The University of Iowa

Sands Hall

Sands Hall is the author of the memoir Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Northern California Book Awards and a Publishers Weekly Best Book in Religion and Spirituality. Other works include a novel, Catching Heaven (Ballantine), a Random House Reader’s Circle selection; and a book of essays and exercises, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. Her stories and essays have appeared in such places as Iowa Review, New England Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she holds a second M.F.A. in Theatre Arts and has an extensive resume as actor, director, and playwright. She is also a singer/songwriter and performs widely. This is the twenty-eighth summer Sands has taught for the Festival. Please visit

Instructor Events

Whether we’re telling our own story, someone else’s story, or one we’re inventing, that story—whatever the genre, whatever its length— needs to unfold scene by scene. Yet it’s a rare story that’s told only through scene—summary is both an effective and a deft way to move our narrative along. It’s vital to understand the differences between these two essentials as we forge character and develop action. During our weekend together, we’ll explore what goes into building a scene, how that differs from summary, and when we use one or the other.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Sands Hall

The genres of fiction and memoir (including creative nonfiction) share a number of attributes, and the techniques and insights provided by one genre can be enormously helpful while working in another; exploring these advanced tools of craft will be the purpose and focus of this class. We’ll examine the idea of plot—a memoir, in addition to fiction, must have one, and you may be surprised to find out how much this has to do with structure, something we’ll also discuss.