Colgate Writers' Conference - Faculty Skip Navigation

Colgate Writers' Conference - Faculty

Each year, an array of faculty members contribute their expertise to the Writers' Conference.

Workshop Leaders

Greg Ames
Greg Ames is the author of Buffalo Lockjaw, a novel that won the Book of the Year Award from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). Buffalo Lockjaw was voted #1 in The Believer's Reader Survey for 2010. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney's, The Southern Review, Unsaid, The Sun, and He is an assistant professor in the English department at Colgate University.

Short Fiction Workshop Description
This is a supportive and intensive fiction workshop. We read and discuss each other’s stories and generate new writing in class. After your story is discussed in the workshop, I will meet with you in an hour-long private tutorial to discuss specific elements of your writing. This is my favorite part of each day. In her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” Flannery O’Connor describes the habit of art as “a certain quality or virtue of the mind,” a form of curiosity about the world and a devotion to seeing and feeling. I’m not saying that this workshop can provide that, but my hope is that you’ll consider this week an opportunity to take artistic chances that might prove fulfilling. I look forward to meeting you.
Peter Balakian
Peter BalakianBiography
Peter Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, including Ziggurat (2010) and June-tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 and Ozone Journal (2015). His books of prose include Black Dog of Fate (an American son uncovers his Armenian Past), which won the 1998 PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for the Art of the Memoir, and was a best book of the year for the New York Times, the LA Times, and Publisher’s Weekly, and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (HarperCollins, 2004), which won the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and a New York Times Best Seller, and his newly published selected essays Vice and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry, Art, and Culture.

Balakian is the recipient of many awards, prizes, and civic citations, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, The Spendlove Prize for Social Justice, Tolerance, and Diplomacy (recipients include President Carter); and The Emily Clark Balch Prize for poetry from the Virginia Quarterly Review. He has appeared widely on national television and radio (60 Minutes, ABC World News Tonight, PBS, Charlie Rose, CNN, C-SPAN, NPR, Fresh Air, etc), and his work has been translated into a dozen languages and foreign editions, including Armenian, Arabic, Bulgarian, French, Dutch, Greek, German, Hebrew, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Turkish. He is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of Creative Writing at Colgate University.

Poetry Workshop Description
We will be focused on your poems for an intensive week. The workshop is grounded in an atmosphere of trust and intellectual honesty. You will bring poems you've submitted or newly written poems to the workshop, and we will, as a group, read them with great care and rigor and discuss how to push them further and discuss how the poem can realize its materials in the fullest possible ways. Poets will be asked to read their work aloud in class. The workshop is predicated on the belief in the ancient and contemporary value of the lyric poem as a continual landmark in human consciousness and thought and form of language. You should read each other's submissions before we convene our first workshop. At our first meeting I will hand out a small sheaf of poems (mostly by 20th century poets) and we may refer to them during the week. My hope is that each poet will leave the workshop energized and writing with new intensity and at new levels.

Jennifer Brice
Jennifer BriceBiography
Jennifer Brice has been on the Colgate faculty since 2003. Unlearning to Fly, a memoir in essays, is her latest book. She is also the author of The Last Settlers, a work of literary journalism. Her essays have appeared in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, Under the Sun, and River Teeth.

A graduate of Smith College, Jennifer holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At Colgate, she teaches creative writing and literature courses, and she co-teaches the college's Living Writers and LW Online courses.

Creative Nonfiction Intensive Workshop Description
A nurturing, rigorous workshop open to writers with a complete or nearly complete draft. The idea is to meet each manuscript wherever it's at and help the writer take it to the next level. Ideally, everyone should come to the conference having read everyone's manuscript with care. Detailed written comments aren't necessary; constructive contributions are. Individual conferences will be scheduled in addition to the workshop. Depending on time, we may read outside work and generate new writing.

Brock Clarke
Brock Clarke is the author of six books of fiction, most recently The Happiest People in the World, about which Hannah Tinti of One-Story notes that it is "the funniest and smartest novel I have read in years. Yes! I thought . . . that's how you write a good book." His novel Exley was a Kirkus Book of the Year, a finalist for the Maine Book Award, and a long-list finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England was a national bestseller, an American Library Associate Notable Book of the Year, a #1 Book Sense Pick, a Borders Original Voices in Fiction selection, and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice pick. His books have been reprinted in a dozen international editions, and have been awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize for Fiction, the Prairie Schooner Book Series Prize, a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship, and an Ohio Council for the Arts Fellowship, among others. Clarke’s stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, Virginia Quarterly Review, One-Story, The Believer, Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review and have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. He lives in Portland and teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College and in the University of Tampa’s low residency MFA program.

Novel Intensive Workshop Description
This workshop will focus on writing and revising a novel, with an eye toward pacing, structure, logic, theme, voice, plot, characterization--everything, in other words. Workshop members are asked to submit whatever they've finished, whether it's a full draft or a representative excerpt or something in between, just as long as the submission is substantial enough to enable your readers to give you what you need. Speaking of that: workshop members will be asked to do a good bit of reading in preparation for the conference. I encourage everyone to line-edit brief passages in each other's work, but I will definitely expect everyone to be able to talk, in detail, about each other's fiction during workshop, and also to provide a detailed letter to the writer offering praise, encouragement, gentle (but specific) criticism, and ideas for revision. I will write each of you a long letter, and will line-edit a substantial, representative section of each of your manuscripts. Each participant will get his or her own workshop session, and I will meet with you outside of workshop as well. Finally, I will bring in examples of fiction and non-fiction that will help you with writing and revising your novels.

Leslie Daniels
Leslie Daniels’ first novel, Cleaning Nabokov’s House, was published by Simon & Schuster/Touchstone in 2011, in translation in four languages, and is under option for film. Leslie worked in publishing for two decades, both as a literary agent, and for five years as the fiction editor of Green Mountains Review. She has published stories or essays in Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, Florida Review, among others. Her one-act play, The Hatchery, was produced by The Shooting Gallery in New York City. She teaches writing at The Spalding University MFA program.

Brian Hall
Brian Hall bicycled in western and eastern Europe for two years after attending Harvard University, and wrote his first book about those experiences: Stealing from a Deep Place. His most recently published novel, Fall of Frost, concerns Robert Frost, mainly in the last year of his life, when he went to Russia to speak with Khrushchev, hoping to save the world from nuclear war. The Impossible Country explores the breakup of Yugoslavia. I Should be Extremely Happy in Your Company involves the Lewis and Clark expedition. His Saskiad's richly imaginative twelve-year old narrator lives on a commune in Ithaca, New York--or is it the Ithaca of Odysseus? Madeleine's World is a novelist's version of Piaget and child development.

He has published in The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.

Novel Intensive Workshop Description
This workshop is an opportunity to have an novel manuscript read by the instructor and your fellow attendees (partial manuscripts are also welcome: recommended minimum of 50 pages). With five participants, each possibly bringing a full novel, attendees must be ready to do a lot of reading in preparation for the conference. Line editing of each other's work is not necessary, but everyone should come prepared to comment in detail on each submission during the morning session, and provide each other with written comments of a general (or specific, of course, if you want) nature on their work. We will workshop one manuscript each morning. I will meet one-on-one in the afternoon with the writer whose work was discussed in the morning. I will provide detailed feedback on the entire manuscript, and will line-edit about 50 pages, to give an idea of textual issues that might pertain to the whole. Although a lot of preparation is required, the week is worth it.


Readers and Speakers

Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, was a 2014 National Book Award Finalist. All four of her novels—previous books were Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer's Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions, and lives in New York City.
Tom Sleigh
Tom Sleigh is the author of ten books of poetry, including Army Cats, winner of the John Updike Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Space Walk which won the $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award. In addition, Far Side of the Earth won an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The Dreamhouse was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and The Chain was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize. His new book, Station Zed, will be published by Graywolf in 2015. He has also published a book of essays, Interview With a Ghost, and a translation of Euripides' Herakles. Widely anthologized, his poems and prose appear in The New Yorker, Virginia Quarterly Review, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Yale Review, Threepenny, The Village Voice, and other literary magazines, as well as The Best of the Best American Poetry, The Best American Poetry, Best American Travel Writing, and The Pushcart Anthology. He has received the Shelley Prize from the Poetry Society of America, a Fellowship from the American Academy in Berlin, a Fellowship at the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, an Individual Writer's Award from the Lila Wallace/Reader's Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, and two National Endowment for the Arts grants, among many others. He is a Distinguished Professor in the MFA Program at Hunter College and lives in Brooklyn. During the last eight years, he has also worked as a journalist in Syria, Lebanon, Somalia, Kenya, Iraq, and Libya.
Dana Spiotta
Dana Spiotta teaches in the Syracuse University MFA program and is the author of three novels. She was a Guggenheim fellow in 2008 and won the 2008-9 Rome Prize. Her second novel, Eat the Document, was published in 2006 by Scribner. It was a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award and a recipient of the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Stone Arabia is Spiotta’s most recent novel. Stone Arabia was a National Book Critics Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book of 2011. It was named a best book of 2011 by The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, and Salon.