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Event Descriptions 2011

Here is a closer look at some of our conference offerings. Check back regularly as new events are added, or follow us on Facebook, where you will find more information about the programs, presenters, writing events in the Northeast, and resources for writers.


INTENSIVE WORKSHOPS (Each workshop meets three times: Thursday,1:30-3:30 p.m.; Friday, 9-11:30 a.m.; and Saturday, 8:45-10:45 p.m.

  • Closed Creative Writing Workshop (Fiction and Creative Nonfiction) with Matthew Derby This hybridized fiction/non-fiction workshop will focus on the practice of inversion. Whether we're rendering a passage in a novel or attempting to represent an historical/autobiographical event, we often write ourselves into a corner by hewing too closely to 'what we know.' One effective way to escape certain conventions that threaten to make our stories predictable is to invert some aspect of the narrative. We'll consider the ramifications of standing character, setting, tone, and perspective on their head - can we gain new insight on a dull or problematic scene by radically shifting a single vector? To answer this and other related questions, we will try a series of short exercises designed to hep us re-imagine our own work.
  • Closed Fiction Workshop (Intermediate) with Jody Lisberger This workshop will spend time looking at and doing some writing exercises relevant to fiction writers who have already had a semester-long beginning fiction class or the equivalent. We will review ways to deepen characters, create dramatic tension, shape scene, and use and proportion dialogue and narrative summary. We will explore uses and pitfalls of back-story, consider strategies for choosing effective points of view and point of view changes, and examine the power and pitfalls of endings. The workshop will generate material for participants to take home and develop into full-blown stories. There will be a few writing assignments and readings given in workshop on Thursday and Friday that will be due for the next day’s workshop.
  • Fiction Workshop (Advanced) with Nalini Jones In this workshop, we’ll try to think about fiction the way musicians think about jazz: not just about the notes themselves, beautifully sounded -- notes such as characters, setting, point of view, plot, invention -- but about what makes those notes swing. How does a piece of fiction come to life? Through mastery of technique, in part, and we’ll consider elements of craft. But we’ll also think about how fiction begins and where it takes us, about its impulses and possibilities. There will be a few shared readings assigned in advance, and short writing exercises intended for discussion.
  • Closed Creative Nonfiction Workshop with Richard Hoffman: Writing “from Life” This is a craft workshop for students writing memoir or other first person nonfiction. Each meeting will begin with a short lecture on some aspect of craft or a discussion of some issue facing writers of memoir. Questions to be taken up in these lectures/discussions include the ethics of writing about the living, rounding out the character "I", moving around in time, the braiding of recurrent themes throughout the narrative, the balance of scene and narration, the role of research in first person nonfiction, and the inclusion of dreams, letters, other storytellers, and public events.
  • Poetry Workshop (Beginning) with Darcie Dennigan Poets are the thieving magpies of the writing world. And in this course, we will practice the art of reading as thieves, stealing poetic moves from great contemporary poets. We’ll also steal inspiration, because poems are always in dialogue with other poems, and because the only adequate response to a beloved work of art is another work of art. Each meeting, we will try one or more writing exercises, share student work, and discuss great poems. I want you to leave this conference with feedback on your work, at least two new poems, and a developing appreciation for how you can make other poets’ techniques your own.
  • Poetry Workshop (Advanced) with Kathleen Aguero In this class we will explore issues of craft, experiment in ways that push us beyond our usual subject matter and style, and explore the fine line between challenging and confusing our readers. We will use class time reading and examining the work of other writers who may serve as models, working on in-class writing exercises, and critiquing and responding to one another’s poems.


MASTER CLASSES (Friday and Saturday)

Friday, 2:30-4 p.m.

  • Creative Nonfiction with Richard Hoffman: The First Page(s) In this seminar we will look at the opening pages of several memoirs and discuss what each accomplishes and how. Many memoirists choose to begin with a prologue, a tasty hors d’oeuvre to whet the reader’s appetite. Others plunge the reader into action and dialogue. Still others write an overture that gives us the whole of the story in an abbreviated form. We will discuss the benefits and shortcomings of each approach while we attend to the irreducible criteria for an effective opening: the seduction of the reader, the establishment of trust, and the profluent energy that summons the reader forward into the story.
  • Fiction with Karen Lee Boren: Writerly Reading In order to become a better writer, one must first become a better reader -- a more humble, attentive, and creative reader. In this class, we will learn how to read fiction from a writer’s perspective and how to identify and track an author’s choices from sentence to sentence.

Saturday, 2-3:30 p.m.

  • Fiction with Crystal Wilkinson: She's Making a Scene Again In this session we will focus on writing complete scenes and building tension in those scenes to create fiction (even the quietest of fiction). We will look at one published writer’s ability to make a scene and then complete the skeleton of a story in the time allotted through a variety of exercises. Enrolled participants will be given the published story prior to the class.
  • Poetry with Tomaz Salamun: Lost and Found in Translation We will focus on a select number of participants' poems as examples and discuss them, while also exploring issues of translating poetry from English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Serbocroatian. Participants can also propose their own translation experiences for more consideration. We will further discuss whether and why the American poetry scene is the most vital and vibrant in the world today.
  • Creative Nonfiction with Mary Cappello: Swallowed and Saved: The Chevalier Jackson Foreign Body Collection and the Art it has Inspired, a multimedia presentation based on Cappello's book Swallow: Foreign Bodies, Their Ingestion, Inspiration, and the Curious Doctor Who Extracted Them (New Press, 2010). What might a poetics of literary nonfiction look like? How and why might we as writers wish to bring words and visual images into the same space? What kind of life can writing have in performance -- beyond and inclusive of the page upon which it is written? How can biographically inflected or research-based nonfiction open our writing into unexpected areas of reflection, imagination, and investigation? Cappello will present an "illustrated reading" followed by discussion and Q and A. Cappello is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction.

CRAFT SESSIONS (Friday and Saturday)

Friday, 2:30-3:15 p.m.

  • Poetry with Darcie Dennigan: Starting Out -- The Pleasure of Playing Around The job of the poet, says Paul Valery, is not to experience the poetic state, but to inspire it in others. To write a poem, no expert trance is necessary... just a willingness to play -- as recklessly as possible -- with words and with images. And if you think of it that way, how can there ever be such a thing as writers' block? In this session, we will use ideas from Dean Young's book The Art of Recklessness to practice playing like poets -- hearing one word inside another, seeing one image hidden in another, and finding one poem beneath another. We'll also practice doing math like poets, for whom 1+1 always equals 3. And in our mishearings, imaginings, and errors of calculation, I hope we will make serious poetry.
  • Fiction with Nalini Jones: A Place in the World -- Bringing Setting to Life Eudora Welty wrote that "Place is one of the lesser angels that watch over the racing hand of fiction." Why is a sense of place such a strong feature of good writing? How does it contribute to character, plot, and what Welty calls "feeling?" And how do we, as writers, funnel the smells, sounds, and sights of a place into language? How do we create whole worlds -- real, reenvisioned, or imagined -- in which our characters struggle or thrive? This seminar will explore the "lesser angel" of fiction, with special attention to writers whose work may guide us as we begin to invent worlds of our own.
  • Fiction/Creative Nonfiction with Crystal Wilkinson: Point of View or The Eye of the I Unlike some of the structural elements of fiction like character or plot, point of view is essentially more about the relationship you form from story to reader, a psychological connection rather than a concrete one. Henry James called first person "that accursed autobiographic form which puts a premium on the loose, the improvised, the cheap and the easy." We will look at examples of first person narratives that work using examples and if time permits, a few writing exercises.

Friday, 3:20-4:05 p.m.

  • Fiction with Crystal Wilkinson: Ways of Seeing/Ways of Reading/Ways of Revising "Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak."(John Berger) This craft session will broach a variety of approaches to reading, revising, and seeing your work and the works of others as a writer. We will start by “re-seeing” work by some published authors and then take a look at ways to make new discoveries in your own work. Examples will most likely include Kiana Davenport, John Edgar Wideman, James Baldwin, and others. If time permits the craft session will end with a culminating exercise.
  • Fiction/Nonfiction with Matthew Derby: Narrative Revision -- The Sentence In this session we will pay close attention to the sentence: to its shape and meaning; to its emotional and intellectual impact. While in initial pursuit of any number of worthwhile goals -- plot, character, theme -- we tend to forget that stories, novels, and essays alike are made out of sentences. But when it comes time to revise, we overlook the sentence at our own risk. In this session we will look at some particularly effective sentences in order to understand how and why sentence-level choices get made. Then we will do a series of exercises designed to help us reconsider and revise our own under-performing sentences.
  • Poetry with Kathleen Aguero: BE BOLD -- REVISE! To revise means to see again, but sometimes, in order to see the possibilities of a piece of writing, we need to loosen ourselves from our original conception of it. In this seminar, we will look at different styles of writing and try some radical revision of our own. Bring a piece you’re willing to dismantle and reconstruct rather than one in the “tinkering” stage.

Saturday, 2-2:45 p.m.

  • Fiction/Nonfiction with Jody Lisberger: Shaping Scene This craft session will look at some examples in fiction and nonfiction where writers deliberately shape a scene to create maximum impact. It will propose some guidelines for how to begin, develop, and end scenes and offer a few exercises for writers to practice scene development.

Saturday, 2:50--3:35 p.m.

  • Fiction/Nonfiction with Jody Lisberger: To Dialogue or Not to Dialogue This craft session will look at a few examples where writers of fiction and nonfiction choose to use, not use, or abbreviate the use of dialogue to make sure the moment conveys the necessary dramatic tension and character focus a good piece of writing needs. It will give participants a chance to experiment with using and pacing dialogue and indirect discourse or narrative summary to keep the writing focused where it best serves the scene or larger intent of a story or essay.


Saturday 9-10:45 a.m.

  • Making Time for the Writing Life with conference faculty. As you know, writing is a time-consuming endeavor. And because our lives are so busy, finding time to write can be difficult. In this session, we will look at various ways we can arrange our lives in such a way that we will always have the time to write.

Saturday 11 a.m.-Noon

  • Building an Online Platform with Lisa Tener Aspiring authors often feel overwhelmed when they hear they need to develop a "platform" before they can interest literary agents and publishers. Yet, developing a platform can be enormously rewarding and fun -- and help you reach many more people with your writing. In this presentation we will explore what publishers expect of authors; some of the most effective ways of developing a platform -- online and offline; how to evaluate which methods may work best for your personality, interests, and audience; what methods can generate income in addition to expanding your following; and how to have fun and be strategic about your platform-building activities.

Saturday, 2-2:45 p.m.

  • Writing a Nonfiction Book Proposal: Your Key to a Book Contract with Martha Murphy In this introduction to writing a nonfiction book proposal, we will review the purpose of a book proposal, the sections it must include, and the most important things a writer needs to know -- from word choice to research -- about this unique and powerful document.

Saturday, 2:50-3:35 p.m.

  • Pitching the Feature Story with Tom Verde No matter how great your idea is for a story, it has to get an editor's attention within the first few seconds or into the trash folder it goes. That's just one of the many hard realities of the writing business. This session will cover the basics of writing a winning query and how to make yours stand out from the rest.

Saturday, 3:45-5 p.m.

  • What’s Next? Living the Writing Life with conference faculty So. Now that this conference has inspired you to Go Forth and Prosper as a writer, how do you keep from backtracking? A week, a month, a year from now, what will you be able to say you’ve done? This session will send you away with a “Resources for Writers” booklet of practical tips for advancing your writing career and furthering your identity as a writer.