“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.
Instructor: Fred Leebron, advanced fiction
Crafting High Quality Genre Fiction
Bring your passion for writing market-pleasing fiction–mysteries, young adult fiction, thrillers, crime novels, family drama, fantasy, or even romance — and turn it into compelling, page-turning, salable prose. You’ll spend time with like-minded writers and experience serious support for the work you feel called to write. We’ll do workshop critiques of up to 25 (double-spaced) pages of your work, read both classic and newer market-tested pieces that will inspire you, do in-class exercises that will sharpen your writing skills, and discuss the current commercial fiction environment. It’s not just about telling stories, it’s about telling stories that enlighten, entertain, and sell.
Instructor: Laura Benedict, all levels
Fashioning a Memoir
This workshop is designed to help “fashion a text” as Annie Dillard says from “fragmentary patches of color and feeling,” especially for those trying to write about family with its many competing voices. We will look for narrative potential in the odds and ends of memory and the artifacts of family history, with an eye on which details might best serve our stories. In addition, we’ll consider how both showing and telling contribute to the fashioning of memoir, how reflection functions in memoir’s “now” and “then” time frames. Open to all levels, the workshop will offer examples of good storytelling, assignments and/or exercises if needed, a sympathetic audience to read and respond to your work, and individual conferences. Please bring two short pieces of your work (up to 20 pages double-spaced) and a curiosity about how all this might be accomplished.
Instructor: Jim McKean, all levels
Forming the Journey: A Workshop in Organizing Your Poetry Manuscript
Organizing a collection of poems is a thrilling and daunting pleasure. The design possibilities are endless. From page to page, the energies that emerge from different choices in poem-order are well worth our and our readers’ attention. What are the main themes? What will be the collection’s opening poem? What poem will be the finisher? What poem is the collection’s pivot, the middle? What poems might need to be cut? Will we section the collection? In the manuscript organization process we often discover new opportunities for revision. Other times, new themes materialize. In this workshop we will combine the reading of your manuscript with the reading of essays on designing and ordering collections. We will also pay close attention to how various authors have arranged their chapbook and full-length collections, including a look at the differences between Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes’ orderings of Plath’s Ariel.
Instructor: Thorpe Moeckel, advanced
Image in Narrative: Flash Fiction Workshop
Flash fiction is difficult to define, and yet we know it when we see it. It’s short, concise, compressed, and tells a story. But how short, how concise, how compressed must a story be to be considered flash fiction? With image as our guiding principle, we will differentiate between flash fiction and prose poetry as well as identify common ground between forms, examine a wide array of exemplary flash fictions, and appropriate strategies of narrative compression in the flash fictions we’ll workshop and write. Writers should plan to workshop up to 20 pages of flash fiction. Writers should plan to write up to 20 pages of flash fiction over the course of the week.
Instructor: Dan Mueller, all levels
Plotting and Storytelling
Many fine prose stylists struggle with that most basic engine of storytelling: plot. How, within a story or novel, do we gracefully move from Point A to Point B (and onward, to Points C, D, and beyond)? How do we preserve spontaneity and maintain the excellence of our writing in the face of the mechanical necessities of story? These are common worries even for experienced writers. In this class, we will set about the surprisingly enjoyable and liberating work of infusing our fiction with page-turning, heart-quickening plots.
Instructor: Pinckney Benedict, all levels
Walk the Line: A Poetry Workshop
Recent poetry Guggenheim recipient Ellen Bryant Voigt writes, “W.H. Auden said it is ‘a sheer waste of time to look for a definition of the difference between poetry and prose’….Yet differences between lyric and narrative seem exactly relevant-if only one could be confident what they are.” In this poetry workshop, participants will address the intersections of prose in poetry, the narrative in the lyric; we will examine the balance between the sentence and the line and explore strategies for revealing subtext through sound. In addition to discussing participants’ poems, the workshop will feature generative writing exercises meant to shake up writing habits and language orientations. All levels of poets are welcome, including prose writers who are interested in cultivating music in their sentences and image in their narratives.
Instructor: Emilia Phillips, all levels
A Workshop on Character: Likable vs. Unlikable and What Really Matters
In a 2013 piece on the New Yorker website, many authors of distinction came to the defense of Claire Messud’s most recent protagonist in her novel The Woman Upstairs. Messud’s character Norah is not a particularly likable woman, but the novel won readers and fans and was one of the most praised novels of that year. In that same piece Jonathan Franzen had this to say about likability in a narrator: “You’d unfriend a lot of people if you knew them as intimately and unsparingly as a good novel would. But not the ones you actually love.” In this workshop, we’ll talk about one of the basic elements of fiction: character. What is it that makes us cheer a character? How does a writer craft a character that is believable, and what does it mean for a character to be successful but also flawed, sharp, or unlikable? What, essentially is “character” and how does one write it convincingly?
Instructor: Sarah Bowlin, all levels
Writing For & Working With An Agent
A frank workshop that not only evaluates your novel, memoir, or narrative nonfiction (focusing on premise, voice, character, and momentum) 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 towards publication.
Instructor: Jeff Kleinman, advanced