, or their parents are Taylor Swift and Batman! In some cases, this ambiguity can be expensive – in 2017, a company lost millions of dollars because of it.

    Opponents of the Oxford comma claim that it is redundant. They make the point that the ambiguity can be avoided by restructuring the sentence in a more clear way. In their opinion, if there is ambiguity without the Oxford comma, that is the fault of the writer, who should have chosen a more clear way to express themselves. Alternatively, some people advocate for using the Oxford comma only when the sentence calls for it, and otherwise omitting it.

    According to the New York Times, the Oxford Comma is “perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks.” Many people have a strong opinion on whether or not it should be used. We’re curious to hear what YOU think.

    Take this anonymous and quick survey to let us know! We’ll share the results at the end of the week. 

    Anna & Chris
    4 days ago
  • Punctuation, plain-and-simple

    Chris here! While Anna takes you through the intricacies of punctuation, I’d like to bring up one author who uses punctuation in an incredible, if rather blunt manner.

    All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, is in many ways a classic adventure story. It details the dangerous coming of age of a young man who runs away from his home in Texas and travels across the Mexican Border, where he seeks to fulfill his dream of an old, lawless, and romanticized West. But get this: the only consistent punctuation McCarthy uses throughout the book is the “full stop” (in other words, a period). Take a look at this remarkable paragraph detailing the protagonist’s heartbreak as related to the natural world:

    He remembered Alejandra and the sadness he’d first seen in the slope of her shoulders which he’d presumed to understand and of which he knew nothing and he felt a loneliness he’d not known since he was a child and he felt wholly alien to the world although he loved it still. He thought that in the beauty of the world were hid a secret. He thought the world’s heart beat at some terrible cost and that the world’s pain and its beauty moved in a relationship of diverging equity and that in this headlong deficit the blood of multitudes might ultimately be exacted for the vision of a single flower.

    No prompt to go with this one, just a pure appreciation and gratitude for language, and, perhaps, the notion that once one masters the rules of writing, one is permitted to bend them!

    - Chris
     
    5 days ago
  • Week 4: Today’s prompt and this week’s featured piece!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to Week 4 of Elements of Craft! This week Anna will take you through some of the ways that writers like to change, bend, and break the conventional rules of their craft, so be sure to check out today’s prompt, “Breaking the Rules”!

    Also (if you haven’t already!) take a moment to read this week’s featured piece, “Sunflowers,” by livpalmbos. I was consistently delighted with its sensory, sonorous descriptions, such as “Grandpa had had a voice like trees creaking in the wind, a pleasant, deep timbre” or “Grandpa's eyes were warm brown and crinkled at the corners, the skin creased like the petals of the sunflowers I helped him plant.” “Sunflowers'' never wavers from the symbol it proposes as it caringly tends to themes of life, love, and legacy, and I’m grateful to have read it!

    What a perfect way to begin the week,
    Chris
    6 days ago
  • Ocean Vuong, and Imagery in Poetry

    We focused on prose this week, but imagery can be an equally powerful and potent literary tool in poetry! The contemporary American-Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong is a master craftsman when it comes to poetry and imagery. In one poem, he describes his forlorn father as a “dark colt paused in downpour,” and in another, the moon as something “distant and flickering, trapped in beads of sweat.” If you have some spare time today, check out this enlightening interview with Ocean, where he discusses, among other things, his writing process, religion, the place of poetry in society, Emily Dickinson, social media, and the often difficult and lonely lifestyle of a writer.

    Thanks for another awesome week of writing!
    Chris
    8 days ago
  • Which Fictional Character Are You?

    Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a great week exploring imagery with Chris. I’m just popping in to ask: have you ever wondered which fictional character you’re most similar to? Try out this fun quiz that matches your perceived personality with a wide-ranging list of 1,600 fictional characters. Feel free to mention who was your #1 match in the footnotes of your next piece! Or get creative and share a “Freewriting" piece where you interact with your character twin (making sure to credit the source of your character, of course).

    Anna (or should I say, Eliza from the musical Hamilton!)
    11 days ago
  • Language Without Borders

    Jhumpa Lahiri, the author behind our prompt yesterday, is one of the coolest, most gifted writers around. Born in London, the daughter of Indian immigrants, she emigrated to America, where she was raised. An established writer, Lahiri has written novels in both English and Italian. A true language enthusiast, she now only writes in the latter. As writers practicing within the confines of the English Language, it can be too easy to forget that language is a necessary art that spans space and time, country and creed. Curious? If you have a few minutes, read this very brief interview with Lahiri, titled “No Language Has Power Over Another,” from PEN America.

    Happy Reading!
    Chris
    12 days ago
  • Week 3: This week's featured piece and a new profile picture!

    Hello writers,

    Welcome to week 3 of Elements of Craft! This week Chris will be leading you through a study of imagery and symbolism in storytelling. Make sure to check out tomorrow’s prompt, but in the meantime, take a look at this week's incredible Monday Musings piece: “Immigrant Goes Back” by NS Kumar. I enjoyed the writer’s unique take on the prompt – rather than writing about an entirely imagined town, they chose to write about their former hometown rendered hazy by time. By addressing the town directly, the writer creates a piece that feels enchanting, heartbreaking, and universal. Though I haven’t experienced the same exact events as the poem’s speaker, I read the line “I wish you brought in a storm/and wailed that you would never let me go” and felt it deep in my bones. 

    It’s hard to believe that we’re already a quarter of our way through Elements of Craft! We’re so glad that you’re all here for the ride. Whether you’ve responded to one prompt or all four, you’ve earned a badge of honor in our books. Follow this link to download the official Elements of Craft image to use as your profile picture for the duration of the group (and beyond!). You can also find the link in the “Resources” tab. 

    Have a great week!
    Anna
    14 days ago
  • Poet Feature: Dylan Thomas

    You might know the famous villanelle that starts with “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It was written by Dylan Thomas, a poet of the mid-early 20th century. Despite being of the same era as the hallowed Modernist giants like T.S. Elliot and W.H. Auden (the poet behind one of my favorites: “Funeral Blues”), Thomas, with his intensely lyrical and emotional verse, was much more aligned with the Romantic movement that defined the previous century. Despite his short life, his work has had far-reaching effects. Need proof? Phoebe Bridgers’ and Conor Oberst’s (together as Better Oblivion Community Center) most listened-to song is, in large part, inspired by him and his artistic viewpoints. You can read more about him here, at the Poetry Foundation.

    Alas, our week on restrictive poetry forms has come to an end. Luckily we have another week coming up later in the group that will focus on using constraints in writing, so we will get to continue exploring the fun contradiction that constraint can actually be freeing! 

    If you end up trying your hand at a villanelle, we hope you’ll share it with the group under “Freewriting.” Looking forward to starting Week 3!

    Chris
    15 days ago
  • Have you ever struggled with writer’s block? Same! When I feel stuck, I try writing a sestina. I know, I know... they’re tough! But my writer’s block usually comes from the overwhelming hugeness of possibility that comes with a blank page. By setting a constraint – like choosing to write in a restrictive form – I have a smaller number of things to think about. 

    So here’s another cool restrictive poetry form that you can try when you’re stuck: the villanelle. Villanelles have five three-line stanzas plus one four-line stanza. The first and third lines of the first stanza are repeated in the next stanzas (check out the link for more detailed information about the form). The repetition of entire lines gives a song-like quality to the villanelle, which is fitting since villanelles were inspired by Italian and Spanish dance-songs!

    Check out Elizabeth Bishop’s beautiful villanelle “One Art,” which is a great example of how form can reflect content. Because of the form’s repetition, her insistence that “the art of losing isn’t hard to master” becomes a sort of mantra, and the reader has to wonder: maybe the art of losing is hard to master, after all.

    Anna
    16 days ago
  • Little Song: The History of the Sonnet

    The sonnet has a long, rich history as a poetry form. Its namesake comes from the Italian “sonetto,” or “little song.” Indeed, like much of music, these short, fourteen line poems are centered on themes of love, either romantic or platonic. Many think of Shakespearean sonnets as the archetypal example, but there also Petrarchan sonnets and (as we will see in tomorrow’s prompt) Modern sonnets. Here’s a quick explanation of their differences:

    The Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet is actually the original form, containing an octet (an eight-line stanza) followed by a sestet (a six-line stanza), each following a rhyme scheme. The octet offers a “proposition,” or “problem,” and sestet offers a resolution. The beginning of the sestet (the ninth line) is called the “volta,” or “turn,” where the poet begins to reflect on the first eight lines, or rather, the octet.

    The Shakespearean sonnet is similar in that it offers a “turn,” but only as a final couplet (a two-line stanza). It is also written in iambic pentameter (a tempo of roughly ten-syllables per line). The Shakespearean sonnet also contains a specific, adhered-to rhyme scheme of (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG). To learn more about rhyme schemes, and how to interpret them, check out this helpful resource!

    The Modern, and in the case of tomorrow’s poet, “American” sonnet, is more open-ended, concerning itself more with theme than construction. A Modern sonnet only has to be fourteen lines, and may or may not contain a given rhyme scheme or tempo. Still, they are largely concerned with ideas of love and reflection, and often contain the “volta,” or “turn,” in their final lines.

    Feel free to refer back to this announcement when you begin tomorrow's prompt!

    Chris
    18 days ago
  • This week's featured piece

    Hello writers!

    Welcome to week 2 of Elements of Craft! Before you get started on today's prompt, be sure to check out this week's Monday Musings piece: "remain. ruination awaits." by almost flora kane. I was amazed by its creativity and grace in incorporating so many imaginative places into a brief passage while foreshadowing a story of enormous scope (and one that I hope to read someday)!

    Happy writing,
    Chris
    20 days ago
  • Congrats, writers – we finished Week 1! Thanks for coming on this journey with us. To celebrate, we wanted to share one more mini prompt. Today, try writing a poem or story in a place where you don’t usually write. 

    This might mean literally writing in a different room, or perhaps you will change the conditions of your writing environment. Here are some ideas: Write outside. Write sitting on the floor. Turn off the lights and write by flashlight. Or grab your pen as soon as you wake up in the morning. Sometimes, it takes changing the normal to get our words flowing. 

    We invite you to share those words with the rest of the group under “Freewriting”! We hope you have a great end to the weekend, and we can’t wait for Week 2. 

    Anna and Chris
    22 days ago
  • Richard Hugo’s idea of “triggering towns” has always been intriguing to me. In some ways it feels spot-on. Hugo argues that if you’re too close to the subject, your allegiance as a poet might be to the subject rather than the language, and it may affect your ability to accurately convey your feelings about the subject. Have you ever felt like you have so many memories and feelings about a place that you can’t even begin to describe them to someone else who has never been there? That’s what Hugo is talking about. (To try Hugo’s technique out, check out yesterday’s prompt!)

    But on the other hand, the intimacy of writing about what you know, what you’ve actually experienced, the places you’ve been, the people in your life – there’s something uniquely special about that. The best sources of inspiration often do come from our own lives, because they are rich and interesting and important to us.

    I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read these two beautiful place-oriented poems by James Wright: “A Blessing” (one of my favorite poems!) and “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota.” Keep in mind that James Wright lived in Minnesota, the setting of both poems. As you savor them, think about how Wright’s relationship to these places in real life gives the reader such an intimate look at his experience of them. Spend some time with the emotional precision of his images: the horses bowing shyly like wet swans, the speaker feeling like they might break into blossom, the bronze butterfly and the unexpected beauty of “blazing golden stones.” Can you feel what the speaker feels in these moments?

    I hope you're having a wonderful weekend!
    Anna
    23 days ago
  • Place and Tone in the Poetry of Aracelis Girmay

    Hello writers! In addition to posting two prompts each week, Anna and I will also make a series of announcements that touch on different literary techniques, histories, and authors!

    So, if you have a moment today, check out the following poem, “Consider the Hands that Write this Letter,” by Aracelis Girmay. Notice how the poet establishes the occasion, the “reason” for writing a poem, and the actions behind writing a letter. Also, notice her use of reference to places both real (the “roads through Limay and Estelí”) and imagined (“the giant’s wedding”).

    Now listen to her reading of her poem, “Small Letter” (also pasted below!). Take a moment to consider how the two poems connect, how an act of writing, approached in a certain way, can produce a work of writing with a different tone. Now think of what goes into the writing of Girmay’s poems: the setting where they were written, the reason for their writing, the places and people that flowed through the poet’s mind, and, naturally, the writing process. Only when these elements and actions come together do we receive and read such beautiful verse.

    “Small Letter”
    By Aracelis Girmay

    “do not go, this day, the red
    of bridges, my little, stay

    beside me over
    the ruins of san francisco.

    go, but do not go
    from me, my one,

    my love, my very kin
    who I laughed with in our sleep

    every night, my dream
    beside your dream, for a year.

    wrecking ball despedida, wreck
    the great rooms in my chest & take

    my last song, but do not leave me
    on this earth, my one

    without my one. how would
    the hand ever live, if it knew

    it would never braid your hair
    again, or hold your face?

    it would get up & walk
    away forever then.

    one by one my breaths
    would go out looking: a procession

    of homeless dogs,
                                                       or clouds”


    Until next time!
    Chris


     
    26 days ago