On Location

Senses Working Overtime: Writing with Joy

with Luis Alberto Urrea

Course Description

We have been locked down, closed off from each other and the world around us for a very long time. And now, the world is opening for us again. How does a writer relearn how to receive the world’s many gifts? How do we re-open to the wild parade before us and around us?

In this generative workshop, we will indulge each of our senses and put them into living words. Writing is a dance. You need your eyes, your ears, your nose, your touch, your tongue. And you need your sixth sense as well. The wonder of being in a beautiful place with beautiful people doing a beautiful thing is that every sense can be drenched and satisfied. Our task is to collaborate with our experience and make words of light and shadow.

Each day of this workshop, we focus on a different sense and, we even do a bit of collaboration with the photographers in the other workshops. In some sense, this is writing “church.” We spend an hour or so each day sharing your piece from the day before. Poetry, fiction, nonfiction, whatever you want to craft is up to you. We then go out into the world around us. What we are after is finding the inspiration and EVERYTHING counts. When you look at the Jardin in San Miguel, you might find shadows of your own relatives and family. Are the indigenous children selling little pieces of art on the street a reflection or a contrast to children you have known? Are any of them you? When you step into the cathedral, do you feel the hopes and despair? If you are lucky, you might go outside of town to watch the murmuration—that magical shifting cloud of nesting birds at sunset that looks like a special effect; that same murmuration in a different language happens in Nebraska.

Rather than a writing workshop, I am thinking of this as an experiential workshop for writers. You have a special way of seeing and experiencing the world and I want to help you saturate your work with your senses working overtime. You may have a work in progress already; I promise you this experience will change how you approach it. Bring a notebook, comfortable shoes, a good hat, an open heart, and a sense of wonder. 

Additional Information


This program is open to writers of all levels.

Writers Lab
© Joe Mazza
Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea, Guggenheim Fellow and Pulitzer Prize finalist, is the best-selling author of 18 books, including The Devil’s Highway and The Hummingbird’s Daughter. His latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, was a national bestseller and NYTimes Notable Book. Luis has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize, an American Book Award, the Christopher Award, and an Edgar Award, among other honors. His 2015 collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won an Academy of Arts and Letters award. His novel Into the Beautiful North is a selection of the NEA’s Big Read program. 

Luis’s books have been selected by more than 100 different cities and colleges for community reads programs and he is much in demand as a speaker, lecturer, and teacher. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, he is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.” He lives outside of Chicago and is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. 

Website: luisurrea.com

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