Fiction

Please note that this workshop is at capacity. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email writersconference@colgate.edu.

The process of writing a novel is thrilling, exhausting, bewildering, illuminating, discouraging, and maddening, and the novelist is lost and found and lost again many times along the way. Use this five-day workshop to bring before a supportive and attentive group your completed draft (or significant excerpts), and then take a step back with your fellow writers to see more clearly what you’ve made, and where you might be headed next. We’ll examine every manuscript to understand what’s on the page so far in terms of structure, character, plot, setting, and style, an exercise designed to help writers recognize more fully the developing work, and how they might give it greater strength and purpose. Be prepared to commit the time in advance of the conference to reading carefully the work of the other workshop participants and to provide each member of the workshop with a written, one-page response, so that you can talk about the manuscripts with sensitivity and in detail. I’ll also meet individually with each participant. Expect to return to the writing desk with plenty of fuel for the road ahead. 

Submission limit: 60,000 words (200 pages)
Workshop size: Five participants 

Led by Carrie Brown

Please note that this workshop is at capacity. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email writersconference@colgate.edu.

Writing a novel, E.L. Doctorow once said, "is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." We'll discuss strategies for starting, strategies for finishing, and the important role of not-knowing along the way. The emphasis will be less on style and more on shape, structure, carpentry, architecture. Two hundred pages maximum: if they are not (or not meant to be) the opening pages of your novel, please include a one-page summary outlining everything we would know if we had read the novel up to the point where your excerpt begins.


Submission limit: 60,000 words (200 pages)
Workshop size: Five participants 

Led by Jonathan Dee

Stephen King suggests that a novel should be written in a season. Walter Mosley’s This Year, You Write Your Novel offers advice on how to do as the title of this book suggests. In this workshop, students will make significant progress towards their goal of finishing a complete first draft of their novels by the end of the summer. Participants will cheer each other on as they break through obstacles to their projects’ completion. Each student will submit and receive substantive feedback on a new excerpt of their novel-in-progress. Appropriate for beginning as well as advanced writers, this weeklong workshop will be of particular interest to writers who want to strengthen character development and employ new ideas for plotting and structuring their manuscripts.

Submission Limit: 60,000 words (200 pages)
Workshop Size: Five participants

Led by Naomi Jackson

Beginnings and Endings: a short story is like a first date. What makes the difference between wanting to move forward and wanting to be done already? Can a powerful ending somehow redeem a weak beginning, and vice versa? "You'll never get a new ending if you keep starting with the same tired beginning," says Lisa Daily. In what ways do the beginnings and endings inform the story? In this workshop, we will discuss your stories with a focus on their beginnings and their endings.

Submission Limit: 15,000 words (50 pages)
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Led by Chinelo Okparantha

Please note that this workshop is at capacity. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email writersconference@colgate.edu.

Novel Opening Intensive: we will address the importance of the opening sections as you shape your novel. This class will engage novel writing on the structural/macro level as well as on the sentence-by-sentence micro level.  We will focus particularly on your inaugural fifty pages and how the opening determines everything that follows.  We will look at voice, narrative POV, tone, structure, long arcs and smaller arcs, narrative threads, formal patterns and organizing principles, transitions between chapters and threads, and the challenges of exposition. We will focus on how to manage all these elements. We will also discuss how much outlining and planning to do on a first draft, and about different methods of drafting novels. 

Submission Limit: 60,000 words (200 pages)
Workshop Size: Five participants

Led by Dana Spiotta

Please note that this workshop is at capacity. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email writersconference@colgate.edu.

Beginnings need to do so much workestablish voice, characters, plot, the entire world of your novel, and most importantly, they must captivate. But what does that even mean? What are the mechanics of captivation? We know it has something to do with voice, and pace, and plot. We're told we must "hook" a reader in the opening pages. We're told we must open and close a narrative arc in ACT I, even while introducing longer arcs. And all of this is more or less true. But when we become too aware of mechanics, the work often, ironically, loses the sense of narrative inevitably, or flow. By limiting our scope to the first seventy-pages, we'll have time to look at macro structural issues and some micro sentence-level issues. Our focus will be on removing impediments and nailing the balance of exposition and poetry.

Submission limit: 22,500 words (75 pages)
Workshop size: Five participants

Led by Justin Torres

Nonfiction

When it comes to the personal essay, I believe that the form is the story and the story is in the form. That’s why this particular form of storytelling allows us to do so much in a relatively limited space, from variations on the political treatise to records of interior journeys. Excellent essays can range from imaginative expressions of emotional truths to fact-based journalistic investigations. In this workshop, we will study the mechanics of the genre through careful discussion of our own work, as well as exemplary essays by masters of the form, such as: James Baldwin, Jo Ann Beard, Tressie McMillan Cotton, Joan Didion, Atul Gawande, Vivian Gornick, and others. Workshop participants are required to have read each other’s work before we convene and have made notes according to guidelines for critique provided to them well ahead of our meeting. We will work from hard copies but participants are allowed to bring laptops for in-class exercises.

Submission Length: 3,600—7,500 words (anywhere from 12-25 pages)
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Led by Emily Bernard

Literary nonfiction—fact-based, voice-driven, vivid, observant, insightful, and crafted with the same artistry we expect of the literary novel—encompasses many subgenres, including memoir, literary journalism, travel and nature writing, linked personal essays, biography, history, cultural criticism, and works that are an amalgam of some or all of these subgenres or perhaps wilder hybrids that pull in speculation, fiction, philosophical thought experiment, poetry, raw documentary records and evidence, and theory. The “literary” part, of course, speaks to the careful craft and sophisticated use of techniques in regards to story form and structure, characterization, explication and analysis, setting, action and movement, image and metaphor, and style, all in the service of thematic clarity, overall project coherence, and deep substance.
This workshop is for participants who have completed or almost completed a full draft of a literary nonfiction book manuscript. I will meet one-on-one with each participant about their full manuscript. Participants will also workshop with the group a 20-25 page excerpt from their MS, which I will ask them to introduce in writing and verbally and contextualize.

Submission Limit: 60,000 words (200 pages), with an excerpt highlighted
Workshop Size: Five participants

Led by Greg Bottoms

Good nonfiction portrays the movement of a mind across the page. In this supportive and positive workshop we will focus on strategies for conceptualizing, drafting and revising your manuscript-in-progress. We will examine your manuscript for its strengths and unique voice and character. Then we will look at structure, characters, and scene-level details. We will examine your work for the kind of deep themes that can give your work resonance and mileage. Writers will be asked to pick up a packet of short excerpts, which will address aspects of craft and each day we engage in mini lessons that focus on a particular aspect of the craft of narrative nonfiction. The instructor will hold one-on-one conferences, and will offer each participant written feedback. Participants should read the manuscripts of their peers and write a brief letter (up to one page) summarizing their reading experience and offering supportive feedback. Manuscripts at any stage of completion are welcome.

Submission limit: 60,000 words (200 pages)
Workshop size: Five participants 

Led by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

Poetry

This poetry workshop is designed to generate new work and to help poets re-energize and reimagine their approach to existing drafts.  James Baldwin said: “When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.” In that same spirit of discovery, we’ll venture to move closer to that urgent, necessary thing that moved us to write the poem in the first place, what Emily Dickinson called “The Truth’s superb surprise.” The emphasis will be on opening up to the greater possibilities for the work via experimentation, invention, associative and musical thinking, and a productive derangement of the senses. We’ll talk about how to mine “truths” from broader sources, such as history, science, psychology, spirituality, memory, mythology, and dreams, and we’ll try to get closer to the language and the lyricism that casts a spell on the familiar and allows us to see things in an entirely new way. Participants will engage in in-class writing exercises, and we’ll read and talk about each other’s work. The aim is for students to leave the workshop feeling emboldened to write wilder, more adventurous poems. 

Submission Length: Six poems, totaling no more than twenty pages
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Led by Jules Gibbs

My American Scrawl

Increasingly indecisive, about matters both big and little, I have found that poetry is the one area where I am not inclined to crank up the fog machine, to palter or dissemble or quaver or hastily reverse myself. This is the one scene where I advance determined, if not precisely ready, to do battle with what an overly cited Jungian described as the anesthetized heart, the heart that does not react.

C.D. Wright (2015)

The emphasis in this workshop will be both on the craftthe language and the shaping and forming of the writing, and the imaginationthe vision that's unique to each individual.  It does battle with “the anesthetized heart.”  Classroom work will consist primarily of intensive workshop style discussion of student work, although each class will begin with poems, ancient and modern, as model or target for discussions of technique as well as examples of tapping the resources available to the writer.  I’ll begin class with what I call, an “exemplary” poet – avoiding the more proscriptive term “essential.”  Exercises will include ways to locate the source of your poems as well as ways to "music" them, to shape them, and to revise them.

Submission Limit: Six poems, totaling no more than twenty pages
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Led by Bruce Smith

Dramatic Writing

Do you have a story to tell in the form of a playscript or a screenplay? How are the two forms similar and different, and what can one teach us about the other? Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced dramatic writer, this unique dramatic writing workshop will allow you to start or revise a short stage play, short narrative screenplay, or both! Beginning with proven prompts that inspire and challenge, we will workshop scripts of up to fifty pages and focus on theatrical and visual storytelling and even the basics of proper script formatting. So, whether it’s “Lights up” or “FADE IN,” come ready to explore, learn and share. Fiction and nonfiction writers are encouraged to join. All experience levels are welcome.

Submission limit: 50 pages 
Workshop size: 10 

Led by Kyle Bass

Jumpstarter Workshop

You bring an idea or two, and our workshop will help you turn them into a manuscript. Come prepared to do a little bit of writing every day. Exercises in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry will help unlock your creativity and clarify your aims. Those who wish to may read their work aloud for on-the-spot critiques in a safe and supportive environment. After a week of mini-lectures on the art and craft of writing as well as a one-on-one conference with the instructor, you should head off with a clear plan and a few more pages.

This workshop is open to anyone who wishes to take it. If you’d like to provide a brief description (<500 words) of your project, feel free to do so.

Led by Jennifer Brice

In this jumpstarter workshop we’ll discuss and experiment with the endless varieties of prompts that can help you generate new ideas for stories or novels or find new directions for the projects you’ve already begun. From scouring fine art and vintage photographs to drawing diagrams and maps, from free writing to navigating strict linguistic boundaries, we’ll aim to discover and put to use those strategies that get and keep you writing. Since this is a generative class, with a mixture of writing, discussion, and workshops, you don’t need to submit any writing in advance. You simply need to be prepared to experiment, have fun, and share your work with your classmates and with me.

This workshop is open to anyone who wishes to take it. If you’d like to provide a brief description (<500 words) of your project, feel free to do so.

Led by John Gregory Brown

The Writers' Retreat

Please note that the writer's retreat is at capacity. If you would like to be added to the waitlist, please email writersconference@colgate.edu, or consider signing up for one of the jumpstarter workshops.

The Writers’ Retreat offers ultimate freedom and flexibility. Instead of participating in a workshop, you’re welcome to write, rest, and recharge as you see fit. You can choose to attend any combination of craft lectures from our esteemed faculty, shop talks with editors and agents, literary readings, and social events. You’ll also have the opportunity to use the campus library, fitness facilities, and network of hiking trails. This option includes full room and board.