Finding a Home for Your Story: A “Hermit Crab” Essay Writing Workshop

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Program Description

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The idea of the “hermit crab” essay—a term coined by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola in their 2003 book Tell It Slant—is inspired by the way that hermit crabs take on various items as their shells: they borrow a structure to create their home. A hermit crab essay, then, is a creative essay that borrows the form of another method of communication—a recipe, a to-do list, instructions for assembling a child’s bicycle, for instance—to tell a story or explore a topic. Through the interaction of a personal story and an easily recognizable but unexpected form, opportunities for humor, deeper exploration, and poignancy arise.
In this 3-part workshop, participants will explore the various types of structures their ideas and stories can inhabit; investigate the effect structure has on meaning and the reader’s experience; write their own hermit crab essays; and share what they’ve written, if they choose to do so.
The workshop will offer opportunities for participants to explore spooky seasonal possibilities, such as using a spell or an obituary to write a personal essay, but in the end, the writer will determine the subject of their compositions. All kinds of writers are welcome!
The workshop will be facilitated by Susanna Drbal, a local fiction writer who enjoys the creative energy that arises in working with other writers. She finds inspiration in conversations overheard as people pass by her open window, in the photo albums documenting her own youth, and in vintage postcard images. And she is always hungry for more.