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The Writhing Society meets to practice and discuss the techniques of constrained writing. We practice the methods invented by ourselves and by other writers, artists, musicians, and mathematicians. Today's topic: From Yelp to Help—Reviewing Reviews.

Yelp, the site for user reviews of restaurants, is in theory a model democratic interface. It allows anyone to be a critic. However, those who are more angry customers or sour competitors than critics have the luxury to get anonymously personal in a public forum. The writing always reveals the character of the source. You, consulting the reviews, hope to glean wisdom about the place of your choice. What do you read between the lines?

Today, let’s imagine being the owner of a restaurant that was reviewed on Yelp. Reuse the critic’s words to write a mad-to-glad response to convince the critic to return for another try, a letter with a sense of compassion, or write the critic’s character outline, perhaps with a sense of sarcasm. We will explore exercises of style to vary the writing we serve. Look up a Yelp review of your favorite eatery, and get ready to chop it up.

Leader: E. Schurink

This workshop will take place online via Zoom. Please RSVP to receive the Zoom link prior to the event.

The Writhing Society combines a class with a salon. In a two-hour session, you can expect a few minutes of introductions and explanations, an hour plus of silent writing, and a half-hour or so in which we will read our work aloud. Then, if there's a little time left for questions and discussion, we'll do that. If you know nothing about writing with constraints, if you do not think of yourself as knowing much about writing, come anyway. No prior knowledge required. This is nothing like your ordinary writing workshop. We work in a relaxed, supportive, playful atmosphere, and we welcome new members.

What are constraints? Constraints are rules, specific and arbitrary, that drive you to say what you hadn’t expected to say in ways you never would have chosen to say it. Constrained writing always involves a collaboration of languages: yours and someone else’s. It allows you to take directions from something outside yourself. In a world where forms of expression thought to be “free” in fact come ready-made from the discourses of powerful groups, composing with constraints becomes a disciplined practice for escape, from these or from oneself, and a source of fresh ideas.

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