Elevate your writing with figurative language (January)

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”–Anton Chekov

Is your writing lackluster and in need of pop and spark?  Do you need a refresher course in figurative language to help transform bland descriptions, enhance the emotional significance of passages, and turn prose into a form of poetry?  Writers use figurative language to heighten experience of their work in concrete ways. Figurative language gives body and shape to sometimes abstract ideas. The right metaphor, the apt simile, the exact personification and more can snap ideas into visual forms and have great impact, meaning, and feeling.  This lively workshop introduces ten different types of figurative language with memorable examples in music, poetry, and literature.

“Kathryn Aalto is a gift. Her mentoring is insightful, collaborative, and inspiring. Kathryn has helped shape my essay for submission and, most importantly, coached me to a deeper appreciation for my own intuition and skill as a writer.” – Kris, Ithaca, New York

Figurative language can transform ordinary descriptions into evocative events, enhance the emotional significance of passages, and turn prose into a form of poetry. It can also help the reader to understand the underlying symbolism of a scene or more fully recognize a literary theme. As an example, read or listen to Maya Angelou’s acclaimed 1978 poem “Still I Rise.” Notice how she appeals to figurative language to show confidence and self-respect that she and many oppressed and marginalized people feel. We can strive to employ the same techniques in prose to add emotional impact on readers. Notice how through simile and metaphor, she symbolizes how her rise beyond oppression is like the sun, tides, moon, and air, and expressing her confidence and self-respect.  When she compares herself to a black ocean, “leaping and wide,” she represents through personification and hyperbole fear and terror she has felt.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

We will enjoy music, poetry, and literature to look at how figurative language can enhance our own writing. These include great examples of metaphors, similes, personification, onomatopoeia, hyperbole, alliteration, and assonance.  A fun, lively, and interactive class, it provides many opportunities to try your hand at writing in figurative language to understand how to add depth and colour to your ideas. The workshop will provide a foundational understanding of figurative language to help you elevate your writing and leave rich and lasting impressions on readers.


  • Identify and practice a range of figurative language
  • Understand how figurative language works to render abstract ideas concrete
  • Practice writing different kinds of figurative language to visual prompts
  • Read great examples in literature of figurative language
  • Enjoy a supportive global writing community


  • £50
  • 3-5:30 PM GMT
  • Saturday 29 January 2022


My teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction and its techniques, tools, and approaches. At its core, I believe teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. I create a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth.


I am a passionate practitioner and teacher of narrative nonfiction.  For more than twenty-five years, I have taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University. I have a global mentoring practice, thriving online writing courses, and lead in-person retreats, courses, and workshops throughout the United States and Britain.