Write What You (Don’t) Know with Janice Deal, Sandra Jones, and Katherine Shonk

Dec 05, 2023 1:00PM—4:00PM


Write On, Door County 4210 Juddville Rd. Fish Creek, WI 54212

Cost $60.00



The popular adage “write what you know” is solid advice, but it overlooks the richness that fiction writers can bring to their work by exploring the world beyond their own experience. How much should you write from your own life, and how much should you bring in from the outside world? In this workshop, we will explore how to strike an effective balance between writing from personal experience and writing from outside research when crafting fiction.

On the one hand, writing what we know allows us to draw on our own lives, our own emotions, and our own observations. There are all sorts of details in daily living that we can store up and use when we sit down to write. On the other hand, writing what we don’t know – or what sparks our curiosity and want to learn more about – is essential to fiction writing. It lets us create new places, inhabit characters different than us, visit the past, and imagine the future.

What’s the right balance? What tools do we use to mine our own experiences? How do we use our imagination to expand on what we know? And how do we go about researching a subject? Drawing from our own experience and that of other writers, we will discuss ways to approach mixing facts and imagination, the role of personal creative choices, and the practical considerations of exploring stories outside of our own lives

Class meets Tuesday, December 5, 1 – 4 pm

Class size: Maximum 12. Minimum 5.

Member discount: Members of Write On receive a 10% discount on all classes and workshops. To become a member, please click here. To receive the discount, members must log in to the website using their unique password and enter member10 in the promotion code box. The code is case sensitive.

Teaching Artists: 

Janice Deal is the author of the books The Decline of Pigeons, The Sound of Rabbits, and Strange Attractors, and the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Artists Fellowship Award for prose. Her stories have appeared in literary magazines including Fiction and Harvard Review Online. She lives in Downers Grove, Illinois.

Sandra M. Jones is a writer and editor working in higher education. She was a business journalist for two decades at the Chicago Tribune, Crain’s Chicago Business and Bloomberg News writing about consumer culture, economics, and technology, before joining the University of Chicago Booth School of Business as a media relations and communications director. She is currently executive director of content strategy at Aurora University where she oversees the university’s digital content and serves as editor of the alumni magazine. She is a winner of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) Award for Enterprise Reporting. A lifelong advocate for literacy, she has held volunteer tutoring and leadership positions at nonprofit organizations focused on teaching children and adults to read and write.

Katherine Shonk is the author of the story collection The Red Passport and the novel Happy Now? Her writing has appeared in Tin House, Best American Short Stories 2001, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Shonk has received awards from the Illinois Arts Council, and The Red Passport was a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year. She lives in Evanston, Illinois, with her husband and daughter, and works as a writer and editor for Harvard University. She recently finished a novel, Just So You Know, about motherhood and immigration in the Trump era.

Left to Right: Sandra Jones, Janice Deal, Katherine Shonk