The University of Iowa

Workshops

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
June Melby

You’ve finally carved out some time in your life to write. You have a bunch of great ideas, maybe even a new desk. But when you sit down to write, your muse refuses to speak. Or the muse gets you started, and then disappears completely, leaving you high and dry. Should you give up? Move on to a different project? Are you just not talented? Is there a secret successful authors know about to keep their muses on the job?

 

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jennifer Fawcett

Words and actions, these are the fundamental building blocks of plays. Subtext, motivation, desire, emotion, humor, suspense… how do you communicate these if you don’t have those long descriptive paragraphs where a character remembers her childhood or anticipates the end of his relationship? (Sure, you can put in lots of stage directions but no one reads those.) Hint: you communicate all of this and more through what your characters SAY and what they DO. The rest, as Hamlet says, is silence. And that’s essential too.

 

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kelly Dwyer

You are going happily along in your novel. You are quite pleased with the characters; they seem complex to you, interesting, like real, fleshy humans—more or less. The writing, if you do say so yourself, is good, heck, at times, you might even say brilliant (though of course you would never say this). But suddenly you are worried that it might be … well, of course it couldn’t be… boring—could it? There is a conflict. But is it weighty enough? Is the plot interesting enough? Is the structure—what’s the word—sturdy enough?

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
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.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

Agency is the word for a character’s central role in pushing a story forward. Often a first draft traps us in a story with characters who are passive, or who just can’t figure out what to do next. But responsibility for one’s own fate builds character sympathy. How do you develop your protagonist’s agency, especially if your character is in trouble? You build character struggle that comes from obstacles between what is desired and what seems possible. You upset the equilibrium and put good things at risk. Does every novel have to be about a hero? Absolutely not.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Timothy Bascom

According to art critic Herbert Read, “True art persists as an object of contemplation.” One of the reasons it has this capacity to hold our attention—like the note of a tuning fork after it has been struck—is that it has been created out of contemplation. The contemplative essay, also called the reflective essay, is characterized by an intense and concentrated focus. The author tends to circle a subject, spiraling away and dropping back to describe it from all angles and to plumb it for further meaning.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Michael Morse

The elegy offers one of poetry’s most appealing consolations: it can transform loss—and even the threat of loss—into an artful presence. Our sessions will explore how reading and elegiac writing can help us reflect on the lives we've led (and will lead) as we navigate absence. Expect a moving and invigorating workshop—one that isn’t afraid to laugh, either—as we read a wide range of classic and contemporary elegies as models and write poems that help capture and hold the world and its full range of joys and sorrows.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kathleen Rooney

Although it is often overlooked or taken for granted, point of view is perhaps the single most important technique that an author can master in order to excel in writing of any kind. This workshop will explore the various techniques of perspective and the creation of a narrative voice, as well as the influence that these decisions have on all literary forms, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Carol Spindel

In this workshop, we will start together from that infamous, exhilarating, and intimidating Blank Page. Working step by step, we will execute a series of assignments to create the building blocks of a personal essay. Then we will examine how those blocks can be snapped together in various arrangements to improve focus and unity, while enhancing connections and magnifying insights. Mid-week we will take a break to read, discuss and learn from model essays. Then we will ask ourselves how we could enrich our own narratives. How could they branch out?

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Michael Morse

In this workshop, we’ll take a patient, close look at two revered American poets from the 20th and 21st centuries, spending a full day on each of these marvelous lyricists. By bringing our collective vision and presence to styles and subject matter present in a handful of poems, we’ll translate our close reading and appreciation into six fresh poems that both borrow from our reading and bear our own singular stamp.

 

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Beau O’Reilly

In this workshop, we will begin by reading your play aloud. Using theater/performance techniques, we will put sections of your play on its feet as a way of discovering its flaws and strengths. We will work on editing, rewriting, and reimagining your play into a finished draft form. The instructor will bring his 30+ years of experience on stage and in radio to making your text sparkle and move.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Christine Hemp

One of the challenges for the essayist and memoirist is translating real-life people onto the page, not the least of which is you: the main character. Even if you have a great story, readers need to trust the one telling it. Remember: you are both the writer and the narrator. In this generative weekend, you will learn how to propel your characters into moving, speaking, and creating tension in your story. You will also discover how your narrative voice can acquire a greater authority by revealing your own doubts, foibles, and epiphanies. Expect to write in and outside of class.

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jonathan Blum

How does one create a character? And more to the point, how does one create a character who is so interesting that a reader will want to spend an entire story or novel with them? In this course, which welcomes fiction writers of all levels, we will examine how to create complex and compelling characters. We will spend part of our time discussing how to build characters in the first place—how, from the get-go, to make them as credible and distinct as we can.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Paula Morris

Creative nonfiction offers a range of possibilities, from memoir and personal essays to travel or nature writing. How do you make true stories sing on the page? How do you avoid writing in an anecdotal or dry way? How do you use the tools of fiction—writing in scene, creating three-dimensional characters, building a shapely narrative—without distorting what’s real?

 

This class is for a range of backgrounds, whether you’re writing a memoir or trying your hand at this genre for the first time.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Tricia Park

In this generative workshop, we will explore the possibilities of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays and hybrid practices. We will read selected texts and generate new work through many writing exercises, as well as offer sharing of work and constructive feedback. The texts in this class are focused on the Asian American experience, with the understanding that the category of “Asian American” is an imprecise container, attempting to hold groups with vastly different languages, cultures, and histories.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Vince Gotera

Speculative literature—science fiction, fantasy, horror—explores our world and our lives through asking “What if?” This all-consuming question is a mainstay in contemporary popular culture. One notable example is the zombie craze: the blockbuster TV series The Walking Dead will soon finish its tenth season.

 

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

You have a story you are burning to tell. You're carrying it around in you but you haven't even started. OR: You're writing but you aren't sure you can make it to the end. It's prime time to learn key concepts, such as the difference between plot, chronology, and structure. What it means for a character to have agency. How to write a scene sequence. It's okay to have "holes" you haven't filled. You can roam the narrative to test the strength of events and the logic of the steps you take in telling them. You will build chronologies of foreground ("now") and background (history).

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Mary Allen

As anyone who has engaged with writing in any serious way knows, writing itself is essentially a spiritual endeavor. In order to write well it’s necessary to tap into the flow of spiritual energy inside each of us, whether we call that energy creativity or inspiration or something else. In this class, we’ll generate new work in an energizing, strictly positive environment, using prompts and in-class writing to explore the places in our lives where the moments and details intersect with meaning.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Lon Otto

Characterization—creating believable and interesting people on the page—is an absolutely essential part of successful fiction writing, and it is equally important in narrative nonfiction forms such as memoir and literary journalism. It is also one of the most complex elements of craft, with many different means of achieving it and quite a few ways in which it can fall short.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Mieke Eerkens

Shopping list as essay. Death certificate as personal narrative. Map as manifesto. Where once writers of nonfiction were expected to adhere firmly to traditional presentation of their material and avoid overly creative manipulation of form, contemporary writers increasingly challenge these rigid notions, insisting that the thoughtful exploration of a subject can be enhanced by a complementary form to add additional layers of meaning. Today’s prose might therefore borrow the formats of poetry or drama in order to most effectively make its point.

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Leslie Schwartz

Nathanial Hawthorne said, “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” This engaging and fast-paced workshop will ease that pain and simplify the elements of craft that go into writing fiction. Short story writers and novelists are both welcome at any stage of writing. All genres welcome, too. The class will provide you with how-to instructions on the basic principles of craft that are necessary for writing “readable” fiction with as little pain as possible. Students will benefit from lively and engaging in-class writing assignments designed to hone skills, and discussion on craft.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Paula Morris

This class is for novelists, whatever the genre—realist, comedic, fantasy, historical, crime, or speculative—who have a substantial draft of a book and the desire to make it better.

 

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Anthony Varallo

When we first begin to write fiction, selecting point-of-view feels about as casual as choosing which pair of socks to wear: blue or darker blue? Maybe brown? As we develop our writing, though, point-of-view gradually begins to reveal itself for what it truly is: the most important element of fiction, period. Everything orbits around point-of-view: detail, imagery, conflict, characterization, dialogue and plot.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Diana Goetsch

A two-day immersion in the act of generating poetry, in the presence of a veteran, award-winning poet known for generously sharing her practice. We’ll look at the many ways poems can arrive, and how we can cultivate our receptivity to them. We will learn ways to broaden our range—in terms of voice, style, and subject—and ways to approach elusive or overwhelming material.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Malinda McCollum

Writing can be a solitary and frustrating endeavor. It’s one reason many writers enroll in MFA creative writing programs: to be part of a vibrant literary scene. Of course, not everyone can drop everything to pursue a multi-year MFA. With that in mind, this workshop is designed to give you a concentrated version of the close reading and community you might find in a creative writing graduate program.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kelly Dwyer

Flash fiction is fiction that tells a story in a flash—anywhere from six words (“For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.”—attributed to Hemingway) to a thousand words. In this workshop, we will discuss what flash fiction is and what makes it so interesting; we’ll study and discuss some examples; and of course, we’ll complete exercises and assignments, writing some flash of our own that will surprise even its authors!

 

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Mieke Eerkens

It should come as no surprise that in the fast-paced, Twitter-dominated society we live in today, very short, self-contained essays and stories are quite popular. Generally under 1000 words and often under 500, "flash" essays and stories can provide a welcome break from longer projects while keeping our writing muscles active. In addition, producing material appropriate for publication in a relatively short time can foster a sense of tangible accomplishment.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Timothy Bascom

When we write memoirs or personal essays, we inevitably find ourselves depicting those who have had the most influence in our lives— our family members. To understand the self, we must understand them. Take a look at a shelf of memoirs, and you will see just how vital those relationships are—in Vivian Gornick’s Fierce Attachments or Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home or Geoffrey Wolff’s Duke of Deception or Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sarah Saffian

Crucial rule of thumb for memoirists: Profound and meaningful to you doesn’t automatically mean profound and meaningful to others—it’s not the whole lump of clay of your experience but the sculpture that you create with it that is potentially compelling.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Venise Berry

I believe good writing is not a talent that you must be born with, but an ability that you can cultivate. Layering is an effective tool that can help you improve your writing. During the weekend, participants will create new writing and/or enhance current writing through several layering exercises. The goal is to develop various skills involving the power of words, the intensity of language, and the relevance of imagery. In this workshop, layering will enable you to explore structural elements like clarity and depth which are crucial to good writing.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Linda Bendorf

Overwhelmed at the thought of beginning your memoir? Wondering how to make it meaningful yet manageable? Whether your memoir is just a fleeting idea, one page of notes, or an actual rough draft, join us for an engaging, interactive weekend dedicated to answering your questions, clearing hurdles, and offering inspiration and direction. This fast-paced workshop incorporates presentation, Q&A, discussion, exemplary memoir excerpts and selected writing prompts. Open to all levels.

 

Two-Weeklong July 12 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Hope Edelman

Admission to this workshop is by application only. Enrollment is limited to ten. To apply, submit twenty pages or one full chapter of your manuscript, a synopsis of five pages or fewer, and a brief statement saying what you hope to achieve in the workshop. The deadline to apply is April 7. See "Registration Information" for further details specific to the Two-Week Intensive Workshops.

 

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
James McKean

This workshop is based on the premise that the whole story is made up of parts, that writing memoir starts with a compilation of many pieces—episodes or anecdotes or vignettes or moments held in memory. Designed for those who are in the process of connecting these moments, this workshop will look at ways to “fashion a text” as Annie Dillard says, from “fragmentary patches of color and feeling.” The workshop is especially well-suited for those trying to write about family with its many competing voices.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Venise Berry

How do you create a strong and exciting plot in your novel? How do you connect the plot with various subplots? How do you place plot points effectively throughout your story? This class will help you to develop or strengthen your novel’s main plot. It will also help you to better understand the use of subplots and the purpose of plot points. To write a great novel it is crucial to recognize how the plot, subplots and plot points create the main sequence of events and figure out the best way to use them to move your story from beginning to end.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Diana Goetsch

Memoir writing confronts us with two sources of overwhelm: 1) the complexity of life; 2) the complexity of writing. These complexities are like whirlpools we can’t afford not to enter, lest we wind up with breezy prose. At the same time, we can’t afford to drown in them, lest we offload our problems and traumas onto the reader. The antidote to overwhelm is narrowing—in scope, in scale, but most of all, in finding points of entry. It is a principle as old as Proust’s “madeleine moment,” that portal through which the French writer entered a five-volume masterpiece.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kelly Dwyer

National Novel Writing Month, move over. June is the new November. While we may not actually write an entire novel in a week, we will create a skeleton of a novel that we can take home to develop and finish. During our week together, we will share plot outlines, write or revise first chapters, write and share climactic scenes, and come up with possible endings.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Wayne Johnson

You've been working on this story for... how long? Months? Years? It's supposed to look like a novel, but now that you've got it in front of you, it looks more like a six-legged cow or a bus with wings. You've begun to wonder what, exactly, a "novel" is. You might be writing a cycle-of-stories-as-novel, or a faux memoir, or a "modular" novel with some unifying structural element. In this class, we'll look at ways of structuring novel-length narratives to create a variety of fully-engaging, satisfying works.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sarah Anne Strickley

As any writing instructor worth her salt will tell you, the key to developing as a writer is devoting your time and energy to the craft. But, as any busy budding writer might attest, that time can often be difficult to come by in the hustle and bustle of modern life. In this weeklong workshop, writers will learn strategies for cultivating a healthy writing practice.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sarah Sadie
Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Writers hear all the time that it’s important to be specific in our stories, that we should write what we know, and find our own voice…but the nitty-gritty of how to do those things can be elusive. In this workshop, we will spend our week focusing on the words we choose. We’ll take time to look at verbs, at how to put words to sensory experience, and how to write into our specific meaning, as well as when, why, and how to use rhythm and repetition. We’ll explore the ways we can become better, more precise, users of language in our picture books.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Sarah Sadie

Writers hear all the time that it’s important to be specific in our stories, that we should write what we know, and find our own voice…but the nitty-gritty of how to do those things can be elusive. In this workshop, we will spend our week focusing on the words we choose. We’ll take time to look at verbs, at how to put words to sensory experience, and how to write into our specific meaning, as well as when, why, and how to use rhythm and repetition. We’ll explore the ways we can become better, more precise, users of language in our picture books.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Susan Aizenberg

“Voice”—what poet Tony Hoagland has called “the distinctive presentation of an individual speaker”—can be among the more difficult elements of poetic craft to define or teach, but it’s also one of the most important. A compelling poetic voice engages and connects us to the reader, and developing our voices into what poets Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux have called “a more flexible instrument” can be an exciting key to generating poems in which we make discoveries that surprise both us and our readers.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Hugh Ferrer

Like movie music, good storytelling flows through many emotions. At times it can seem as if these changing emotions actually are the story.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kate Aspengren

This workshop is for playwrights who have completed (at least) the first draft of a play. We'll read excerpts aloud from each play and give thoughtful, specific feedback to the playwright. The goal is to hear what you've written and to utilize that for future revision. As time permits, there will also be overnight and in-class writing to help illuminate work-in-progress and/or to generate new writing.

In this workshop, we will critique writing you bring from home.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Elizabeth Robinson

This class is a workshop in the truest sense: each day we will write, revise, and share our work. Students will be encouraged to try out a wide array of experiments.

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Zach Savich

How can poetry uniquely explore and express significant insights? What poetic techniques allow us to discover new perspectives? Is it true that poems are smarter than their authors? This workshop will consider poetic approaches for embodying and enlivening knowledge; we’ll also consider the ways in which profundity relates to doubt, ephemerality, surprise, play, and life’s ongoing nature.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kali White VanBaale

T.S. Eliot once said, “Every moment is a fresh beginning.” In storytelling, this couldn’t be more true as we face new moments and fresh beginnings over and over whenever we start a new story, a new chapter, or even a new scene. And fresh beginnings mean questions. This class will focus on point of entry in all its forms—prologues, frame narrators, new chapters, new scenes, and false starts, as well as point of entry considerations like handling backstory, transitions, point of view, pacing, and pitfalls.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Suzanne Scanlon

Maybe you have a lot of work that’s almost, but not quite, done. Maybe you think you’re done but you don’t know what to do with it. This workshop will help you get that story or essay ready to send out. You will bring in writing that’s close (but not yet!) done, and by the end of our weekend, you’ll have it polished and prepped for submission. We’ll also spend some time looking at a range of options for publication geared to your writing style and genre.

 

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Beau O’Reilly

A writer’s creative output is not strictly limited to novels, poems, plays, stories, and other traditional literary forms, but may also include texts historically viewed as private documents: diaries, letters, personal reflections. In this class, we will consider these latter forms as literature unto themselves, along with interviews and public performances of the creative self, small-scale and large. We will focus on interviews and conversations by authors including David Sedaris, Lorraine Hansberry, and Patti Smith.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Mieke Eerkens

This weekend course promises to stock you with enough fresh material for 10 essays, stories, or even a book to flesh out over the months following the class. In an invigorating, supportive, no-pressure environment, we’ll use tested and effective writing prompts to get some beginnings down on paper for further development when you go home. We’ll have some time to discuss and share our work at the end of class each day and get some feedback on how to proceed with the work we’ve generated, as well as get a list of prompts to generate new material at home. 10 prompts. 2 days.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kali White VanBaale

You’ve typed “The End” on the first draft of a novel or memoir in all its messy glory, and now the daunting task of whipping hundreds of pages into fighting shape sits before you. Where to start? Which problem to tackle first, and how? This class is for writers with a working draft of a book-length project (fiction or nonfiction, this course is designed for both) at any stage. The goal of our week is to develop some revision organization and understanding of effective revision strategies through various methods and writing exercises.

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 July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jonathan Blum

When was the last time you read a story you couldn’t put down? We all want to write such stories, but how do we do it? In this class we will workshop short stories of up to 18 pages, with the goal of helping each writer identify and build on the strengths of his/her story. In so doing, we will discuss what makes a story irresistible. Among the questions we will consider: In what ways does this story engage and move us? Does the story have a recognizable structure that serves the writer’s artistic aims? Do the events that make up the plot connect to create meaning?

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Andrew Porter

From time to time, we all need a fresh set of eyes to look at our work. In this workshop, our main goal will be to look closely at the short stories each of you have written and to offer detailed, constructive suggestions that will help you enhance your story’s strengths and diminish its weaknesses. We’ll address such issues as character development, pacing, point of view, structure, dialogue, language and setting. We’ll also talk in a more general way about the underlying themes in your story, the deeper conflicts and subtext, and ultimately what your story is really about.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Margaret LeMay

Are you interested in spending two days having a great time with form and the foundations of poetry? In this generative workshop, we will focus on five poetic forms: the epistolary poem, the erasure poem, the sonnet, the villanelle, and free verse. Any writer who would like to spend some low-key, energetic time with poetry is welcome to join us, from those who are new to it or perhaps generally write in other genres to seasoned poets. The forms we will experience together allow for a close examination of language, and they are also incredibly fun to write and discuss!

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Carol Spindel

In this workshop, we will look at ways nonfiction writers can make their factual writing livelier and more compelling by writing in scenes. In a world where everyone is a photographer and videographer, storytelling styles have evolved to become more visual, and that evolution has influenced nonfiction. Even when reading for information, readers expect the narrative to unfold in dramatic scenes rather than through summary, description, and exposition.

 

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Linda Bendorf

Experience the thrill of creative effort! Do you long to jumpstart—or bolster—your writing practice in a way that stokes the writing muse? Need submission guidance? This workshop checks those boxes. The Sun, a highly regarded “always authentic, always personal, always relevant” magazine, invites readers to submit sincere nonfiction pieces each month to their “Readers Write” section comprised of true stories. Plan to write, and be prepared to submit, three compelling pieces—one for each of The Sun’s upcoming topics.

 

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Michael Morse

This generative class for beginning and experienced poets will start with classical lyric modes—the aubade, the pastoral, the ekphrastic, the ode, the elegy—and work its way towards more tempestuous creations built out of collage and assemblage and erasure. We’ll find inspiration from the University’s art and natural history collections and found objects that we gather and collect during the week. As we build poems in a variety of ways, we’ll discuss a variety of styles that range from coherent, linear narratives to more broken and elliptical expression.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Nancy K. Barry

Do you have a nonfiction manuscript that you know needs revision but you’re not certain exactly how to go about it? This workshop allows you to learn and practice a time-honored strategy used by writers, whereby we “annotate” and remark on the draft as if it were written by someone else. This skill takes practice, but it yields a powerful tonic when we think there is no way out of a manuscript that is giving us fits. This workshop is intended to help any writer who is stuck on what, how, and when to revise a memoir, essay, or creative nonfiction piece.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kevin Smith

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant,” Emily Dickinson wrote. In this workshop, we will take inspiration from Dickinson’s poem and tell it queer, reading examples by writers who illuminate queer experience of all kinds, and writing queer stories of our own. No longer in the shadows or margins, when we enter a safe space of telling it queer, we release our creativity to bend language into a personal and collective instrument of witness and truth—“The Truth’s superb surprise,” as Dickinson says.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Wayne Johnson

All of us encounter dramas in life that seem tailor-made for narrative. But when sitting down to pen such seeming “ready-mades,” we often find that they don’t come to life, drag, or simply seem to lose their once-brilliant shine when committed to paper. So, we ask, how do writers such as Bill Bryson, Jon Krakauer, and Sebastian Junger write such engaging narratives? Or Mary Karr, Jeannette Walls, and Tobias Wolff? This class will examine a variety of non-fiction forms, from the memoir to the specific-subject yarn drawn from a decades-old once-hot news item.

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Suzanne Scanlon

Borges wrote, “The past isn’t a dead, fixed place but one which we’re constantly looking back to, discovering things, seeing things anew.” Often it is in the reconstruction of our lives that we are able to collapse time, interrogate the fiction of memory, and come to terms with the chaos and confusion of the past. In this workshop, we will write a series of short personal pieces using a range of approaches in style, structure and point of view.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Juliet Patterson

“It sounds like a simple thing to say what you see,” Mark Doty has written. “But try to find the words for the shades of a mottled sassafras leaf or the reflectivity of a bay on an August morning.” In this workshop, we’ll take refuge in the sensory experience found in some contemporary writing, as a way of thinking about a number of questions: How does description contain or convey meaning? What do we do when we describe something? Reproduce, account for, portray, trace, parcel out? How does one take the measure of the external world, and what can it mean for our writing?

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Michael Martone

In the traditional creative writing workshop, individual stories and essays are critiqued one at a time. This means in a weeklong session such as ours the writer will be thinking of herself or himself as a writer for one period of, say, 45-60 minutes and the rest of the time will be attending the workshop as a critic of others’ work. In the cross-section workshop, we will look at all our pieces at the same time. We will take “cuts” through each work, beginning with our titles and the theory behind titling. Then we’ll move on to first lines, first paragraphs, first pages, etc.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Diana Goetsch

Most of us write a first draft the same way every time no matter the subject. We fall into habitual patterns that either become unconscious, or get mistaken for our “voice.” It is a lot like social dancing: there are countless ways to move in space, yet we wind up doing the same tired frat boy two-step to every song. The Free-Writing Intensive is a weeklong training session in a skill that is vital, yet rarely taught or practiced: the act of filling a page.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jennifer Colville

“Woman must put herself into the text—as into the world and into history—by her own movement.”

Hélène Cixous

 

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sharon Oard Warner

Why write a novella? And why write one before embarking on a novel? Because the novella is the intermediate step: more expansive than a short story but trimmer than a novel. Later, we’ll sort out the specifics. For now, let’s say the novella is an extended work of fiction: long enough for the reader to get lost in but short enough to be consumed in a single sitting. It doesn’t take up much space. Stow it in your purse or slip it in your back pocket. Read it as you wait in line for coffee.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Carol Spindel

We all lead multiple lives, so no wonder it’s difficult to write a single memoir. And when our own lives are the subject, we have far too many subsidiary characters and subplots and know way too many details about all of them. This makes wrestling our memories into coherent literary form a bit like trying to organize an overstuffed closet, except in literature we don’t have plastic tubs or garage sales.

 

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Max Garland

"If we spend our lives remembering what we love/ to be sure who we are..." begins a Richard Hugo poem. The poet goes on, partly recalling and partly fabricating a remembrance of place and time. Of course, we don’t only remember “what we love,” but also what we lose, lack, long for, and even loath. But this combination of recovery and creativity, the shaping, re-shaping, recalling and revising that constitutes memory is, perhaps not coincidentally, very much the process of poetry.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Cecile Goding

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor. My hate is like ripe fruit. The art of losing isn’t hard to master. If you’re like me, you return again and again to those passages from poetry and prose you can’t forget. Like me, you might be wondering, “What exactly makes those words so memorable, and how can my own writing be more like that?”

 

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Debra Jo Immergut

Every novel should be, in some sense, a thriller—but there’s no doubt that readers and publishers endlessly crave stories that have luscious dark centers oozing with crime and intrigue. In this workshop, we’ll consider novels of suspense by authors as varied as Otessa Mossfegh, Gillian Flynn, Walter Moseley, Ian McEwan, Toni Morrison, and John LeCarre. By reading excerpts and dissecting structure and style, we’ll identify the essential components of suspense and gain a deep understanding of how to build a mystery.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Cecile Goding

How much of a life can be squeezed into a paragraph? This will be the challenge during our weekend retreat, as we tackle this most common unit of composition. Reading and appreciating these small blocks of type, none of them common, will be our first task. Our focus will be on those sparked by a memory. We will read from After the Fact, by poets Marvin Bell and Chris Merrill.  We will read from Margaret Renkl's Late Migrations.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Thomas K. Dean

When writers (especially sighted writers) describe something, they usually depend largely, if not exclusively, on the visual. Of course, humans have four other senses that are just as—and often more—powerful as sight to depict and evoke. This generative workshop will focus on the four non-visual senses—hearing, smell, touch, and taste—and how we can use them to enrich the pallet of our description and to create more evocative writing no matter the genre. Students of all levels are welcome in this workshop.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Tricia Park

For many of us, the hardest part is not getting to the writing desk but knowing what to do once we’re there. How do we develop a writing practice? How do we face the void of uncertainty that faces us as we stare into the blank page? Often, you may think that a writing practice requires tremendous blocks of time which—let’s face it—most of us can’t often find in the busyness of daily life. However, what if we can still move forward, monitoring consistency rather than volume to track our progress. What if “tiny wins” on a regular basis is what gets us to the top of the mountain?

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jude Nutter

The line break is the poet’s most powerful, and problematic, tool: powerful because it does so much work; problematic because its function and structure change from poem to poem and it often seems arbitrary. In reality, poets are constantly assessing and reassessing their line breaks and end words as they work. This workshop is a combination of discussion, generating new work, and sharing of your own poems; it will deepen your understanding and mastery of the poetic line.

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Elizabeth Robinson

This workshop will focus on the use of hybrid forms as a particularly flexible and expressive means of building tone, meaning, and tension in writing. We will try out prompts and share work and ideas in order to stretch the boundaries of what writing can be. What happens when the author breaks up a story with a poem or a lyric meditation? How does a piece of writing benefit by stepping away from a traditional narrative climax to leave the reader in a place of suspense or irresolution? Would the use of documentary or research materials sharpen the effect of the work?

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Eric Goodman

Transforming life into writing is an individual process, as individual as the writing we each struggle to produce. For many writers, blurring the facts until they’re not sure what is true and what is made up is an essential part of the process. But what if the life you’re trying to transform isn’t your own? And how do you transform the life materials you’ve started with and make them feel fresh and vibrant on the page, rather than just retell something that’s already happened, with the danger that it will just lie there, still and lifeless?

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Mary Allen

Our travels through life are unavoidably interesting. Whatever happens to us—a hike through the desert, a night stuck in the airport, a trip to Hawaii, a stay in the hospital—anywhere we go and anything we do there—becomes a captivating adventure if we pay close attention and turn it into a story. And turning whatever happens in our travels into something we can write about makes us pay attention to whatever’s there, while something is happening or after the fact, and that makes everything more interesting and enjoyable; even the hard stuff becomes easier.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Debra Jo Immergut

When reading fiction, locating the boundary between the writer’s imagination and the writer’s reality is an endlessly fascinating and mysterious process. In this generative workshop, we’ll examine how writers can most effectively play with that boundary by fictionalizing their own experiences. We’ll explore how to dig deep into essential truths without suffering from overexposure, and how to mine our lives for the raw elements of powerful work.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jude Nutter

“…[T]he story of our life/becomes our life” claims Lisel Mueller in her marvelous poem “Why We Tell Stories.” But how does one create a compelling, credible and multi-layered story in a poem without becoming prosaic; a poem that develops a web of connections, delivers a lyric frisson, and reveals a larger message or insight? And why do we want and need stories in the first place: what role and significance do stories have in our personal and social lives? Does a person, as Barry Lopez claims, sometimes need stories more than food in order to stay alive?

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sandra Scofield

You have an idea. Maybe you have pages. You also have doubts (don't we all?). This is an opportunity to share and test your amniotic story in a safe, generous, and productive community setting. The premise—your core idea—is the bedrock of the novel. Why is this story the one you are compelled to write? Where did it come from? What are the basic elements of plot and character that you know so far? Shake it up and see what else is there.

           

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Thomas Fox Averill

Plots in stories and novels take many twists and turns, as do the plots of our lives. Our weekend will include discussion of plot strategies, the various kinds of plots, the uses of subplots, and how our plots create meaning. The plot of the weekend: scene one, discussion; scene two, writing a series of exercises designed to help understand plot in its many forms; scene three, sharing writing; and scene four, problem solving and insightful conclusions. This generative class is open to fiction and would-be fiction writers at all levels.

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Nancy K. Barry

Most writers and readers will tell you that to have an engaging style, we need to capture the sound of a “real person speaking,” but it is equally true that good prose is not merely writing down what people say. How do we navigate getting the sound and resonance of our “style” down on the page, and how would we even begin to describe the sound we’re trying to achieve? This workshop provides an entry into defining and manipulating prose styles.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Hugh Ferrer

Not every story needs the cranked-up tension of Indiana Jones fleeing a boulder-sized bowling ball, and not every novel needs the nail-biting suspense of a murder mystery; but if a reader doesn’t care what’s happening scene to scene, or the plot doesn’t intrigue us on some level, the jig is up. In this weekend session, open to all levels, we’ll explore the basics of plotting and look for answers to perennial questions: How much information should we withhold? How off-balance do we want the reader to be and for how long? How high do the stakes have to be?

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Leslie Schwartz

What is theme? How do I structure a novel? Why can’t I discover and write exciting characters? What’s the difference between writing scene versus exposition, and how do I do it? If you have asked any of these questions of yourself while staring at the blank page, this is the right course for you. Geared toward beginning and intermediate fiction writers, this class will provide fun, engaging writing exercises, fascinating handouts, lively discussion and a safe and supportive critique workshop.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sharon Oard Warner

Creating a public display of emotion is one way of describing what it means to “make a scene.” While public spectacles tend to be spontaneous, creating scenes on paper usually requires considerable planning and forethought.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Vince Gotera

In his poem “A Course in Creative Writing,” William Stafford wrote that students of poetry “want a wilderness with a map.” In this beginning poetry workshop, we will begin to explore the wilderness of poetry writing with three basic elements: image, sound, and form. This class will provide a map for poets who are starting out, as well as those who have written a bit and would like to expand their skills. Before we meet, you will send me five poems—yes, even if they are your first poems ever—and during our week together you will write a poem or two.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Christine Hemp

This generative workshop is for any memoir writer (novice or advanced) eager to get a grip on who is telling your story. For example, you’re writing furiously about your mother; you’re proud of that scene where she kills and skins the rattlesnake in the kitchen sink. But that was before you found out she wasn’t your mother, before you knew what you know now. In other words, who exactly is the I recounting that long-ago event?

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Eric Goodman

This weekend workshop is designed for prose writers of all levels, scribblers of fiction or creative nonfiction who would like to learn how to be funny, or in many cases, funnier, on the page. Whether a writer’s intentions are ultimately serious or lighthearted, being able to make readers laugh is a sure way to attract and to hold their attention. If you can amuse readers, they’ll follow you straight to the cash register. Just ask Sedaris.

 

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Karen Subach

“I would like to watch you sleeping, which may not happen.”

“My heart has made its mind up, and I’m afraid it’s you…”

“I will come out to meet you, as far as Cho-fu-sa.”

“Real events don’t have endings. / Only the stories about them do.”

 

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jeremy B. Jones

This course will examine the rich tradition of nonfiction writing about place; however, it will immediately detour onto the road less traveled. We don’t all have stories of Paris or Kilimanjaro. Some of us care about Paducah or desolate prairies. What does a writer need to capture the tiny towns and empty spaces, the everyday Main Streets and failing factories to create engaging, layered essays that reach far-flung readers?

Weeklong July 19 to July 24 2020
Instructor(s): 
Zach Savich

In this multi-genre workshop we’ll consider writing that explores transformative experiences—and that transforms things further. Whether you’re writing nonfiction about significant life events or fiction about magical situations, poetry that offers lyrical transformations or dramatic scripts about characters undergoing major changes, this workshop will offer inspiration, technical insight, and attentive support. Participants will complete new writing activities, receive feedback about ongoing writing projects (if they wish), and discuss published works by diverse authors.

Weekend July 18 to July 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jennifer Fawcett

Sometimes the best way to develop your story is to write around the edges of it; to discover the world around the plot, the history of characters, the provenance of an object. In other words, sometimes you have to write a lot that won’t go directly on the page but will flavor everything else that does.

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Jim Heynen

In this workshop, we’ll confront the challenge of writing emotional scenes—or emotional moments—whether they are in fiction, nonfiction or poetry. How can we be sincere about our own or a character’s emotions without appearing sentimental or garish? We’ll confront some of these challenging questions, we’ll look at some successful models, and we’ll see if we can apply successful techniques while still being true to the emotions we hope to deliver to our readers. The goal will be to write some prize-winning emotionally charged moments in whatever form you choose.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Linda Bendorf

Our bodies carry the most intimate narratives of our lives. Surgery, elective or otherwise. Transitions. Pregnancy. Aging. Self-Image. Disability. Tattoos. Disease. Disfigurement. Accidents. Oddities, visible or concealed. Some stories are complex and searingly painful; others humorous or tender. We will draw on the invigorating process of writing, the organic flow of storytelling, and the power and energy of words.

Weeklong June 14 to June 19 2020
Instructor(s): 
Sabrina Orah Mark

‘“Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, ‘I—I hardly know, sir, just at present—at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.’”

 

—Lewis Carroll (from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

 

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Robin Hemley

In 1977, French novelist Serge Doubrovsky came up with the term “autofiction” to describe his novel, Fils. Exactly what autofiction is has been hotly debated, first in France and later in the U.S. and U.K. Autofiction is not simply another name for autobiographical fiction.

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kevin Smith

A green meadow bursting with fragrance, the electricity of a crowded sidewalk, a somber room weighed down by old furniture: when we craft a setting, we create a place that both reflects and shapes our characters’ lives. Setting is rooted in point of view, but how do we use the power of setting to write about the places most close to our hearts?

Weekend June 20 to June 21 2020
Instructor(s): 
Kelly Dwyer

No matter the genre in which you’re interested—literary, science fiction, paranormal, young adult, romance, etc.—you would probably think it ideal if your novel had many readers. If it attracted buzz. If it were, in other words, popular. In this weekend workshop, we’ll discuss the elements that make popular novels (across genres) so popular (according to bestseller lists and computer algorithms), and do exercises on various elements of the novel, such as character, plot, pacing, theme, style, etc., to increase the odds that your own novels will become widely read.

Weeklong June 21 to June 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Lon Otto

Just about every writer who travels thinks about using the experience of foreignness in a story or essay or poem, and plenty others feel compelled to at least blog about it. Travel provides us with intense, complex experiences, unfamiliar settings, interesting characters, and the heightened self-awareness that comes from dislocation.

Weeklong July 12 to July 17 2020
Instructor(s): 
Margaret LeMay

Whether we are healthcare providers, patients, parents, children, loved ones, or loving ones; elements of illness, loss, birth, and healing underlie our days at each age and stage. In this generative, week-long workshop, we will read and write in short forms with the unifying theme of illness and health. These forms will include short stories, lyric essays, memoir, poems, and creative works that incorporate elements of all of those.

Weekend July 25 to July 26 2020
Instructor(s): 
Carol Severino

How did you learn how to grow a garden, play the piano, knit a sweater, bat a ball, program a computer, solve an equation, diagram a sentence, or converse in Italian? Who taught, guided, mentored, or coached you? How would you describe your mentors’ personalities and teaching styles? To what extent did they encourage you? To what extent would some of them qualify as “difficult people”? What else did you learn from them besides what they were teaching? How would you describe the twists and turns of your learning “curves” in acquiring those skills and subject matters?

Perhaps the biggest anxiety that memoirists have is whether or not readers would be interested in the personal experiences they wish to share. It is true that there are plenty of memoirs out there about extreme events—dramatically tragic or uplifting personal experiences, stories of overcoming major obstacles, wild professional successes and/or failures, thrilling adventures, and so forth. But as I like to say, every memoir doesn’t need to be about wrestling polar bears in the Arctic.