Workshop Descriptions

Writing for Sharks: The Young Adult Novel [no longer available]

Teens are discerning readers. They’re smart, with an overabundance of emotions. The best books give them the feels. They champion their favorites while ripping to shreds the ones that just didn’t do it for them. They can smell fear, preachiness, and inauthenticity from a mile away. This is why, when writing for teens, elements such as dialogue, voice, and plot are so important. With a dozen extracurriculars vying for their time, it is our job as writers to capture their attention. In this workshop, we will hone these elements, and each week, students will continue work on a YA novel of their own. We will also cover the nuts-and-bolts of the publishing process, such as drafting a query letter and acquiring an agent. By the final class, students will have a completed outline and first chapter (at least), as well as a polished query letter.

Instructor: Jordana Frankel


Making Poems

The main goal of this workshop is to generate new poems. Writing exercises (of the formal variety) will be provided, and students will be expected to share and discuss their writing with a group of peers. Students will also have ample opportunity to discuss their work and questions of craft with the instructor. While we will primarily concentrate on our own writing—on being great poets—we will also attempt to be great audiences too; each week we will read several poems by modern and contemporary American poets, consider how those poets approach the craft, and use their work as a model for making our own poems.

Instructor: Will Schutt


Telling Truths, Telling Lives

The past is radiant,” writes essayist Patricia Hampl. “It has the light of lived life…there may be no more pressing intellectual need in our culture than for people to become sophisticated about the function of memory.” This workshop will focus on “recreating the past” via a variety of forms of creative nonfiction. Students will read published work by Jo Ann Beard, Lauren Slater, Charles Bowden, Anne Carson, and many others in our explorations of form. Whether we are writing lyric essays, memoir, or literary journalism, we will work toward exploring our stories, developing drafts, revising drafts, and discussion of drafts in a supportive online community. Students will keep a journal of observations, compose three longer pieces and read from The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Nonfiction.  

Required reading materials:
The Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Nonfiction, edited by Lex Williford and Michael Martone.
Selected readings, online or via attachments

Instructor:  Karen Salyer McElmurray


Forays in Storytelling: Elements of Short Fiction

From early cave paintings to the Ancient Greeks to Dickens to Twitter, storytelling has been essential to human experience. But what makes a good story? Forays in Storytelling will be part reading, part writing, and all investigation. Beginning with the fundamentals of storytelling, students will write and discuss original short fiction. Students will be challenged to write beyond their self-imposed boundaries, to venture into new territory. They will be encouraged to take risks and rethink the “established rules” of fiction. This workshop is open to writers and storytellers of all ability levels.

Required reading materials:
Narrative Design by Madison Smartt Bell
Selected readings online

Instructor: Michael Overa