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Saying the Unsayable—How to Write Complex Emotions with Amanda Stern

July 21 @ 12:30 pm - 4:30 pm


Feelings are hard to describe, much less write. Most writers rely purely on the physical to get their emotional point across. To indicate loss to the reader, the writer might rely on subtext, and by doing so they write about things on the surface: a bereft father catches sight of a man swinging his young daughter around on the beach. We understand and feel the gulf between what one man has lost and the other takes for granted. The more details we provide about both of these men and their daughters, the more we will feel, because these details will signal the weight of absence. Often, in literature, what’s seen represents what’s not there.

Writing emotion through staging and subtext works to elicit the appropriate feeling in your reader, but sometimes that isn’t enough. What if your aim is to offer readers articulation for the unsayable? Instead of nodding toward the gulf, how do we describe what the gulf feels like inside our bodies?

In this class, I will take you through methods that will teach you to identify and write all possible emotions. You will learn how to drop inside your body for exploration, pulling the somatic sensations into your throat and onto the page. I will also teach you how to create emotion in the atmosphere. At the end of this class, you’ll have learned how to elevate not only your prose, but your communication skills.

In the vein of bestselling memoirs about mental illness like Andrew Solomon’s Noonday Demon,, Sarah Hepola’s Blackout, and Daniel Smith’s Monkey Mind, comes a gorgeously immersive, immediately relatable, and brilliantly funny memoir about living life on the razor’s edge of panic.
“In this canny, insightful, novelistic memoir, Amanda Stern traces the indelible path her underlying anxiety has traced in a rich but often frustrated life. It’s a book about her emergence into and acceptance of mature identity, but it is also about the danger of love, the maze of social pressure, and the tension between childhood expectations and adult realities. Narrating with real poignance how every experience she’s had has been filtered through her psychic vulnerability, she achieves a symphony of complex fragilities and redeeming strengths.”―Andrew Solomon.

Her work has appeared in the New York Times; the New York Times Magazine;  the New York Times Book ReviewFilmmakerThe BelieverSalonBlackbook, St. Ann’s Review, Post Road and others. Her personal essays have been included in several anthologies: Love is a Four Letter Word The Marijuana ChroniclesWomen in Clothes, the anthology A Velocity of Being edited by Maria Popova, and her Believer interview with Laurie Anderson was included in Confidence, or the Appearance of Confidence: The Best of the Believer Music Interviews, 2014.

Her first novel The Long Haul (Soft Skull Press) was published in 2003. Of her metaphors, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote, “they’re so fresh, they’re almost jarring.”


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July 21
12:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Event Categories:
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Hudson Valley Writers Center
Philipse Manor Station
Sleepy Hollow, NY 10591 United States