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Writing Workshops

Writing Bilingual and Bicultural Characters in Fiction: Immigrants, Parents, and Travelers with Elysha Chang


6 Sessions

Out of stock

Once a week Wednesdays, 7:00 pm EST - 9:00 pm EST February 14 to March 20, 2024

Online via Zoom

This workshop has reached its capacity. To join the waitlist, please email Randy Winston at [email protected].

This generative workshop will explore characters who don’t speak the language we are rendering them in. How might we make space in our work for immigrants, travelers, foreigners, parents and family members? How do we attend to the nuances of a character who is speaking English as a second language without unintentionally creating obstacles for the reader and, of course, without perpetuating stereotypes?

In this six-session workshop, we will explore characters whose thinking, speaking and actions are informed by languages and cultures that aren’t English. With a focus on short readings, generative exercises, and workshop, this course investigates the way we might present bilingualism and biculturalism in our works of fiction, even when we’re writing (mostly) in one language. Readings may include works by Alexandra Chang, Esme Weijun Wang, Paisley Rekdal, DK Nnuro, Chang Rae Lee, Valeria Luiselli, Brook Ziporyn, and more.

Course Outline
  • Session I: Non-English-Speaking Characters—Rendered in English
    • Dialogue in the text’s language
    • Discussion and exploration of accents, grammar changes, language barriers. How to be intentional about conveying language/cultural barriers, rather than unintentionally recreating obstacles for our characters, or perpetuating stereotypes
    • Generative exercise based on excerpts showing characters speaking English as a second or non-native language/Share with group (optional)
    • Assign a piece to be workshopped later in the course
  • Session II: Non-English-Speaking Characters—At Home in Their Own Language
    • Translation of interiority (how does a language (its vocabulary, grammar rules, etc) shape the way someone thinks?
    • Dialogues that are happening in other languages but rendered in English
    • Dialogues that are simply rendered in their original language— in this instance, how might we accommodate (or not) the reader?
    • Generative exercise based on Brook Ziporyn excerpt about the particularities of grammar and how they might shape a culture’s or language’s philosophies/Share with group (optional)
  • Session III: English Speakers Immersed in Another Language
    • Flipping the language/cultural barrier
    • What does this look like for the reader (who speaks/reads English)?
    • Generative exercise in which an English speaker visits a space where English isn’t used, and common American rules do not apply
    • This session is interested in the difference between exoticism vs. appreciation
  • Session IV–VI: Workshopping Continued

Led by

  • 22301089_Elysha Chang_02_022 cropped - Elysha Chang

    Elysha Chang

    Elysha Chang

    Elysha Chang is a writer and educator based in Brooklyn. Before moving to New York, she taught Asian American Literature and Creative Writing at Villanova University, University of Pennsylvania and Blue Stoop Philadelphia. Her debut novel, A Quitter’s Paradise, is about American immigrant inheritance and was published in 2023. She holds a master of fine arts from Columbia University and has received fellowships from The Center for Fiction and Kundiman.