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Crafting the Personal Essay with Greg Bottoms

The essay is a flexible form, able to be autobiographical and civic-minded, wide-ranging and intimate, attentive to the immediate and the overarching at the same time. It can hold facts and imagination, memory and speculation, experience and observation, journalism and the fictive. In this workshop for all levels, we will work on finding the heart of our essays in drafts and then thinking like editors about our own work related to issues such as voice and narrative persona, introduction and explication of ideas, structural and formal coherence, vivid and precise language, and creating endings that arise organically and powerfully from the concerns and material at hand.

I would like to discuss two student essay drafts per workshop with the intent of supporting the writer to make the essay as strong as possible. I also want to look at the what and how of one exemplary published essay (time permitting) from contemporary writers such as Claudia Rankine, Annie Dillard, John Berger, Leslie Jamison, Richard Rodriguez, and others.

Submission Limit: 7,500 words (~25 pages)
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Jump-Starter Workshop with Jennifer Brice

You bring the ideas, and this workshop will help you turn them into a manuscript. Be prepared to write every day. Exercises in fiction and nonfiction will help unlock your creativity and clarify your aims. If you like, you can read your work aloud for on-the-spot critiques in the safe and supportive environment of the workshop. 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’ll head home with a plan and pages.

To apply for this workshop, send a 250-word description of your project. If you can, let us know whether you are working in fiction or nonfiction.

Workshop Size: Ten participants

Creative Nonfiction Narrative with Angela Palm

The workshop will provide a supportive, encouraging, lively environment that focuses on strategies for drafting and revising your manuscript-in-progress. Through group discussions we’ll examine your manuscript’s structure, narrative voice, framing, content organization, treatment of experience, memory, and characters, as well as the finer scene-level details. Each day will offer mini lessons that focus on a particular aspect of the craft of narrative nonfiction. Writers will be asked to pick up a packet of short excerpts which we’ll reference throughout the week. One-on-one conferences will be offered to each participant, and written feedback will be provided. Participants should read their peers’ manuscript 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

Your novel: Seeing clearly what’s behind — and before — you with Carrie Brown

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 meet individually with each participant and provide written feedback on your novel. 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

The Eye of the Novel; The “I" of the Novel with John Gregory Brown

“The most important element in fiction is not what happens; it’s who it happens to.” That simple assertion by the great novelist and inestimable writing professor John Barth has proven for me an invaluable tool in conceiving, composing, and revising my own work and as a lens through which to view the work of my students. In this workshop we’ll keep this notion in mind as we read each participant’s work: What is the eye through which the author presents the events of the novel, and how does that perspective, that consciousness, shape the other elements of the work: voice, setting, pacing, plot, etc.? In short, how does “who” become “what”?

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

Novel Intensive with Brock Clarke

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.

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

This Summer, You Write Your Novel with Naomi Jackson

Stephen King suggests that a novel should be written in a season. Walter Moseley’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

Novel Intensive with Anne Valente

This summer, we will work on outlining, drafting and revising the novel. Participants should submit either completed drafts or representative excerpts of a novel-in-progress, and we will focus on the entirety of the novel in workshop as well as zeroing in on two or three specific, key passages. Each workshop member will receive substantial feedback from me on their work, both in an individualized workshop as well as in a one-on-one conference. Participants should write detailed, one-page letters in response to each manuscript in advance of workshop, either digitally or printed, and will be expected to thoroughly discuss the work on the day of each participant’s workshop. Above all, workshop members should expect an encouraging, supportive environment for discussing and strengthening their novels.

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

Playwrights Boot Camp with Kyle Bass

Playwriting is a craft and an art. It’s also hard work. You have to train to be at your best. Whether you’re new to playwriting and need to build your playwriting muscle, or you’re an experienced playwright with a draft of a scene or short play that’s a bit flabby, in this supportive, high-intensity workshop, we will exercise the basics of playwriting craft to get your playwriting skills into tip-top shape. Working with early drafts of your scene or short play, we will focus on tightening dialog, disguising exposition, crafting scenes that have a clear action, conflict and event, and writing with theatricality. And we will run proven playwriting drills, exercises, and prompts to get your “art” rate up and energize your revision process. Come ready to work. All experience levels welcome.

Submission Limit: 25 pages in standard playwriting format
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Poetry with Peter Balakian

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.

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

Poetry with Eduardo C. Corral

In this workshop, we’ll explore poems with a rigorous generosity. We’ll delve into the poet’s craft choices (syntax, diction, sonic and visual patterns) to investigate how these choices energize their language. We’ll also pay close attention to the places where the language seems to falter. Instead of suggesting edits for the weaker language, we’ll compare and contrast it with the stronger language in the poem. This will help us discover other possibilities for the weaker language. This approach—borrowed from the poet Martha Collins—transforms the stronger language into the standard for the whole poem. Every workshop will begin with a short craft lecture, and over the course of the week, I will assign prompts to help generate new work. Please read and annotate the poems before the first class.

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

Poetry with Jenny Xie

This workshop—open to any level—will be structured around the workshopping of poems, discussion of craft and revision, and generative exercises. Over the course of a week, participants will be encouraged to extend their range as poets, and try their attempts at writing and revision exercises that may help animate their poems with new rhythms, lexicons, and syntactical structures. Workshop members will read one another’s submissions before the first class, and come prepared to thoughtfully discuss—and give intellectually invested feedback on—how the submitted poems are shaped and charged, and how we might better help them along to where they strive to go.

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

Two Fictions, Fat and Thin (Stories and Flashes) with CJ Hauser

For this workshop you will submit a complete short story draft to be critiqued by your fellow writers. You will receive written critiques from all members of the class as well as from me. We will discuss your work to help guide you toward a revisions strategy, but we will also use your submissions as a springboard for more macro discussions about the craft of story writing.

Each day, as time permits, we will read a piece of flash fiction in class in order to learn how to conjure potent language and enchant readers with our storytelling. We will also do exercises in class, inspired by our daily flashes, to generate new ideas and work.

This workshop welcomes writers of realism as well as writers of speculative or experimental fiction. Bring me your unflinchingly real, your incisively true, your fantastically weird, or your terrifically peculiar. I can’t wait.

Submission Limit: 7,500 words (~25 pages)
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Seeing the Forest and the Trees: A YA Workshop with Amy Rose Capetta

Trees don’t thrive without a forest—and no matter how strong the prose, it can’t thrive without a strong story. (By definition, a forest is nothing without its trees!) To help you craft vivid and vital YA, we’ll focus on the symbiotic relationship between the words on the page and the larger story.

Each participant’s submission of a short story or a portion of a novel will be discussed in a way that opens into a larger discussion of writing craft. You will receive written feedback from me, but do not need to provide written manuscript notes for your fellow participants. Instead, please spend your time reading closely and come ready to participate in a lively conversation.

Every day we will explore a topic that relates to the bond between language and story, imagining outward from the pages you have submitted. Part of every session will be spent in scheming, scribbling, story mode.

Any and every genre (and genre blend!) is welcome.

Submission Limit: 7,500 words (~25 pages)
Workshop Size: Ten participants

Writers' Retreat

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?


*We can only guarantee space for manuscripts of 60,000 words or less, but we will try to accommodate larger submissions for our intensive workshops. The standard workshop fee covers up to 60,000 words (~200 pages). Participants can submit additional pages at a rate of $250 for every additional 30,000 words (~100 pages).