2017 Event Descriptions

Here is a closer look at some of our conference offerings. Check back regularly as new program descriptions are added.

Fiction Workshop with Michael Lowenthal

Jean Cocteau, tasked with creating a new ballet for the great Ballets Russes founder, Sergei Diaghilev, asked for some advice. Diaghilev’s famous reply: “Astonish me!” As fiction writers, how can we live up to Diaghilev’s demand–not necessarily in terms of outlandish plots, but in terms of technique? This workshop aims to equip participants with the necessary tools. We will address the fundamentals of successful fiction writing–character, diction, structure, dialogue, point of view–grounded in the crucial skill of reading as a writer. We will ask questions such as: Where should a story begin? What should a story’s ending accomplish? How does the fiction writer handle time within a narrative? Each day’s session may include close craft analysis of compelling published work, individual and group exercises, and supportive critique of participants’ own work. Please bring the opening passages (3 pages maximum) of a short story, novella or novel to share with the workshop.

Poetry Workshop with Major Jackson

Achieving distinction as a poet is a result of stylistic vision, but most often, of finding the courage to say the “unsayable” which often illuminates some aspect of human existence while serving as a testimonial of the poet’s life and journey.  With a concern for craft elements of a poem such as imagery, sound, syntax, and form, this beginning and intermediate workshop is focused on ways to structure a poem that frames the “grand utterance.” We will read and discuss example works as well as excerpts of interviews, then make effort towards writing our own poems that name our truths in memorable language through in-class writing exercises. In this sense, the workshop is generative and designed to cultivate empathy and courage while offering strategies of composition that facilitate self-revelation.

Nonfiction Workshop with Kenny Fries

In this hands-on workshop, we’ll explore how creative nonfiction differs from, and might be similar to, fiction and other genres. We’ll look at how we might best use techniques and structures from other genres (narrative voice, dialogue, characterization, flashback/flashforward, setting, close-up, montage, point of view, etc.) to get to the heart of what we’re writing. Each day we’ll use our time together to discuss craft issues, look at some short excerpts from good examples of the genre (memoir, personal essay, travel writing, and other kinds of creative nonfiction), write and brainstorm from prompts, and share some of our own work with each other. The goal of the workshop is to get each of us further along in what we’re writing or want to write with a focus on how best to lift the work off the page into the reader’s psyche.

Panel Discussion: Historical Narratives: The Craft of Writing

This discussion with historian and author Marie Jenkins Schwartz and historical novelist Taylor Polites will focus on the joys and challenges of engaging with history when writing. Research is an essential part of writing any book set in the past. What approaches to research work, and when it is time to stop researching and to start writing? Both Schwartz and Polites will read excerpts from their latest books and explain how their approaches to research informed the stories they tell.

Publishing Panel: Demystifying Publication and Prizes

How do you write a query letter?  Do you need a platform?  Are literary prizes a viable path to getting published? Are there advantages to self-publishing? We will answer these questions and more. Panelists will share their experience and expertise as editors, publishers and writers. You will receive sound advice on querying etiquette, finding the right agent/editor, tips on submitting to literary contests. They will also touch on trends and changes in the marketplace.

Craft Talk: Screenwriting: Page to Screen

This craft session will look at ways to bring your words to life. Attendees will explore how to do this with screenwriting techniques such as the role of dialogue in characterization, scene shaping, creating insightful character descriptions and use of non-verbal expressions of identity.

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