Beyond What You See

The Art of Description

september 10 - october 8, tuesday evenings


"It sounds like a simple thing, to say what you see," writes the poet Mark Doty. "But try to find words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf, or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning, or the very beginnings of desire stirring in the gaze of someone looking right into your eyes. . . . " How the writer moves perception to image and finally to written word is at the heart of any literary work.

In this four-week Essentials Series class, we'll focus on the craft and technique of artful, arresting description that will elevate your work in any genre. We'll poke and prod to determine when description does vital work and when it becomes a diversion. And, of course, we  will describe things ourselves, and put our own descriptions to the test to prove their merit. Ultimately, if we commit to it fully, we'll find just the right words to say what we—or our characters—see. All levels and genres welcome, although this course, as is true of all our Essentials Series offering, is specifically geared toward writers just setting out on their journey into the wild terrain of putting stories on the page. 

Elephant Rock does not discriminate against anyone, regardless of age, color of skin, national origin, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, gender expression and identity, sexual orientation, or anything else. We expect the same from our all of our participants.

how does this remote class work?

For four weeks, we’ll gather via Zoom each Monday evening, from 6:00 - 8 PM CT. We’ll enjoy lively discussions of readings and examine specific techniques for effective description. Then, guided by structured exercises, we'll apply those techniques to transform our own work. Exercises during class time will feed into more expansive weekly assignments. Additional resources include a dedicated Elephant Rock portal for accessing readings and other valuable tools during the duration of the class and beyond, one-on-one interaction with and feedback from course instructors, and a private Facebook community page for ongoing interaction outside of class.

what will writers take away?

  • 3 micro essays, to be expanded on your own after the course ends, if desired

  • Connection to engaged mentors and a supportive community of fellow writers

  • Deepened knowledge of the craft elements that make for effective, vital description

  • Craft-focused feedback on your writing

  • A curated selection of resources to aid further experimentation

  • Expanded understanding of how description—done right—will strengthen your writing

what is the cost?

Tuition is $390, and a non-refundable deposit of $200 via check or PayPal is required to hold your spot. Full payment is due 15 days before the workshop begins.

who is the teacher?

This course is led by Jeannine Ouellette. Jeannine holds an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches writing through the Association of Writers & Writing Program's Writer-to-Writer Program, the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop, and the University of Minnesota. Jeannine is the author of several nonfiction books as well as the children's book Mama Moon and her essays and fiction have appeared widely in magazines and literary journals. Of her work, Joyce Carol Oates has said, "It is simply beautiful; precisely imagined, poetically structured, vivid and compelling." Jeannine is the founder of Elephant Rock; read her full bio here.

what have others had to say?

A previous participant observed, "These sessions have exceeded my expectations. Thank you for the challenges you have presented us and the terrific readings you introduced. Thank you for the stimulating conversations and, especially, for the introduction to smart, funny, talented women whom I now like to think of as e-colleagues." Read praise from past participants here, and please don't hesitate to get in touch directly with questions about whether this workshop is right for you!

How Do I Register?

Contact us at for instructions on paying via check or PayPal. Inquire soon, and thank you for trusting us with your work! We can’t wait for you to unearth its fullest potential.

course materials

This password-protected page includes the course syllabus, reading list, and additional resources for registered participants only.