Descriptions and Faculty

In our workshops, capped at 12, you will distribute manuscripts in advance, prepare comments for your colleague’s submissions, and gather 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, capped at 10, 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. 

We offer merit and need-based scholarships for workshop participants.

Available Workshops and Retreats

Writing for Television (The Pilot & Series Outline) [no longer available]

This is the golden age of television and the opportunities for writing in TV are better than ever. It’s a rapidly changing landscape where new shows, new channels (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.), and new and inventive ways of storytelling are introduced seemingly daily.

This hands-on workshop will guide the beginning or intermediate screenwriter through the process of crafting a professional grade TV Pilot & Series Outline: idea, pitch, story, series outline, and pilot. We’ll also examine methods for adapting fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir into a compelling series. As well, we’ll discuss strategies for promoting and marketing your work. Open to all levels and genres.

Photo of Khris Baxter

Khris Baxter, all genres workshop, all levels
Khris Baxter is a screenwriter, producer, and the founder of Boundary Stone Films (BSF). BSF develops, finances, and produces a wide range of projects for film and television, in partnership with the likes of Cross Creek Pictures, Myriad Pictures, and Echo Lake Entertainment. BSF’s latest film, Shadow Girl, stars Olivia Thirlby, Alan Ritchson, Megan Fox, and Jim Gaffigan, and is slated for release in early 2019.

Baxter has been a screenwriter for two decades. He teaches screenwriting at the M.F.A. in creative writing programs at Queens University of Charlotte, NC; Dickinson College; and Gettysburg College. He’s a member of the Virginia Film Office where he has been a judge for the annual Virginia Screenwriting Competition since 2004. 

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Plot is Character, Character is Plot

In creative writing classes, we often speak as though story elements like setting, plot, and character are separate from one another when in fact they are deeply and inextricably entwined. In this workshop, we will concentrate on the creation of characters who can organically inhabit our stories and effortlessly move plot forward, and on the ways in which the events of our plots change, shape, and ultimately reveal the true nature of our characters.

Pinckney BenedictPinckney Benedict, fiction workshop, all levels
Pinckney Benedict grew up in rural West Virginia. He has published a novel and three collections of short fiction. His work has been published in, among other magazines and anthologies, Esquire, Zoetrope: All-Story, the O. Henry Award series, the Pushcart Prize series, the Best New Stories from the South series, The Ecco Anthology of Contemporary American Short Fiction, and The Oxford Book of the American Short Story. He is the recipient of two Transatlantic Review awards, a Michener Fellowship, and the Nelson Algren Award, and an individual artist grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has served on the faculties of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and Aspen Summer Words conference. Benedict is a professor in the creative writing program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte.

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Contemporary Lyricism: Techniques and Marketing [no longer available]

Do you have a song in your heart, but wish you could find the right words to express it? Do you ever wonder how your favorite singers seem to always have the right words, at the right time, to express your feelings? Are you curious about how songwriters market their work?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, then this workshop is for you.

In this workshop, we will study selected examples by such master contemporary songwriters as Dolly Parton, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Bill Withers, and Mary J. Blige, among others, to get to the heart of lyricism – the art and craft of composing words which are intended to be sung.

In class, we will hone our listening skills, focusing on such key aspects as audience, narration, and phrasing, while also examining the crucial dynamic between songwriter and performer. Homework will include short readings and focused writing prompts, to amplify and extend the classroom experience. In addition, each workshop participant will have a 1:1 conference with the instructor to review and receive coaching on his or her individual song lyrics project.

Formal music training is welcome, but not required. If you are new to writing song lyrics, then you will have a supportive environment in which to get started. And, if you are a songwriter, then you can expand and deepen your craft, while also exploring marketing—the business side of music. This workshop will help you evaluate approaches to lyricism and offer you fresh ideas for development and revision.

Photo of Lisa Pertillar BrevardLisa Pertillar Brevard, all levels
Lisa Pertillar Brevard is an internationally-recognized scholar and creative artist whose research and writing projects include the 1997 National Public Radio series, Will The Circle Be Unbroken (the Civil Rights radio documentary, which she named and which received a 1998 Peabody Award); and Wade in the Water: African American Sacred Music Traditions (1994), a 26-hour National Public Radio/Smithsonian Institution project, which received a 1995 Peabody Award and a National Education Association (NEA) Award.

She completed a Smith College B.A. degree with honors in Afro-American studies; an Emory University Ph.D. in African-American music and literature, and women’s studies; and a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Maryland College Park.

For more than two decades, Brevard has taught college and university courses and lectured in such areas as American literature, biography, creative writing, philosophy, and women’s studies. Along the way, under the auspices of Harvard University and Warner Bros. Records, she gave a lecture-recital at the landmark April in Paris: African-American Music and Europe international conference, held at The Sorbonne.

A member of ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Brevard writes gospels, ballads, poetry, and biographies. Her published works include: A Biography of Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, 1867-1922, African-American Singer and Social Activist (book); Louisiana Dawn: Poems of a Grafted Life (book and audio CD); In Praise of Ancestors (CD audiobook with music); Beautiful Remains: Words and Pictures Rescued from Hurricane Katrina (with Frank Brevard) (book); and Whoopi Goldberg on Stage and Screen (book).

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What’s Love Got to Do with It? Writing the Romance Novel [no longer available]

Generating over a a billion dollars a year from approximately 30 million readers, romance novels are big business. In fact, the romance industry is about the size of the mystery, science fiction, and fantasy genre markets all put together. That’s a lot of opportunity for writers to tap into. However, putting together a romance isn’t as easy as some may think. In this workshop, students will learn about the expectations of various romance readers, and how to meet their demands. From character creation to story structure, sub-genres and sex (surprise, some romances don’t have any), students will learn everything they need to successfully write their own “happily ever after.” Students are encouraged to bring their first pages (no more than one chapter or 15 pages max) for critiques.

Photo of Michelle ClaudioMichele Claudio, fiction workshop, all levels
Michele Claudio is a Latin American poet and fiction writer who pens romances under the name Mimi Milan. She has about a dozen titles in various sub-genres, as well as short stories in two anthologies. After graduating with honors from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte with a B.A. in English, she attended Queens University and received the M.F.A. in creative writing. She now works part time for their graduate program. She spends the remainder of her days entertaining imaginary friends searching for happily ever afters.

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Writing for and Working with an Agent

A thorough workshop that not only evaluates your novel (including YA, Middle Grade, or adult), memoir, or narrative nonfiction (focusing on premise, voice, character, and narrative drive) but also works on making your book as marketable as possible. Participants will workshop their own and the group’s work, and then participate in several nuts-and-bolts exercises designed to immediately improve their craft with an eye toward publication and promotion. 20 pp double spaced max.

Photo of Rachel Ekstrom CourageRachel Ekstrom Courage, all genres workshop, advanced
Rachel Ekstrom Courage is an agent at Folio Literary Management representing fiction and select nonfiction, with a particular focus on thrillers and book club fiction.

Previously an agent at the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, Courage spent over a decade as a book publicist, first working on mysteries and thrillers for Minotaur, then holding managerial and directorial roles at Penguin’s Dutton and Gotham imprints, and St. Martin’s Press.

Over the course of her career, she’s worked with a range of bestselling and award-winning authors, and she’s eagerly looking for new voices and projects, particularly commercial and upmarket adult fiction with an immediate, commercially appealing voice, in the areas of thrillers and suspense, book club and women’s fiction, historical, crime, and the occasional exceptional work of Young Adult and Middle Grade.

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An Editor’s Perspective

Here is a workshop that will focus an editor’s perspective on your work; one which 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 eye toward 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 JonesBarbara Jones, fiction and memoir workshop, advanced
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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Advanced Novel

“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 essential 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 your audience and offer you fresh ideas for development and revision.

Fred LeebronFred Leebron, fiction workshop, 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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Finding the Poem’s Voice

This workshop, open to poets of all levels, will explore the unique elements of poetry that give poems their “voice,” that help poems stand out from the crowd. We’ll consider how we choose our subject matter and the forms it takes. We’ll look at the way lines and sentences work to create suspense and movement in poems. We’ll discuss different kinds of syntax, sound, and music in the language that we use, and we’ll work closely with several kinds of imagery. We’ll discuss strategies for beginning and especially ending poems. And of course, we’ll talk about how all of these elements work together to create something that is fundamentally more than the sum of its parts. Participants may bring a packet of three poems (no more than five pages) to be workshopped and expect to generate new work as well.

Photo of Rebecca LindenbergRebecca Lindenberg, poetry workshop, all levels
Rebecca Lindenberg is the author of Love, an Index and The Logan Notebooks, which won the 2015 Utah Book Award. She’s the recipient of an Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Grant, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a seven-month fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems and essays appear widely in magazines like Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Believer, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Seneca Review, Prelude, Tupelo Quarterly, Diagram, and many more. She is an assistant professor of poetry at the University of Cincinnati where she also serves as director of creative writing and as poetry editor for The Cincinnati Review.

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To Fashion Poetry and Creative Nonfiction: A Generative Retreat [no longer available]

So much to remember. Where do we begin? This retreat will discuss how we might generate the bits and pieces of our personal narratives and poems, with the aim of compiling these fragments into more developed and 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 examples, readings, and discussion, we will investigate such structural elements of poetry and creative nonfiction as dual time frames, the narrative impulse versus reflection, character development, voice, rhythm, and language, and the point where poetry and prose might intersect.

But the main focus will be on your writing process, the material you generate, and sharing that material with a sympathetic audience. Class time will be dedicated to discussing the art and craft of writing, sharing work aloud, and perhaps working on an exercise or two. Outside of class, you will 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 new material and new resources for fashioning your personal narratives and poems.

Photo of Jim McKeanJim McKean, poetry and creative nonfiction retreat, all levels
James McKean writes poems and nonfiction. He has published three books of poems: Headlong, Tree of Heaven, and We Are the Bus. Headlong won a 1987 Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writer Award, Tree of Heaven won a 1994 Iowa Poetry Award, and We Are the Bus won the 2011 X.J. Kennedy poetry prize and was published in 2012 by Texas Review Press. His nonfiction has appeared in magazines and collections such as the Iowa Review, Gettysburg Review, and the Best American Sports Writing 2003, and has received a Pushcart Prize. His latest volume of nonfiction is a collection of essays titled Home Stand: Growing Up in Sports. He is a professor emeritus at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA.

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Writing the Ride:  Reading, Writing, and Mountain Biking [no longer available]

Writing on sport has a long and storied tradition, but where is the literature of cycling, especially mountain biking? While the many mtb blogs and YouTube videos are fun and often instructive, mountain biking deserves the full engagement with language, nature, and thought that it provokes in the self. By studying great writers’ work (McPhee, McGuane, Foster Wallace, Oates, Dame Juliana Berners, and others) on a variety of outdoor sports, we will apply the various modes of inquiry (analysis, meditation, description, characterization, and humor) to mountain biking. The woods and the trail, the interplay of self, body, and bicycle, the personal struggles and the pleasures, all those thoughts that surface with each turn of the crank, offer writers the perfect backdrop upon which to look deeply into human nature and to create literature that transcends sport itself.

For this retreat, we will read, write, workshop, and ride. Hollins University has trail access to over 60 miles of world class trail, and each day after our classroom sessions, we will take amazing rides and also take breaks to make notes. Participants are required to be at least intermediate riders in good physical condition (able to easily ride 20 miles with 2k-plus of climbing), and to bring to the workshop a modern mountain bike, with disc brakes and suspension, as well as other gear — helmet, hydration, pumps, tool, tube, and snacks.

Thorpe MoeckelThorpe Moeckel, all genres retreat, all levels
Thorpe Moeckel is the author of three books of poems: Odd Botany, Making a Map of the River, and Venison: a poem. Chapbooks include Meltlines and The Guessing Land. He teaches in the English and creative writing program at Hollins. A former Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC-Chapel Hill, he has received an NEA Fellowship in poetry, a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, the Gerald Cable Book Award, the George Garrett Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and a Henry Hoyns Fellowship. His poetry is featured in several anthologies, including Field Work: Modern Poems from Eastern Forests, edited by Erik Reece, and From the Fishouse. His prose and poems appear in such journals as FIELD, Open City, The Antioch Review, Poetry Daily, Orion, Poetry, The Southern Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. His most recent works are the nonfiction book Watershed Days: Adventures (A Little Thorny & Familiar) in the Home Range, and the epic/anti-epic Arcadia Road: A Trilogy..

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Writers’ Retreat [no longer available]

In this multi-genre workshop we’ll embody the practice of writing daily. During meeting times we’ll discuss matters of craft derived from readings; 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 that yield positive results. 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 this workshop we’ll honor the act of writing by putting our time, space, thought, and camaraderie to use in the drafting of new stories and essays. This workshop is open to writers at all skill levels and degrees of experience.

Daniel MuellerDan Mueller, all genres 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 recent fiction and nonfiction appear or are forthcoming in The Iowa Review, The Writing Disorder, b(OINK), Chicago Quarterly Review, Booth, Solstice, Gargoyle, and Free State Review. He directs the creative writing program at the University of New Mexico and teaches on the creative writing faculty of the low-residency M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte.

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Writing Your Scene [no longer available]

Do you ever find that a character you’ve been grappling with suddenly comes alive when you put her in a scene? Or, even more exciting, does your story or poem take an unexpected turn as you’re working on a scene that leads you to the heart of what you wanted to say? Or are you the kind of writer who avoids writing out the climactic scene, leaving your work to feel unresolved?

Whatever genre you’re working in—fiction, screenplay, poetry, nonfiction—a well-crafted scene has myriad powers. Scenes are a way to make things happen. In scenes, we put our characters on the spot. They have to show us who they really are; they have to show up. A scene calls into play all the elements of your writing—action, dialogue, characters, setting, and point of view. A scene can be a crystallization of what you wanted to say. Or a vehicle to vet potential storylines and outcomes.

In this workshop, we’ll adopt a playful approach to scene-writing in the interest of discovering all a scene can do. Please bring two to three scenes to work with (20 pages maximum).

Photo of Maxine SwannMaxine Swann, all genres workshop, all levels
Maxine Swann is the author of three novels, Flower Children, Serious Girls and The Foreigners. She has received a Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters for “recent writing in book form that merits recognition for the quality of its prose style” and her stories have been featured in The Best American Short Stories, O’Henry Prize Stories, Pushcart Prize Stories, and the series Selected Shorts. Her New York Times Magazine article “The Professor, the Bikini Model, and the Suitcase Full of Trouble” was chosen for Longform’s “Most Entertaining of 2013,” and is currently being adapted into a feature film by Fox Searchlight. She has taught creative writing at Barnard College in New York, in the M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte, and at The Walrus School in Buenos Aires. Born in Pennsylvania, she has been living in Buenos Aires since 2001 and is a founding editor of the bilingual cultural magazine The Buenos Aires Review..

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