Fishtrap Workshop: Grappling with Paradox & Tension In Personal Essay & Memoir
Fishtrap Workshop: Two Ideas: Grappling with Paradox and Tension In Personal Essay and Memoir with Catherine Johnson.
In James Baldwin’s essay “Notes of a Native Son” he wrote: “It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition.” As one of the greatest essayists of the twentieth century, Baldwin was a master at grappling with paradox and complexity, while resisting easy, neat answers. In this workshop, we will examine the essay as a natural vehicle for this kind of intellectual and emotional work, both by reading other writers who do this masterfully, and looking for opportunities to do this in our own writing. Taking this approach can provide a helpful focus for works-in-progress or a starting point for emerging ideas. Therefore, participants can share their writing at any stage (or just benefit from the conversation and in-class writing prompts) as we explore how leaning into this kind of tension can reveal the emotional core of our work.
Catherine Johnson’s work has been published in Oregon Humanities, Hypertext, Coachella Review, Kithe, Propeller, Gulf Stream, STORGY, Portland Monthly Magazine, Nowhere Travel Magazine and is forthcoming in and the anthology Evergreen: Fairy Tales, Essays & Fables from the Dark Northwest. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Portland State University, and was a 2021 Fishtrap Fellow. Catherine is an Assistant Lecturer at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.