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Tame the Beast // In-Person

How to focus and frame your unwieldy story

Tame the Beast // In-Person

We all have stories to tell. Often, however, we struggle at the outset of a new writing project to find ways to focus and make sense of the story we’re dying to tell.

How do you find the strongest entry point and source of narrative momentum, the most compelling characters, and the climax? How can you organize and plan for the many possible directions your story might lead you in?

This session will help you land on the most effective and engaging way of framing and describing your story.

  • LEARN the theory behind narrative framing and construction,
  • EXPLORE a variety of ways to create a cohesive narrative out of fragmented materials,
  • DEVELOP a habit of understanding your project on a deeper narrative level from the outset, and
  • GAIN tips for translating your writing project into a successful pitch or proposal.

On-site participants will have the opportunity to workshop pitches and pages of a current draft for peer and instructor feedback. They will also receive a copy of Shulman's book, The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain's Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War!


Saturday, April 20, 2019
1 pm - 4:30 pm

Advance registration strongly recommended.
The workshop is limited to 16 students.

$35 if registered by 4/15/2019 
$45 if registered after 4/15/2019

Can't join us in Pittsburgh? There's a webinar option available as well. 


Schedule Overview:

In-Person:

Seminar // 1– 2 pm

Aaron Shulman will present the theoretical underpinnings of narrative framing and construction; analyze several paragraphs from a variety of authors and explain how to create a cohesive narrative from fragmented material; and share the process behind his successful book proposal.

The seminar will end with a Q & A.

Workshop // 2–4:30 pm

Finding the Right Frame for the Pitch
Moving from theory to practice, you will write down and share three different “pitches” or framings of a nonfiction story you want to tell. The intention is to help you get closer to understanding your story on a deeper narrative level from the outset. This requires a certain distance: although you might be the best person to tell the story, sometimes you are too close to clearly see its weak spots and strong points.

Cherry-Picking Material
Some of the sources you can draw on include (but aren’t limited to) your memory, interviews, newspaper articles, photos, audio, books, and firsthand travel. We’ll discuss how to use and make sense of all of this possible material. Which information is absolutely essential to your story, and what other sources might you need to search out? And how can you include other sources that might be less essential but can make your story come to life in a rich, experiential, memorable way?

Seeing It New
Once you’ve found the best frame of your story and understand its constituent parts, the exciting part begins. Using a current draft of your story (of no more than 5 pages), you will work on reframing and revising with a specific task in mind—for example, finding a stronger story angle or synthesizing fragmented sources into a smoother narrative.

Critique and Writing Plan
The day will end with a class workshop of your reframed draft and/or pitch and a working plan for how to continue your piece.


Location // 5119 Coral Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

The lower level of our workshop and gallery space is wheelchair accessible. Free on-street parking is available.

Doors open at 12 pm, event begins at 1 pm. Snacks, coffee & tea will be provided.


Aaron Shulman is the author of the nonfiction historical narrative The Age of Disenchantments: The Epic Story of Spain's Most Notorious Literary Family and the Long Shadow of the Spanish Civil War (Ecco/HarperCollins, March 2019). A former Fulbright scholar, his work has appeared in The Believer, the New Republic, the American Scholar, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among many other places. An editorial coach, collaborative writer, and developmental editor, he works with Idea Architects Literary Agency to bring the research of visionary scientists and thinkers to a wide readership. He lives with his family in Santa Barbara, California.


Questions? Please call us at 412-404-2975 or email our coordinating editor, Kaylee Ritchie, at ritchie@creativenonfiction.org.