In our workshops, capped at 12 participants each, you’ll distribute work in advance, prepare comments on your colleagues’ submissions, and gather each morning to share insights and gain inspiration on the best path toward taking your writing to the next level. You’ll receive critical feedback from peers and your faculty mentor and learn what other writers are working on.
We offer merit and need-based scholarships for workshop participants
“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
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 through close reading and examination of participants’ recent work and by creating new work via in- and out-of-class writing prompts and assignments.
Instructor: Pinckney Benedict, all levels
Contemporary Lyricism: Techniques and Marketing
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 Burt Bacharach, Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, and Sara Bareilles, 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 30-minute, 1:1 conference with the instructor, to review and receive coaching on his or her individual song lyrics project.
Formal music training is welcomed, 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.
Instructor: Lisa Pertillar Brevard, all levels
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.
Instructor: Barbara Jones, advanced fiction and memoir
Writing for and 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 toward publication.
Instructor: Jeff Kleinman, advanced
Writing for the Senses [no longer available]
This is a highly experiential workshop, devoted to developing the writer’s perceptual path from sensation to language. Richly original attention to the world and our experience of it is the best possible antidote to clichéd or stale writing. It can also be the best inspiration for new work. And of course, imagery and patterns of imagery are a powerful tool for evoking emotion in a reader through a sense of immediacy, actuality, and surprise. We will proceed from painter Paul Klee’s assertion that “Nature has the answer,” and share five different sensory experience exercises* which will, in turn give rise to the drafts of five poems. We’ll also read some exciting poems that illustrate and exemplify rich, evocative imagery, all in the interest of helping you to both write and (at least as importantly) experience the world more deeply, attending more rigorously to aspects of poetry and writing that precede and also go beyond the page.
*all exercises can be easily and fruitfully adapted for accessibility
Instructor: Rebecca Lindenberg, poetry
Becoming Your Own Hero [no longer available]
A teenager lives inside every adult. Some are easy to access. Others, not so much. One of the best things about being a novelist is that we dwell in the realm of possibility. Time is our medium-and language, the vehicle that transports our characters and us through time and space. Myths, legends, and stories have nourished our psyches for centuries. One of the joys of writing young adult fiction is that emotional truth matters. Writing about adolescence-the heroic journey from childhood to adulthood—is itself a heroic journey. Jeanette Winterson says it best: In this life, you have to be your own hero-you have to win whatever it is that matters to you by your own strength-and in your own way.
Novelists write into the mystery of what we don’t know. We do this by revealing what we do know in an artful way. Our job is to surprise, delight, and disturb the reader, but most of all to thwart the reader’s expectations. Writing helps us establish ourselves in the world-and that is what this workshop is about. Writing helps us see where we have been, helps us scrutinize where we are now, and allows us to imagine and create our future.
If you are ready to kick-start your journey to write authentic fiction for young adults, please join this workshop.
Instructor: Karon Luddy, an intensive workshop for writing young adult fiction
Paths That Disappear: Sequencing Poems [no longer available]
Do you find that some of your work focuses on similar subject matter and/or themes? Does a particular setting, say, with its universe of relative imagery, keep showing up in your work? Many of us often face certain challenges when culling together poems into a book-length collection. This workshop will focus on numerous strategies for constructing book-length manuscripts of recurring imagery, obsessions, and interests (of course, we can definitely include other categories here as well). We will look for ways to introduce our collective work by creating “paths” in which readers might wander and explore. We’ll also study models of book-length sequence poems and discuss how certain narrative techniques can be utilized to build a useful framework for the collection as a whole. All participants should submit 10-15 poems (up to 20 pages total).
Instructor: Jon Pineda, advanced poetry