Below you will find detailed descriptions of the workshops, panel discussions and craft seminars available this year. Be sure to visit our Conference Schedule page for details about when/where these events will take place!
Beginning Fiction Workshop
This workshop will spend time looking at and doing some writing exercises relevant to the essential craft of writing fiction. We will examine how yearning plays out as the engine and structure of fiction, look at various ways to develop character and dramatic tension, play with the selective use of details, setting, and body language, and study effective and strategic beginnings, endings, and use of back-story. The workshop will generate material for participants to take home and develop into full-blown stories. There will be a short writing assignment and reading given in workshop on Thursday that will be due for Friday's workshop.
Intermediate Fiction Workshop: Beginnings and Endings
In working on any piece, the writer is constantly engaged in a dialectic of starting and stopping. Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end—not necessarily in that order! – and we look here at these framing components of story structure, as well as how to begin and end individual scenes to make them work for the overall pacing of your narrative. In addition to looking at key models of beginnings and endings in recent fiction, we will also complete some writing exercises on the topic.
Advanced Fiction Workshop
This is a course for the intermediate or advanced writer of fiction to continue his or her exploration of technique and voice. Topics to be addressed include the process of discovering and developing style, strong sentences, and the experimentation with point of view. The workshop leader will notify enrolled students one week in advance with a reading assignment to prepare for the first class. We will complete in-class writing to share aloud, as well as a significant assignment for the second day of the workshop.
Beginning Poetry Workshop
Poetry is not, thank God, journalism; so please lie to me. In this course, we will look at the work of poets including Michael Dumanis, Louise Glück, James Hall, Tyehimba Jess, Suji Kwock Kim, Sylvia Plath, Claudia Rankine, Tracy K. Smith, and Natasha Trethewey to see how shifts in perspective and identity enhance a poem’s effectiveness. Students are encouraged but not required to submit poems prior to registration, giving us the opportunity to workshop using what we have read as a way of revising toward stronger voices and more definite personalities in our drafts.
Advanced Poetry Workshop: Rebels, Sirens, Outlaws
Poetry is oftentimes driven by a mysterious force that prompts the imaginative writer to rebel, disobey, tell fantastic truths, subvert, to make new or forge an entirely new path in a way that feels both expansive and combustible. This class will concentrate on in-class writing and critique, poetic experiments, wild meanderings, anchored by choice readings of poems and essays. Students will be given a take-home assignment to be discussed in class; we will read writers from different schools, cultures and traditions, examining how they define themselves and the motivating ideas behind their work. This class provides instruction in interpreting written texts as well as the development of clear writing. I stress exploration, inquiry, reflection, analysis, collaborative learning, and passionate creation. Open to all levels of writing.
Nonfiction Workshop: Escape from Chronology!
Travel writing is often-- erroneously--considered the "easiest" form of creative non-fiction. Everyone takes a vacation; everyone has material; anyone can be a travel writer. Not so. Probably the greatest mistake that writers new to this genre make is enslaving themselves to the "and then we did" chronology of a trip. In this workshop we'll identify alternative building blocks of a good travel story; consider creative narrative structures; and plot ways to avoid slavery to the itinerary. The techniques we'll explore using travel material apply to all forms of good creative non-fiction.
Nonfiction Workshop: Trust & Authenticity in Nonfiction
Writer and painter John Berger says, “Every authentic painting demonstrates a collaboration. When a painting is lifeless it is the result of the painter not having the nerve to get close enough for a collaboration to start. …if the painted image is not a copy but the result of a dialogue, the painted thing speaks if we listen.” In this workshop we’ll review ways in which nonfiction writers develop trust with their readers. What makes a non-fiction text ring true? What techniques can we use to “get close enough” to our subject matter? How can the choices we make as writers encourage “collaboration” with our readers? This workshop will offer models, suggestions, and short writing assignments to help establish trust and develop a meaningful dialogue between writer and reader. Students will be provided with a reading assignment and a short writing exercise a week in advance.
Nonfiction Workshop: The Personal Essay
How does an essay originate and why does a writer feel compelled to express something in the form of an essay? How do you write an essay that is self-contained and, ideally, publishable? How do you tell a story that is compelling? We will review successful ways to structure the essay so as to best tell the story inherent in the narrative. We will discuss strategies for developing an essay from idea to finished draft -- getting it ready for publication. We will also consider the deeper motivations and responsibilities of writing an essay. Please bring a draft or manuscript to work on during the workshop.
Craft Seminar I: Fiction
This seminar will look at qualities that make dialogue work in fiction to build dramatic tension and convey conflict. It will also examine reasons for not using dialogue. It will give participants a chance to experiment with using dialogue to develop character and using indirect discourse or narrative summary to keep the story focused where it best serves the main character's conflict. The session will also examine the pacing of dialogue and the need for body language and pauses within it.
Craft Seminar I: Nonfiction
Creative non-fiction is about conveying information in a way that readers find irresistible. Little is less resistible than food. Through readings and in-class writing, this seminar will explore ways in which non-fiction authors use food, cooking, and meals to reveal information about history, place, biography, culture, and the self.
Craft Seminar I: Poetry
T.S. Eliot once wrote that poetry is “an escape from personality,” yet for many of us the urge to write stems from our own very personal feelings. Ironically, one of the best ways to tap our emotional experience is to take on a perspective other than our own. Dramatic monologues, written in the first-person voice of another individual—human, animal , even an object—allow us to rediscover ourselves by speaking through others. Using classic and contemporary poems as examples, we will explore the range of options available through discussion and writing exercises.
Panel Discussion I: Prose
Often times writers will have a million great idea for starting a piece, but maintaining motivation to follow-through can be an obstacle. Panelists will discuss different approaches to and techniques for knowing when a piece is done and how to get it there.
Panel Discussion I: Poetry
How do we write about the deeply personal issues of ourselves and others in a way which goes beyond ourselves, in a way which is intimate yet doesn't cross over into being too revealing? What is "too" revealing? Panelists will discuss new ways to approach confessional poetry and what the place of confession ought to, and can, be in poetry.
Panel Discussion II: Poetry
How can one employ, invent, or reinvent poetic forms that respond to the aesthetic, cultural, and personal conditions of the 21st century? Why choose to confine oneself to a form? What purpose does it play in contemporary poetry? The panel will address these questions among others. Panel: Talvi Ansel, Darcie Dennigan, Melissa Hotchkiss. Moderated by Max Orisini.
Craft Seminar II: Fiction
This seminar considers craft and technique issues related to monologue, from first-person narration in monologue form to monologues in fictional structures to the relation of monologue to dialogue. We will discuss the work of writers such as John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov, Grace Paley, John Hawkes, and others, as well as students' own work.
Craft Seminar II:
Working & Writing in New England: New England has been home to many of the country's most distinguished writers and thinkers past and present. What challenges, advantages, and influences does this unique region present us today?
Our panelists will discuss their experiences working as successful writers in New England. Topics will include how New England has informed the setting, tone, and character of their work; how to balance writing with working, family, and other obligations; and how today's media-saturated world has changed the writing landscape--from publishing to promotion.
Craft Seminar III: Master Class
This session will deal with a significant, sometimes overlooked, aspect of memoir writing: the importance of place. Members will discuss their work, the places where their work is set, and will participate in a writing exercise about place. If participants have works-in-progress, they can bring them to the workshop to think through how “place” might function in selected pages — no more than, say, three or four.
Panel Discussion III:
Many of us are compelled to write about our families. It can be cathartic, humorous, a process of personal growth, a way to express admiration. Family is one of the most natural subjects, but it can also be one of the most dangerous. This cross-genre panel will focus on writing about one's family and what responsibilities and obligations you have when doing so.
Panel Discussion III: Publishing
Panelists will discuss the process of publishing and editing in magazines and journals including literary and lifestyle magazines, anthologies, and chapbooks.
Panel Discussion IV: Fiction
What do voices show us, as well as tell us, about characters? How are stories constructed around or propelled by these voices? The panel will discuss the ways that dialogue, silence, subtext, dialect, and point of view reflect character. As well as the possibilities and limitations of first-person narratives and how voices influence the reliability of characters.
Craft Seminar IV: Poetry
Words are the stuff that poems are made of—but how often do we delve beyond the surface and truly dip into the richness of language? A little excavation can uncover fresh nuances and reveal diverse meanings (and sounds) that we never dreamed our words could have. We will read poems that pay special attention to language and explore the effects and origins of key words. Participants can bring in a poem for a “language transfusion”—or start a new piece during this hands-on session.
Panel Discussion V: Publishing
Allison Trzop and editor at Beacon Press and Kate Epstein, founder of Kate Epstein Literary Agency discuss the process of getting published, how to approach an editor or agent, and what you need to know before you do.