In our workshops you will distribute manuscripts in advance, prepare comments for your colleague’s submissions, and gather online each morning to share insights and gain inspiration on the best path to advance your writing. You’ll receive critical feedback from peers and your faculty mentor and learn what other writers are working on as well.
Our retreats allow you to immerse yourself in the craft of writing without the pressure of preparing or reading manuscripts. Through daily reading, writing exercises, and prompts, you’ll write both in class and during the afternoon to generate new work over the course of each day, dedicating as much time as possible to your own new writing.
- Two hours of workshop/retreat each morning
- 50-minute afternoon craft lecture
- 30-minute individual conference, to be scheduled with you at your convenience
- Evening events
- All lectures and events will be recorded for viewing at any time (this does not include morning sessions)
Available Workshops and Retreats
Letter from Fred:
- Hi Novelists!I hope you will consider a virtual workshop this summer! I am an optimistic guy with a lot of experience in teaching remotely, and I’ve really been enjoying teaching workshops over Zoom this past month.
So, first, a little bit of history. Back in 1999 I was hired to design the low-residency MFA program for Queens University of Charlotte. When I researched other low-residency models, I discovered that none of them carried the workshop model into distance learning, and deciding to pursue that innovative model gave me the energy and the desire to continue. After all, the irony about writing is that it gets done in isolation but it takes a community to sustain it.
We launched that program in 2001, and since then our alumni have gone on to publish over 260 books. I think it’s the workshop model in distance learning that has really allowed our community to grow so well and support each other so thoroughly and thoughtfully.
In teaching over the past month, I have found that zoom allows me to do more in the workshop rather than less. I am big fan of using movies/films to show what we can do on the page, and with zoom all I have to do is cut to screen share and sound share and, voila, we’re all watching the same clip. (Why I couldn’t figure this out so smoothly in person probably underscores how much I resist technology.)
Perhaps we’re all spending too much time on screens these days, but when I’m teaching and truly interacting with other writers, it doesn’t feel like time on screen at all to me. It feels real. It feels like life. It has been such a wonderful window to the living world that it has sustained me.
Anyway, I’d love to move forward with our workshop, to meet in zoom every morning Monday through Friday of the week, to conduct our individual conferences that way, and even to have other less formal interactions via zoom starting the Sunday evening of the program. I’d also be happy, once it’s allowed, to meet with you in person if time and geography work out for us, over the course of future months. I will eventually resume travel for my work, and would hope to find myself nearby sometime in a future that is sooner rather than later. That’s just an additional thought.
But what I know from this past month is that with zoom you are really practically in the same room, but with the added benefit that you also have the comfort and solace of your own home, which these days is no small thing.
I don’t envision missing a second of the workshop environment or sacrificing any other informal time we might spend together.
all the best,
- “A novel is really like a symphony,” Katherine Anne Porter once said, “where instrument after instrument has to come in at its own time, and no other.” Whether you’re working on conventional or experimental fiction, your novel is shaped by the instruments you choose: the scenes you select and extend, the voices in which you describe them, and your treatment of narrative time. In this workshop, we will examine your novel excerpt (of no more than 20 double-spaced pages) for both technique and the critical impulses that inspire a long work of fiction. What is your novel accomplishing in its narrative tracks, character arcs, and structural shape? And, just as important, what instruments are you choosing not to “play” that you might try to incorporate in the symphony that is your novel? For any writer who has completed several polished chapters or a first draft of a novel, this workshop will help you evaluate how your approach to the novel is working for you and offer you fresh ideas for development and revision.Fred Leebron, fiction, advanced
Fred Leebron has published three novels, a novella, and numerous short stories, winning both an O. Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize. He has founded and directed writing programs in Europe, Latin America, and the United States, and has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate level for nearly 30 years. His second novel, Six Figures, was made into a feature length award-winning film in Canada, and he has worked on a number of film and television projects. He is co-author of a Harcourt Brace textbook on fiction writing and co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Fiction.
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An Editor’s Perspective
Letter from Barbara:
I’m writing to you from New York City and with the wail of a siren as background music. What strange days are these?
I’m also writing on a Monday morning, the beginning of another week in book publishing, a changed world, with very many bookstore closings, disruptions in supply chain, and with book reviewers and other press working from home rather than going to any office.
Yet, people are reading, buying books, listening to books, and attending virtual literary events. Humans truly, madly, deeply need stories, it turns out. Fictional narratives, nonfiction narratives, scientific information, jokes–and poetry.
That’s where you come in, writers! You’re in the story corps, the health care workers of humanity’s need for stories. For me, Tinker Mountain has become a time to renew my commitment to the best possible writing without interference from the corporate structures of publishing. It’s sort of a renewal of my vows. I get so much out of it.
Anyway, here’s the general plan. We’ll have workshop for two hours each morning, Monday through Friday, via Zoom. If you haven’t had a virtual meeting (or attended a yoga class or a happy hour!), I must say that I’ve found them surprisingly easy to use. And I participated as a guest speaker in a Stanford University class in 2019 that used the platform even though there was no stay-at-home pandemic situation going on at that time, so there’s a track record of these platforms working for writing workshops. Some of the features of these online meetings (the chat bar, for one) are actually great, and allow people to get their questions in and to talk amongst each other without talking all at once. We can also do all the usual things — show stuff on a white board, take bathroom breaks, etc.
I tend to design the specific progress of the workshop week after everyone’s submitted their sample writing and I’ve read it; that experience of reading everyone’s work gives me the opportunity to assess the needs of the particular writers and writings. Also, because everyone will be attending the week from their homes (or cabins or garages) this year, we’ll want to take into consideration any particular needs each person has in terms of privacy, time needed to attend to children or elders, etc. We can do this! I’ll sort it out with you all after I know more about the needs of the writings and the needs of the writers. Even so, I can say these general things: I usually end up spending at least one hour during the first class giving a lecture. This enables us to gather some shared terminology–and, basically, to have a look at the tools I’m going to share during the week, so that when the week is over, you all have the tool kit and have a sense of how to use all the tools.
Also, I generally like everyone to share work twice. The first time, we all respond to the work and give the writer feedback on what’s working and what’s not yet working, and the second time, after the writer has responded to a very specific assignment from me, usually an assignment that allows the writer to try out a particular tool, if you will–to attend to some important aspect of their work.
I haven’t yet broken down the particular weekly schedule for this year yet, but my plan is to get through the first round with everyone by the end of workshop time on Wednesday, leaving Thursday and Friday for the second round.
I enjoy the half hour individual conferences. We’ll probably have an optional group coffee hour or happy hour (or both at once!) just for our group about halfway through the week.
I hope to see you in June!
- This workshop focuses an editor’s perspective on your work; one that will have an eye toward your future readers. Writers of fiction and memoir are right to be passionate about their work and its inherent value, but successfully connecting with readers (including agents and editors) very often requires considering the reader—and the inherent value of the reader—as well as the merits of the work. In this workshop, we will examine a portion of your novel or memoir (approximately 20 double-spaced pages) with an emphasis on understanding how most readers will perceive this literary offering and how you can best revise your material to connect meaningfully with a reading audience. John Updike once said that his ideal reader was a boy somewhere “to the east of Kansas” who discovered Updike’s books by accident in a school library. Who is your ideal reader? This workshop will help you identify him and/or her and, through edits large and small, adjust the material that matters to you in ways that will matter to the booklovers you want to reach. Barbara Jones is an executive editor at Henry Holt & Company, where she edits fiction, memoir, and an idiosyncratic short list of nonfiction. Her authors include Paul Auster, Sebastian Faulks, Christa Parravani, Adelle Waldman, Rick Moody, and many others. She was previously editorial director of Hyperion Books and Voice Books, where she edited Lauren Groff, Deborah Copaken Kogan, Chitra Divakaruni, Isabel Gillies, Kelly Corrigan, and many others. Before becoming a book editor in 2008, Jones spent nearly 20 years as an editor at magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Magazine, More, and Grand Street, editing authors such as Jennifer Egan, Lorrie Moore, Ann Patchett, Louise Erdrich, Francine Prose, Liz Gilbert, Ann Hood, Kate Braestrup, Amy Wilentz, Christopher Hitchens, Kathryn Harrison, and many others. She has taught at Yale College, New York University, and elsewhere. Her writings have been published in magazines, newspapers, and books, including Salon, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, The Paris Review, and in anthologies from Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Riverhead Books.
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Breaking the Structure: Writing for Stage + Screen
Letter from Trish:
As we all navigate new ways to learn and create during these uncertain times, here’s how my class will adapt: The essence and heart won’t change a bit, but we’ll meet on Zoom instead of in the real world.
I’d like to have a two-hour session for each full day of the workshop. The first day we will look at texts from contemporary plays and talk structure. Part craft talk, part reading. This class will be very interactive. The more we can hear your work and others aloud and then discuss, the more we’ll understand the medium of writing that is meant to be spoken. Each day we will:
- Read a section from a contemporary established writer’s work + discuss
- Read sections from your work + discuss
- Small, generative writing assignments to happen in a timed environment. Sharing is optional.
- Read + Discuss work that has been brought in depending on what is most helpful to the writer
- We can use part of the time for one-on-one tutorials to discuss individual questions and needs We will be working towards the goal of a Zoom table reading on the Friday. We will be cast in each others work (or could have special guest readers!). Once we finalize the class size, we’ll further customize how we proceed.
I’m looking forward to creating a class for you and for how strange a time this is. In my favorite plays, tv shows and movies – it’s impossible to figure out what happens next. I’ve never believed in the formalities of whatever “traditional” structure means. In this class we’ll continue to question what it is that makes us pay attention, what moves us or makes us laugh, because when you really examine this — it’s never what you think it is.
Hope we can go on this journey together!
Forget what you think you know about dramatic or comedic structure. Sure, there’s something to be said for the well-made story. It’s taught us to appreciate plot, to expect twists and turns, to ready ourselves for a nice denouement. But what if we do something new? During the week you’ll be exploring unique script structures and write your own. There’s never been a more exciting time in theatre and television. Off-Broadway shows moving to the big stage, networks and content channels releasing more original material than ever before. Original voices are rewarded and we’ll focus on yours. The goal? You’ll leave with a greater understanding of narrative risk and will have put it into practice writing pages of your own. Workshop submissions capped at 20 double-spaced pages.
Trish Harnetiaux, stage and screen, all levels
Trish Harnetiaux is a Brooklyn-based writer. Her play Tin Cat Shoes premiered in 2018 at Clubbed Thumb’s Summerworks (Playwrights Horizons Superlab). Currently she is developing Bender and Brian, an epic tale of subversive Breakfast Club fan fiction (Exponential Festival, Prelude Festival, forthcoming JACK) and We Are Not Well (Clifford Odets Commission/NYU).
Other plays include: How to Get into Buildings (New Georges, The Brick, Soho Rep Lab), Welcome to the White Room (Theatre of NOTE, Glass Mind Theatre), and If You Can Get To Buffalo (Incubator Arts Project, Son of Semele Ensemble, The Acme Corporation) all published by Samuel French. Other, other plays are: Weren’t You In My Science Class? (Ars Nova Play Group, Prelude Festival), Straight On Til Morning (78th Street Theatre Lab, Broadway Play Publishing), and an adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s novel, The Bird’s Nest, titled Your Pretty Little World.
Harnetiaux was an executive producer on the offbeat comedy series Driver Ed that premiered at 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. She has been a resident at MacDowell, Yaddo, The Millay Colony, and SPACE at Ryder Farm. She was a member of the Ars Nova Play Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. Affiliate member of New Georges. M.F.A. in playwriting from Brooklyn College. Her novel, White Elephant, is forthcoming this fall (Simon & Schuster). She currently teaches stage and screenwriting in the Queens University of Charlotte M.F.A. program.
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Creative Nonfiction: A Generative Retreat
Letter from Jim:
- Welcome to our virtual Tinker Mountain “Creative Nonfiction Retreat.” Although I’m disappointed that we can’t meet on the Hollins campus this year, I’m excited about the possibilities on-line. I’m experienced in distance learning, having taught for a number of years at the Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop and The Queens University M.F.A. program. But I’m new to this remote conferencing technique and enthusiastic about its possibilities. I hope that it works for you, and I welcome any feedback you might have.We’ll gather every day on Zoom for two hours. I’d like to dedicate our workshop time to sharing what you have discovered in your own writing and the writing of others in the workshop, to exploring ways to prompt writing, and to discussing the craft of nonfiction. My goal is to help you develop new material and discover new resources for fashioning your personal essays, stories or memoirs.
Again, the emphasis is on your writing and producing new writing as the week progresses—a solitary enterprise, I realize. Our goal together is to create a nurturing atmosphere where we can participate both as writers and sympathetic readers—an audience with the common purpose of supporting each other in our craft and art.
I will provide examples, excerpts, writing models (attachments and links), and prompts that serve to generate new ideas and directions. I can’t emphasize enough how discussion in a group such as ours leads to new approaches to writing creative nonfiction. In addition, we will hold individual conferences by phone or by Zoom, whichever seems the most comfortable for you.
Given that June is not that far away, I’ll get to work. If this approach seems like it would work for you, please join us in June. If you would like to send me work ahead of time, please send your work as an attachment, but it’s not required. I’m hoping our retreat will help you explore new possibilities and generate new material.
I look forward to meeting you. Take care and be safe,
PS: You might look at a book by William Zinsser called Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir. I realize libraries are on closed, but I see there are inexpensive copies on Amazon. The book is a collection of essays (Dillard, Frazier, Baker and so on) that discuss these authors’ takes on memoir writing. It might be a good way to begin our discussions.
So much to remember. Where do we begin? This retreat will discuss how we might generate the bits and pieces of our personal narratives, with the aim of compiling these fragments into more finished work. The emphasis will be on drafting moments, lines and images, scenes, portraits, anecdotes, and flashes of memory, and sharing these discoveries with classmates. Through readings and discussion, we’ll investigate such structural elements of creative nonfiction as dual time frames, the narrative impulse versus reflection, character development, scenes, voice, rhythm, and lyricism in the service of good prose.
But the main focus of the retreat will be on your writing process, the material you generate, and sharing that material with a sympathetic audience. Class time will be dedicated to sharing work aloud, discussing the art and craft of writing, and perhaps working on an exercise or two. Outside of class, you’ll be asked to write in response to prompts or wherever the muse takes you. In writing our lives, Annie Dillard says that we must “fashion a text.” The goal at the end of our week is to develop new material and new resources for fashioning your personal essays, stories, and/or memoirs. Open to all levels.
Jim McKean, nonfiction retreat, all levels
James McKean writes poetry and nonfiction. He has published two books of essays: Home Stand: Growing Up in Sports, and Bound; and three books of poems, Headlong (1987 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writer Award), Tree of Heaven (1994 Iowa Poetry Award), and We Are the Bus (the 2011 X.J. Kennedy poetry prize from Texas Review Press). His work has appeared in magazines and collections such as The Atlantic, Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, the Southern Review, and the Best American Sports Writing 2003, and has received a Pushcart Prize.
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Fiction Writers’ Retreat
Letter from Dan:
- Welcome to the Tinker Mountain Writers’ Workshop 2020 Virtual Writing Retreat! This summer, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, none of the workshops and retreats will be held on the stunningly beautiful Hollins University campus, the place where in 1988-89 I first learned to take my dream of being a writer seriously, but some of them (for example, ours!) will be held with the same generosity of spirit and sense of camaraderie that emblemize all the workshops and retreats that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of . . . but online.At the University of New Mexico, where I serve as a professor of creative writing and Associate Chair for Graduate Studies, we have transitioned all classes and meetings to online platforms, and when I finish this message to you, I’ll lead the Graduate Fiction Workshop here in Albuquerque as a Zoom meeting, 9 of us conversing about three works of fiction from little picture boxes that make us all look like celebrities in the old gameshow Hollywood Squares. And in the center square (drum roll!) my alter ego Paul Lynde!
I’m so looking forward to working with you this June, just as I have the writers who’ve come together at Hollins summer after summer. In our writing retreat, we’ll meet for two hours remotely every morning. During this time, the focus of our conversation will be writing, and anyone who wishes to read what they’ve written may, and afterward we’ll talk about what we’ve heard. I’ll assign one story a day and one writing prompt, the emphasis being on the production of new work after each meeting has adjourned for the day. Writers write in isolation, but our meetings will be a time for communion, for sharing, for inspiration, for learning new techniques and ways of thinking about stories and the art and craft of storytelling. Along the way, we’ll discuss narrative strategy and poetics, character development and world building, scene, summary, plot, and all the formal attributes of successful stories short and long. And we’ll spend time as well on how to go about publishing what we’ve written.
I hope you’re as excited about this opportunity as I am. The Covid-19 pandemic is taking its toll on all of us–it sure is on me–but I’m now as committed as ever to finding worth and joy by whatever means necessary within the strictures necessary to save the lives of the most people.
Please feel free to email me with any questions and/or concerns you have about the writing retreat.
Stay well! Hope to see you soon!
At this writers’ retreat, which will focus predominately on fiction, we’ll embody the practice of writing daily. During meeting times we’ll discuss matters of craft derived from reading a wide swath of contemporary fiction; read aloud to one another from our own newly written work and respond to it as a community of writers intent on helping one another find a larger audience; write from prompts; approach publishing as a part of the creative process; and address any and all concerns related to the writing life from writer’s block to sources of inspiration to submission strategies. While conventional creative writing workshops privilege the critique, the quality of them hinging upon the amount of time and thought outside of meeting times writers put into reading and responding to each other’s manuscripts, in ours we’ll honor the act of writing by putting the time, space, and camaraderie to use in the drafting of new work. This workshop is open to writers of all skill levels and degrees of experience.
Dan Mueller, fiction retreat, all levels
Daniel Mueller is the author of two collections of short fiction, How Animals Mate (Overlook Press 1999), winner of the Sewanee Fiction Prize, and Nights I Dreamed of Hubert Humphrey (Outpost 19 Books 2013). His work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including The Missouri Review, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, The Cincinnati Review, Gargoyle, Story Quarterly, CutBank, Joyland, Booth Journal, Solstice, Free State Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Writing Disorder, Another Chicago Magazine, The Mississippi Review, Story, and Playboy. He is currently working on a memoir, tentatively titled I Wish This Book Belonged to Me. He teaches at the University of New Mexico and on the faculty of the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte.
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Writing for the Ear
Letter from Pinckney:
- Greetings, all. Pinckney here. I wanted to drop you a few lines to describe what I’m hoping to accomplish in the virtual version of the TMW class I’m offering this coming June via the Zoom teleconferencing platform. As you probably know, the seminar is called “Writing for the Ear”.I’m proposing five two-hour (two sessions of 50 minutes each) classes, one on each of the mornings of the conference. The first class meeting will consist of a craft talk on the history and nature of the oral tradition and its ferocious return in the form of podcasts and audiobooks, both of which are already hugely popular and are gaining ground over conventional publishing platforms. (This trend has only been accelerated by our current situation.) The second half of the first day of class will consist of a conversation about what sorts of these media you prefer (if you like them at all), what sorts of sounds please you, and some brief exercises in rewiring the brain to consider sound before other, more rational, aspects of your writing.
The Tuesday and Wednesday sessions will consist of workshops, though not the typical close-reading workshop most of us are used to. Rather, participants will read sections of their previous work aloud (or play recordings, if that’s preferable), and listeners will respond to the aural experience, both in the moment (via Zoom chats) and after the completion of the reading. We will be responding rather than critiquing; a distinction I will discuss during the class.
The Thursday and Friday sessions will concentrate on the generation of new work devised specifically for a live, listening audience. We will spend some time on how to create and present work specifically for teleconferencing, since (in all likelihood) that’s how the bulk of literary readings, at universities, bookstores, and the like, will be held going forward. We will also discuss (at a basic level) the creation of video and audio recordings of readings, for presentation on YouTube, Vimeo, and on podcasting platforms like Spotify, and on how the digital domain of Zoom and its ilk can be leveraged to the advantage of the reader. (It’s actually a terrific way to present your work to a far-flung and disparate audience, and to folks of widely differing taste for the written word.)
I feel a lot of excitement for this class–form will follow function precisely here. My MFA students at Southern Illinois have been doing exactly this work all semester, and have really plunged into it since the isolation began. I will share some examples of their remarkable work with you during class.
As to my background with this stuff: a bit over a year ago, I received an innovation grant from SIU to create a podcasting lab for the creative writing program (a first in the nation, I believe). In our initial semester in the lab last spring, students in the program took two prizes in Missouri Review’s annual Miller Audio Prize: a first in fiction and a runner-up in humor.
This year we’ve begun an innovative collaboration with SIU Press, producing a number of audiobooks from their backlist. These audiobooks will come out as a podcast series on the NPR One podcasting platform and will be featured in a series of shorts aired on WSIU, our regional NPR affiliate. We’re discussing with the Press now the idea of creating an “imprint” of original fiction that would be audio-only. I’m happy to send you samples of the sorts of things they’re producing, if you like.
This class will be a synthesis, then, of very ancient literary techniques–the Epic of Gilgamesh and The Iliad–and the very latest developments in publishing and performance.
Hope to see you there!
With the meteoric rise in the popularity of podcasts, audio books, audio drama, and the like, we are swiftly becoming—or rather are becoming again—a “people of the ear.” This shift from the written to the spoken word can be difficult to negotiate for those of us who were trained for the eye and the page. This class will briefly examine the history and nature of oral/aural literature, after which we will set about remaking our older work and making new work “for the ear.” Some time will be spent on the technological aspects of distribution for the class’ creations—you will end the week with your own podcast channel—but the focus will be on creating literary effect through sound. No prior technical experience necessary.
Pinckney Benedict, all genres retreat, all levels
Pinckney Benedict grew up in rural West Virginia. He has published a novel and three volumes of short fiction. The story collection The Redneck Gospel: New & Selected Stories is due out from Press 53 in 2020. His work has been published in, among other magazines and anthologies, Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, Ontario Review, the O. Henry Award series, the Pushcart Prize series, the Best New Stories from the South series, Apocalypse Now: Poems and Prose from the End of Days, The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction, and The Oxford Book of the American Short Story. Benedict serves as a professor in the M.F.A. program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. His students have produced numerous successful podcasts, most recently winning first prize for fiction and second prize for humor in Missouri Review’s 2019 Miller Audio Prize competition.
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