“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
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
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
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
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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Hishing in the Riffle: A Workshop on Language and Sentences in Storytelling
Language: it’s our medium, the essential building block of everything we do as fiction writers, but how often do we stop to actually consider it, not just in terms of pretty metaphors and vivid descriptions, but in terms of these black marks we make on the page, which we all have agreed stand in for sounds that in turn stand in for objects and concepts. The aim of this workshop will be to inspect our own writing habits on the word, sentence, and paragraph level to make sure that our prose is singing. We will look at and emulate examples of the flexibility of language in prose; the way that writers like Ann Pancake invent words (“The river is still up, hishing in the riffle.”), or other writers invent constraints to force their brains to see things in a new way (what happens if, like the French experimentalist group Oulipo, you decide to write without the letter ‘e’ or rewrite the same scene 99 times in 99 different ways?). We will also explore ideas about the formation of sentences and paragraphs using Stanley Fish’s How to Write a Sentence and Jenny Davidson’s Reading Style: A Life in Sentences and Winchester and Weathers’ Copy and Compose: A Guide to Prose Style. Workshop submissions capped at 15 double-spaced pages..
Mesha Maren, fiction workshop, all levels
Mesha Maren is the author of the novel Sugar Run (Algonquin Books). Her short stories and essays can be read in Tin House, The Oxford American, The Guardian, Crazyhorse, Triquarterly, The Southern Review, Ecotone, Sou’wester, Hobart, Forty Stories: New Writing from Harper Perennial, and elsewhere. She was the recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, a 2014 Elizabeth George Foundation grant, an Appalachian Writing Fellowship from Lincoln Memorial University, and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation. She was the 2018-19 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is an assistant professor of the Practice of Creative Writing at Duke University and also serves as a National Endowment of the Arts Writing Fellow at the federal prison camp in Alderson, West Virginia.
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Our Memories and Our Words: The Art of Writing Memoir
We all have a story inside of us that is itching to be shared with others and as writers we have the drive to put these memories on paper. But how do we reconstruct the past and all of the messy components of life on to the page? How do we breathe personality into the people we love and how do we illustrate the settings and landscapes that made us who we are so that a reader can experience these meaningful life events with compassion and empathy?
Over the course of our workshop, you will learn the foundations of writing memoir artfully through exercises and readings that exemplify compelling narrative persona, vivid imagery, and sensory details, and turn anecdotes into satisfying situations that are relatable and fulfilled. All memoir submissions should not exceed 20 double-spaced pages.
M. Randall O’Wain, memoir workshop, all levels
M. Randal O’Wain is the author of Meander Belt: family, loss, and coming of age in the working class south (Nebraska 2019) and the short story collection Hallelujah Station (Autumn House 2020), and his work has been published in Oxford American, Hotel Amerika, Crazyhorse, and Guernica Magazine.
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Wild and Whirling: A Poet’s Retreat
This retreat will be a “wild and whirling” immersion in poem making, from raw drafting to drafting through expansionist and obstructionary rituals. Vision, sensation, craft, and generosity will be our guiding lights. We will generate clauses, lines, drafts, images, word banks, erasures, lists, sketches, aphorisms, and much more. We will read from a wide range of poets, contemporary, noncontemporary, domestic, and international, and riff off of the many moves, emotions, and themes we discuss and admire in them. All the while, we will explode, diversify, and hone in on our aesthetic and psychic lineages and impulses. We will surprise ourselves by what comes onto the page and then play off of one another’s surprising drafts, read aloud. We will explore generative prompts and radical revision prompts. We will also engage in process-based prompts, such as devotional, found, and walking practices. Each meeting will be a poem-making jam session, affirming, surprising, rigorous, yet unencumbered by the time and energy demands of workshop round robins. We will leave Tinker Mountain with very promising drafts as well as new ideas for poems, so as to keep us busy at our desks for a long time.
Thorpe Moeckel, poetry 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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Writing for and Working with an Agent
A thorough workshop that evaluates your novel (YA, Middle Grade, or adult), memoir, or narrative nonfiction (focusing on premise, voice, positioning/genre, and narrative drive) excerpt with an eye to making your book as marketable and successful as possible. Participants will workshop their own query letters and early pages, and participate in several nuts-and-bolts exercises designed to immediately improve their craft and their chances of finding an agent, with the overall aim of publication and growing their readership. Extensive Q&A on the publishing process and book promotion, including online and offline strategies. This workshop is open to published and not-yet-published writers. 10 pp double spaced max and a draft of your query letter/overview.
Rachel Ekstrom Courage, Agent, fiction/nonfiction, 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 has 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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Writing for the Ear
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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