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Writing the Strange, the Spiritual, and the Disturbing: Fiction Writing with Liam Morrissey (in person Session 2 22) is a Course

Writing the Strange, the Spiritual, and the Disturbing: Fiction Writing with Liam Morrissey (in person Session 2 22)


$2,500 Enroll

Full course description

There is a separate application process for this course. If you have not been accepted into the Iowa Young Writers' Studio Summer Residential Program you are not eligible to enroll.

Fiction Writing with Liam Morrissey. Writing the Strange, the Spiritual, and the Disturbing

A boy encounters his father’s past inside of a video game. A girl raises pigeons on her roof. A dark fairy tale is set inside a juvenile detention center. A lifetime is contained within the Instagram feed of a girl’s estranged aunt. A dinosaur accidentally survives mass extinction and finds itself pretending to be human in order to fit into a changing world. A mysterious balloon expands over New York City, transforming the lives of the citizen below. The grim reaper gives life advice to a babysitter. When we write fiction, how much should we allow the material world to constrain us? When does hewing to the stresses of the world we live in—a world obsessed with relationships, money, death, race, love, disappointment, and joy—help us create richer fiction? When does departing from the rules of this world—adding ghosts, dinosaurs, monsters, physics-defying objects, spaceships, superheroes, immortality, and transcendence; subtracting birth, death, gender, sight, borders, even time itself—make for a more textured, even more real literary experience? What often draws us to fiction is something more mysterious than we are capable of articulating otherwise. Fiction is a playground for the imagination—a place to experience the uncanny magic and sinister shadows we sense are lurking beneath everyday life. In this workshop, we will examine Joy Williams’s idea that stories should represent a “clean, clear surface with much disturbance below.” We will experiment with different ways of disturbing our own stories so that they might achieve more profound, strange, and spiritual effects than if we wrote them otherwise. Among others, we will read stories from Mary Gaitskill, Jen George, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Lyudmila Petrushevskaya, Venita Blackburn, Samanta Schweblin, George Saunders, Edward P. Jones, Sheila Heti, Jess Arndt, Jamil Jan Kochai, Amy Hempel, and Jamel Brinkley. We will free-write horribly, awfully bad love poems and weird stories about kitchen appliances. We will set fairy tales inside your high school cafeteria and pen epic sagas about your reclusive neighbor. We will walk along the river and through downtown Iowa City to see if, together, we might glimpse some of the strange, subterranean mystery lurking beneath the surface of the world around us.

Liam Morrissey was born and raised in Chicago. He has spent most of the past decade living in Los Angeles and working in film and television production. He is currently a second year MFA candidate in fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop where he teaches courses on literature and creative writing. He was recently named a 2022 Tin House Scholar.




The fee for this course, which includes the fee for the 2-week session of the Summer Residential Program, is $2,500. Payment in full is required to enroll in the course.


Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center."


Cancellation Policy: If you cancel or withdraw before June 1, 2022 a $100 cancellation fee will be deducted from your refund. Thereafter no refunds are available. 




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