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Scene Writing Workshop

Naomi Kimbell

SEX SELLS, WRITE IT WELL: The Worst Sex Scenes in Literature and How to Write a Good One by Naomi Kimbell

CLASS DATES: This class is currently closed.

DURATION:  4 weeks

LOCATION:  Private Website

FEEDBACK:   Instructor feedback and critique, peer feedback, group workshopping

COURSE DESCRIPTION: Sex is as natural and ordinary as breathing, eating, and gardening, and the best sex scenes are written that way. The author who is uncomfortable with sex and sensuality, who treats it as exceptional, will struggle to write it believably, often veering into the silly and absurd. In this class, we will read examples of the worst sex scenes in literature (!), the best sex scenes in literature (!), and we’ll learn to write our own. These may be pleasant, juicy, awkward, disappointing, humorous, disempowering, humdrum, or satisfying, but we’ll learn how to write sex, whatever its mood, and have it ring true. Please note that in this class, we won’t delve into sexual exploitation, sexual abuse or violence, but rather our goal is to develop comfort and skill in writing about consensual sex. Blushing is totally acceptable.

Thank you for an enlightening workshop, and thank you to everyone for sharing your writing. I’ve taken my share of these types of workshops over the years, and honestly the insight and depth of knowledge shared here ranks among the best I’ve encountered. I truly learned a lot not just about my writing but also from what was shared with the group. Naomi, I also am grateful for the challenge you set in the first few weeks of class, which is that in the times we find ourselves today, personal essay and memoir can transcend the mere personal to speak universally to privilege and other social issues. This idea resonated with me a great deal, and in my writing these last several weeks I’m much more aware of opportunities to incorporate broader themes. Thank you for that challenge, it’s something that will stay with me far beyond this workshop. ~ Ellen G.

I am finishing up Long Form Creative Nonfiction with Naomi Kimbell. This workshop has been life changing for me. I feel so inspired and empowered as a writer. Naomi really facilitated a safe place to be vulnerable while learning the process. My workshop peers were an amazing group and I am in awe of each of the women I went through this journey with. I really gained a lot of useful knowledge and am sad this is ending! I would absolutely recommend this course and would not hesitate to take another course with Naomi again. ~ Valerie F.

I was initially drawn to work with Naomi Kimbell after reading her honest, innovative writing. Naomi brings an incredible depth of living with her whole heart and mind to her work and teaching. Her passion, curiosity and extensive knowledge of the craft of writing is inspiring. In her writing course she shared diverse and stimulating prompts that included still photographs, different forms, and the writing of authors which opened new spaces inside me and helped deepen the texture and dimension of my poetry. Naomi has a gift for encouraging people to express their unique voice. She listens and communicates with keen intelligence and deep compassion. I appreciate the way she weaves together her sense of humor, new perspectives, great questions and her practical and diligent work ethic. Naomi is an engaging and motivating teacher. ~ Youpa Stein

Naomi’s class is one of the most inspiring classes I’ve ever taken! I’ve never been a flowery writer, and often focused more on meaning, rather than sentence structure and word choice. Writing a lyric essay is something I’ve always dreamed of, but I didn’t really understand the concept until I took her class, “Music, Truth, and the Towns Inside Us: A Cross-Genre Exploratory Workshop.” It changed my life! I now understand how to edit sentences and words down to syllables and consonants to make my prose sing. She created a vibrant learning atmosphere, full of rooms, prompts, videos, and discussion. I usually like to write in silence, but our first assignment was writing to music she selected. The words that flowed from my pen amazed me, and that was due to Naomi’s instruction and safe learning environment. My classmates’ work was impressive, and we had so much fun providing feedback on each other’s essays, poems, fiction, and free-writes. Naomi’s insight into the class book, The Triggering Town, along with her thought-provoking discussion and encouraging feedback made this class exceptional. I’d love to take every class she offers. Her teaching style is compassionate and knowledgeable, and her suggestions for use of language are detailed and eye opening. Taking her class helped me look at the world with wonder. In the past my writing has been described as flat and reporterly. Well, never again. Now I want to go back and revise all my essays for sound. I know Naomi’s class has made me a better writer, and I can’t thank her enough! ~ Angela M. (previous WOW class participant)

Many thanks to Naomi Kimbell for dreaming up the “Music, Truth, and the Towns Inside Us” class I just took. I loved it. I’d read Richard Hugo’s Triggering Town years ago, but I must confess I didn’t completely understand the nuances of all that he was saying. It was a pleasure to be invited to participate in a thoughtful discussion. Naomi not only knows how to write, but also how to guide. I felt like she provided a safe space to experiment and submit my work for review and comments. She was prepared and available throughout the course. I would absolutely take more classes with Naomi. ~ Victoria Melekian (previous WOW class participant)

Naomi seeks a straightforwardness that does not embellish, but, rather, gets to essences—essential ideas, the essence of a story, the deep impulses that drive us to act as we do...she’s a writer of exceptional talent—one of the few who endeavor to compose personal stories as literary works...she finds the unusual within the commonplace, the surprising within the predictable. ~ Judy Blunt, author of Breaking Clean

Naomi Kimbell chooses her words like a poet. She reads Richard Hugo and Robert Wrigley, and Homer. Like these authors, Naomi is a careful, descriptive, and smart writer. Because Naomi is a true scholar, she knows things ... She has an ear for beauty, and BS—like no one else I’ve ever met. ~ Karin Schalm, author of Poems of Peace in these Warring Times

Naomi Kimbell knows the boundaries of nonfiction, and lucky for us she knows the perfect ways to challenge them. Whether she’s writing about family dynamics or mental illness, Naomi does more than tell a story—she engages the reader in all of her essays as form and content interact. With a fresh and invigorating writing style, her words bring you into each essay and, believe me, once inside you’ll never want to leave. ~ Chelsey Clammer, author of BodyHome and Circadian


WEEK 1: Clinically speaking: there’s a time and place for anatomical terms, but not in a sex scene

In my opinion, there are no uglier words in English than anatomical terms for the human body, so why put them in a sex scene? This week, we’ll treat ourselves to the worst medically-described sex scenes literature has to offer and do a little experimentation with language to shift those scenes from the biological sciences into the humanities. Students will post their creations in our discussion forum for a little bit of giggling and a lot of discussion. Additionally, I’ll post a writing prompt that will help you write your own original (and good) scenes.

WEEK 2: When words fail: the comic consequences of ridiculous metaphors

A turgid member? Glossy orbs? The reader shouldn’t wince when the characters have sex, and the fastest and funniest way to ruin a sex scene is to come up with silly and meaningless metaphors. Not only do these make for bad writing (generally), they make for bad sex-on-the-page too. This week, we’ll read some pretty silly passages and experiment with improving the metaphors to see if we can transform them from absurd to sensual. Students will post their experiments in the discussion forum to see how their metaphors worked. I’ll post another writing prompt that will encourage you to think outside the usual and cliché.

WEEK 3: That’s hot!: Sex scenes that work

Enough bad sex scenes! Let’s read some good ones and read them carefully. We want to know what makes a good sex scene tick, why we like it, why it works. Why is it more arousing to read a well-written scene when the biological mechanics are the same as the poorly written ones? What do these good sex scenes do that the bad ones don’t? This week, you’ll have the opportunity to post some original writing, rather than scene revisions, and receive thoughtful feedback from your blushing, giggling classmates.

WEEK 4: We’re all human: Empathy and sensuality between partners in literature and getting beyond male/female

Strictly gendered sex often fails to capture the experience beyond its most basic and banal aspects, and usually fails to capture the experience as shared. For example, when a male writer writes sex from only his male (often clichédmale) perspective, we get a scene that is not pleasurable to read for any other demographic. These limited and limiting scenes are not elevating. We do not learn from them. And isn’t that why we read? To expand our minds and our hearts? Sex scenes have the potential to reach the heights (ha ha) of empathy and humanity in deeper (ha ha) ways than other types of scenes because sex makes people vulnerable to one another. This week, we’ll work with sex as a human expression and see what we can learn when we tone down the binary. Students will again be able to post some original writing that goes beyond female and male, instead focusing on person and person.

Materials needed: All materials provided.

How the class will be conducted: Students will be given access to password protected web pages on which class materials and discussions will be posted. The class is asynchronous so you can access the class at any time according to your schedule. There are no real-time discussions. Students will need access to a computer with an internet connection and will have access to the class group two days before class begins and for one week after the class concludes.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Naomi Kimbell earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana, and her work has appeared in The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Crazyhorse, Black Warrior Review, Calyx, The Sonder Review, and other literary journals and anthologies.

When she’s not writing, she teaches online creative writing classes for WOW! Women on Writing and sometimes wanders in the woods, across hillsides, through ghost towns, taking photographs and shooting video to create impressionistic films with ambient scores using her essays, invented landscapes, and found sounds.

COST:  $150, which includes weekly assignments, individual feedback from the instructor, and access to a private group for student interactions. In addition, you may submit an excerpt of writing of up to 1000 words to the instructor that includes a sex scene for detailed feedback and revision suggestions.

BUY NOW: Sex Sells, Write it Well with Naomi Kimbell (4 weeks, starting 4/6/2020) Limit: 12 students. Early registration is recommended.

This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.

For Class Session Starting 4/6/2020


Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. Just before class begins, she will e-mail you with instructions on how to get started.

Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:

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