2017 Workshops

Mind and Body: A Fiction Workshop with Garth Greenwell      

Description and setting lie at the heart of what seems to me the distinguishing virtue of the literary imagination: its ability to communicate the experience of another person’s consciousness. This ability lies at the heart of literature’s power to move us. In this workshop, we’ll pay special attention to how our prose can give the impression of lived experience, and will explore techniques for powerfully building our characters’ inner and outer worlds. For inspiration and example, we’ll look to passages from Paul Harding, Virginia Woolf, Jeffrey Renard Allen, Marilynne Robinson, and others.  Manuscripts limited to 5000 words.


Advance Prose Workshop with Pam Houston

Essayists, memoirists and fictioneers are welcome.  We will be looking at 5000 words of each writer’s work and talking about how to make those 5000 words better, so what those discussions include will depend entirely on the work that is turned in.  Having said that, we will likely cover point of view and tense choices, dialogue and how to make it more effective, narrative arc, form and structure, beginnings and endings, and raising the emotional stakes.  We will always be aiming to trust our readers fully by providing fuller access  to the stories we are telling them, giving each other the courage to trust the concrete physical details, the metaphors that drove us to the page in the first place, and eliminating those moments when we through our bodies between the reader and the prose.  Please also read Going To Meet The Man, by James Baldwin, and The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. Manuscripts limited to 5000 words.


Mapping the Interior Journey:  Reading and Writing as Spiritual Practice with Fenton Johnson

This cross- and mixed-genre workshop offers short readings and prompts drawn from fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry in the rich mode of the interior journey:  spiritual, contemplative, metaphorical.  We will pay particular attention to the role of reading and writing and the solitude they require as ways to build and strengthen the foundation for active, world-engaged lives.  How can reading and writing help us endure challenging times?  How may they inspire our vision of the world and our place in it?  What are the aspects of each genre—creative nonfiction, fiction, poetry—that best suit it for your particular vision?  Before we gather, I’ll distribute via .pdf short readings from each genre to act as touchstones for our discussions of your work.  Prose manuscripts should be no longer than 5,000 words.  Poets should submit no more than seven pages of poems, and should select two for collective workshop discussion.


Not Your Life’s Tragic Passenger with Joan Naviyuk Kane

One of the great imaginative allures of the lyric (in poem and prose) is that it can invent its audience as much as it can invent its speaker. What are the ways in which we can write and revise lyrically that can allow our work to depart from, evade and amplify the experiential in its collaborations with language, history, and place? We will do some generative exercises and workshopping as well as discussion, of course. Please limit your manuscripts to 3 poems or 2500 words. 


Writing Good Stories: A Prose Workshop with Cheryl Strayed

In this workshop we’ll explore the art and craft of writing good stories, both fictional and nonfictional. We’ll discuss elements of craft such as plot, point of view, dialogue, metaphor, and description, and delve into the various ways of structuring and styling prose narratives to achieve the greatest impact. We’ll talk about how to be brave on the page by digging deep to find the story that often sits beneath the stories we want to tell. We’ll explore the differences and similarities between the genres of fiction and literary nonfiction and contemplate how they inform each other. Most of all, we’ll discuss the manuscripts each participant will share with the class, with the goal of offering insight and encouragement for the next draft. Please submit a prose manuscript of between 1000 and 5000 words. A few short reading assignments will be made by Cheryl in advance of the class.


Working in the Soul Mine: Trusting the Shadows Beneath the Words with Luis Alberto Urrea

In this workshop, we will develop our trust in the powers of the understory in our writing. There will be an episode of generative play, so bring your notebooks & your pens. Your manuscripts can be any genre — this discipline applies to all forms of writing. To prepare, please read “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty and “A Hanging” by George Orwell. Be ready to go deep into your mind. Manuscripts limited to 5000 words.