Colgate Writers' Conference - Workshops Capping our poetry and short fiction workshops at ten participants and our novel and creative nonfiction workshops at five participants ensures ample time to explore everyone's work in depth.
Class time is devoted to discussion and critiques of the participants' work as well as guidance from the instructor. There is also time outside the classroom for participants to meet one-on-one with their instructors for private consultation and analysis of their work.
We recommend that participants in all workshops complete at least the first full draft of their manuscripts well prior to the conference, or by May 1. Everything that you submit is read by the instructor, who provides extensive one-on-one consultation over the course of the week. Below you will find the expectations of each workshop leader.
Creative Nonfiction Intensive with Jennifer Brice
A nurturing, rigorous workshop open to writers of memoirs, essays, and journalism. Partial or complete book manuscripts welcome. The idea is to meet every manuscript where 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.
This workshop will explore the art and craft of creative nonfiction. We will apprentice ourselves to published work as well as to our own lives, exploring the building blocks of nonfiction. Armed with this knowledge, we will apply new techniques to our own essays, which may take the form of memoirs, personal essays, lyric essays, natural history, or journalism.
Our writing exercises will help us engage in the work and play of writing. Among other exercises, we’ll try our hands at becoming “archaeologists of memory,” using fragments of history—postcards, photographs, and other ephemera—as triggering points for our own work. As we workshop and revise together, we will grow into the habit of reading as writers, writing voraciously, being “one on whom nothing is lost,” and becoming wise and generous editors of our own and others’ work.
This writing workshop focuses on the novel – in all its many parts and aspects, in all its abundance and specificity – and aims to provide writers with useful, supportive responses that will help them move forward with the process of revision. Participants may submit full or partial manuscripts (minimum 50 pages) and will be asked to read each other’s work in advance of the workshop. The workshop is most productive when participants prepare written comments on each other’s work; line edits and comments in the margins of a manuscript are welcome, and a letter that attempts to describe a reader’s overall experience of the novel is helpful. (As Iris Murdoch said, “Literature is meant to be grasped by enjoyment.” Try to articulate your “enjoyment” of the work in question, and to be descriptive rather than prescriptive in your responses.) We will spend each morning discussing one manuscript in detail – and sometimes looking at work by writers outside the workshop, where such examples seem useful -- and I will meet individually with the writer in the afternoon, providing line editing in certain areas to help the writer address specific issues, as well as written comments aimed at giving the writer direction and confidence.
In this workshop we’ll tackle as many of the aches, pains, wonders, missteps, dance moves, sorrows, and joys of writing a novel as we can manage. For the workshop sessions themselves, please be willing to submit the best pages you’ve got – at least fifty of them – and a brief summary of your plans for the novel as a whole. We’ll have workshops in the morning in which we’ll talk about your writing, and I’ll meet with everyone in one-on-one conferences during the week. In advance of arrival, workshop participants should compose detailed responses – sympathetic and constructive and forward-looking – to their fellow participants’ submissions. Based on the work submitted, I’ll also bring in excerpts from other novels that I think might be helpful, and we’ll read and discuss those as well.
This workshop will focus on writing and revising a novel. Participants are welcome to submit whatever they've finished, whether it's a full draft that needs revision or a small excerpt that is looking for direction. Please indicate, on the first page of your submission, what sort of advice you're seeking—are you open to major changes, or do you merely want to refine what you've got? Participants should be prepared to do a lot of reading in preparation for the conference. Close line editing of other participants' manuscripts won't be necessary, but I'd like everyone to be able to comment in detail on each submission, and provide one another with an editorial memo. I will also give each of you a detailed memo, of course, and will line-edit representative portions of each manuscript. Each participant will get his or her own in-depth workshop session, and I'll bring along examples of published books and stories that might inspire you.
During the course of our workshop, we’ll explore many aspects of the poetic landscape. First and most important, this is a workshop, a studio class – which means that your work, and your responses to your classmates’ work, will be front and center. Every day, student work will be read and discussed. We'll talk about how to develop your strengths, how to recognize and mine inspiration, how to become more ambitious in your goals for your work, how to open up to new areas of expression, what revision practices work best for you. We’ll also do periodic in-class and out-of-class writing exercises – to encourage spontaneity, experimentation, and general poetic craziness. Finally, part of our time together will be spent exploring some of the most compelling issues informing contemporary poetry: specific aspects of craft and content and a consideration of various outposts and ideas about contemporary practice.
This is a supportive and intensive fiction workshop. We read and discuss submitted work 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. 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 a summer 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.
In addition to the workshop experience, there are increasingly participants who attend for the week simply to engage in a Writers’ Retreat. During such a retreat, one refrains from joining a workshop, but rather participates in whatever portions of the conference one finds interesting: craft and shop talks by professional editors and agents; evening readings; readings of one’s own work to other participants; socializing and sharing.
Perhaps you have earned yourself a retreat of this nature?