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Event Descriptions 2012

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.


(Each workshop meets Thursday, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 - 11 a.m.; and Saturday, 9 - 11 a.m.)

  • Fiction Workshop (Beginner)
    Instructor: Jody Lisberger

    This workshop will study examples and do craft writing exercises relevant to the essential craft of writing fiction. We will examine how yearning works as the engine for developing character and story structure, look at various ways to develop character, dramatic tension, and dialogue, play with the selective use of details, setting, and verbs, and examine effective uses of back story, beginnings, and endings. This workshop will generate material for participants to take home and use to develop complete stories. There will be a short writing assignment and reading assignment on Thursday and Friday that will be due for workshop on Saturday.
  • Fiction Workshop (Beginner / Intermediate): "Exercising Yourself"
    Instructor: Amity Gaige

    This workshop for beginning and intermediate writers of fiction will address the various ways in which writers can guide their own satisfying writing lives with "exercise" - the use of prompts or unpredictable story-starters. We'll generate first lines, steal story ideas from the news, and help develop - as a class - a trove of prompts to take home with us. The instructor will also supply ideas about craft that underlie various exercises.
  • Fiction Workshop (Advanced): "From Brushstrokes to Bulldozers"
    Instructor: Crystal Wilkinson

    Good writing comes only from good revisions. This is a workshop focused on training your eye toward becoming your own best editor. You'll learn how to better make small and large editing decisions and know when to apply the smallest of corrections and the large rewrites. Sessions will include lecture, exercises, task lists and we will take a look at a revised story from a published author. Enrolled participants will be given the published story prior to the class.
  • Creative Nonfiction Workshop
    Instructor: Patrick Madden

    Memoirists and personal essayists write to make their own lives interesting to a readership of strangers. Their challenge, then, is to universalize their experience, a task best accomplished by reflecting from a current writerly perspective on past events lived in relative ignorance. This workshop will offer a brief theoretical framework and several examples of the split self, then give participants the chance to generate new writing and revise their current thinking into a piece they've written before (please bring three to five pages of a memoir/ personal essay).
  • Poetry Workshop (Beginning & Intermediate): "Five Ways to Break a Line and Other Mysteries"
    Instructor: Richard Blanco

    Where to break a line? What makes a stanza, a stanza? What makes for a great metaphor and why is it worth a thousand words? When does a poem end? What is the poem "saying" or want to "say," but isn't? What insights does it or doesn't it offer? What is the emotional center of the poem; its reason for being? These are some of the questions we will ask as we dive deeper into some of these more elusive, yet essential elements of poetry, namely: construction of the line, rhythm, figurative language, and poetic closure, among others. We will read various illustrative poems, complete writing exercises, and critique student work with a focus on how these questions of craft are 'answered' in our poems.
  • Poetry Workshop (Advanced): "Speaker Box"
    Instructor: Tina Chang

    How does one "find" and cultivate one's own voice? Is it something that can be developed or is voice innate, a cadence that lives in us? These are questions we will explore as we discuss voice, personae, and dramatic dialogue in an effort to uncover the speaker's identity on the page. In doing so we will encounter subjects such as gender, history, culture, age, nationality, sexuality. In this class, we will examine poems ranging from the classical to contemporary as well as local and global poets. Class work will be comprised of student writing and critique, poetic experiments, and wild meanderings in order to understand future possibilities for one's own poems.
  • Memoir Workshop
    Instructor: Richard Hoffman

    Carl Klaus writes in The Made-Up Self that the narrator in a personal essay or memoir is "a written construct, a fabricated thing, a character of sorts." Certainly the "I" on the page is not the self but a representation of the self. Successful memoirs and essays must convince readers of the authenticity of the narrator. Through readings, in-class exercises, and assignments, we will explore what features of the "I" - voice, reflection, limitations - communicate authenticity and build trust with readers.


  • Poetry: Learning Through Imitating
    Instructor: Kathi Aguero

    Go to any museum and you will see apprentice artists copying the work of a master. As writers what can we learn by imitating other writers we admire? How can imitation be a path to discovering and honing our own style? During our time together, we will explore these questions. Bring an excerpt from a writer you admire and whose strategies you would like to learn.
  • Mystery Writing
    Instructor: Robert Leuci

    In this intensive workshop, we will discuss the surreptitious and surprising ways we create a mystery novel, including advice on:
    • opening with a bang
    • suspense-building strategies
    • crafting a plot that keeps 'em speculating
    • creating and developing rich, well-rounded characters and scenes
    In short, we'll discuss how to write dialogue and scenes that capture interest and convince the reader you own the world you are describing.
  • Fiction / Nonfiction: "Fun with Shapes: Story Plot and Structure"
    Instructor: David McGlynn

    Plot often seems like a dirty word among fiction writers. Chaim Potok has even said, "If I had a plot that was all set in advance, why would I want go through the agony of writing the novel?" But does that mean that narrative plots and structures appear mysteriously, as though divinely inspired? And how do we know what scenes to write if we don't know the plot? This intensive seminar will explore a few strategies for plotting and structuring stories and will include a series of exercises designed to help us put our imaginations into narrative order.
  • Nonfiction: "Trance Writing and the Brain/Body Connection"
    Instructor: Kristin Prevallet

    Metaphors, dreams, and automatic writing are three ways that writers communicate with their unconscious minds (or visa versa). Bringing together neuroscience and creative writing, you will come away from this interactive presentation with several insights on how to use your creative processes to communicate with your body to both generate material and move through blocks.

CONVERSATIONS (Friday and Saturday)

  • Friday, 2 - 3 p.m.: "Writers at Work"

    Nick Flynn, Richard Hoffman and Crystal Wilkinson will engage in an informal conversation about the writing life and answer audience questions about the challenges of breaking into the field, managing success, and continuing to produce compelling work. Participants to be announced.
  • Friday, 3:15 - 4:15 p.m.: "Writers at Work"

    Mary Cappello and Patrick Madden will engage in an informal conversation about the writing life and answer audience questions about the challenges of breaking into the field, managing success, and continuing to produce compelling work. Moderated by Don Rodrigues.
  • Friday, 3:15 - 4:15 p.m.: "Agents: The Pros of Having a Pro Represent You and Your Work"

    Carrie Pestritto of the New York based Prospect Agency will speak about her interests within the agency and about Prospect Agency. Joining the conversation will be Richard Florest, senior associate at the New York based agency, Rob Weisbach Creative Management. They will then open up the floor to discussion and invite participant to ask questions of interest to all attendees present, about the role of agents, seeking representation and other related publication issues. Padma Venkatraman (URI professor and author of Island's End) will moderate the Q & A session.
  • Saturday, 2:15 - 3:15 p.m.: "Writing Ethnicity through Poetry"

    Tina Chang and Richard Blanco will discuss relationships between ethnicity and poetry; ethnicity's relationship to nationality and culture; ethnicity as it is discovered in the self and by relation to others; structural impacts of ethnicity on writing; and historical relationships between ethnicity and writing and publishing.
  • Saturday, 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: "Writers at Work"

    Kevin Young, Peter Covino and Martha Rojas will engage in an informal conversation about the writing life and answer audience questions about the challenges of breaking into the field, managing success, and continuing to produce compelling work.
  • Saturday, 3:30 - 4:30 p.m.: "The Savvy Author's Publishing Options: Understand The Exciting Opportunities, Avoid the Pitfalls and Choose Your Optimal Publishing Route"

    Padma Venkatraman and Lisa Tener will discuss the contemporary publishing climate. This is an exciting time to be an author, with a plethora of publishing options available: e-books, gateway publishers, POD, traditional publishers, crowd-sourcing and more. Yet, it's also a confusing time. In this session you'll learn more about your options, how to avoid the pitfalls that befall unwary authors and also the benefits of specific publishing methods. We'll explore publishing trends. We'll address how your vision and goals play into the publishing path you choose. We'll also address traditional publishing protocol and strategies:
    • How to identify the right literary agents and/or publishers
    • How to write a compelling query letter
    • When and how to approach agents and publishers.

    We'll also do a hands-on in-class writing assignment so you can begin drafting a query letter right away.

CRAFT SESSIONS (Friday and Saturday)

  • Friday, 2 - 3 p.m.: Nonfiction
    Instructor: Kristin Prevallet

    "Trance Writing: Absorption" -- In this seminar you will explore writing that was intentionally generated by accessing heightened states of consciousness and constraints of form. Oulipo, The Kabala, and new approaches to automatic writing will enliven and expand your creative process. Our goal will be to torque your creative power and find magic in the base materials you will be accessing.
  • Friday, 2 - 3 p.m.: Fiction
    Instructor: David McGlynn

    "Flirting with Disaster: Spirituality and Fiction Writing" -- Tussling with God, or gods, is foundational to the English and American literary traditions. In recent years, however, "spiritual writing" has become a genre unto itself, published by religious presses and sold in religious stores. The fiction published by such presses and sold in such stores is often more concerned with upholding the faith as the ultimate moral compass than with examining the messier, more dramatic, and ultimately more compelling tensions between religious or spiritual faith and human life. This seminar considers contemporary fiction writers who write about spirituality without falling into formulas or dogma, and will include a few writing exercises to help us begin tussling with God for ourselves
  • Friday, 3:15 - 4:15 p.m.: Poetry
    Instructor: Kathi Aguero

    Myth as Metaphor -- The actual story lines of many myths are simple, yet these myths have been retold and refashioned in literature and art throughout the centuries. Why is it that myth continues to yield new perspectives, and how can we use the metaphors myth provides to structure and deepen our own writing? In exploring these questions, we will focus on contemporary poems that treat myth as well as trying our own writing based on myth.
  • Friday, 3:15 - 4:15 p.m.: The Interview
    Instructor: LaShonda Barnett

    It has been said that we live in an "interview society." Interviews are used in almost every walk of contemporary American life. Designed to familiarize you with interviewing both as craft and a research methodology, this workshop is structured around five steps or stages of the interviewing process. These include: how to get started - who to interview; developing effective interview questions (and avoiding ineffective ones!); considering issues in inter-viewing (representation in the writing of people's lives and identities); and the craft in interviewing itself (at the interview, your goal will be to get them to talking and telling stories, not just responding briefly to a series of questions you have). Participants should gain at least basic proficiency in undertaking a well-grounded, qualitative interview.
  • Saturday, 11:15-12:15 p.m.: Fiction and Publishing
    Instructor: Russell Potter

    New Paths to Publication -- The conventional path from author to publisher -- the novel, the endless revisions, the query letter written according to the best advice, the agent, the deal -- is no longer the only, or necessarily the best way to finally publish a book. In this seminar we'll look at some recent case histories that illustrate these new trends in publication, while also asking participants to share their challenges, with the goal of assembling our own unconventional wisdoms.
  • Saturday, 11:15 - 12:15 p.m.: Historical Fiction
    Instructor: LaShonda Barnett

    The Truthful Lie -- This workshop group will consider the practical challenge at the core of writing historical fiction: the seamless integration of fictive imagination and historical fact. Truth relies on historical research. However, the evidence of historical reality must be woven into the verities of any good novel - plot, character, setting, structure. This session will treat discussion and deconstruction of exemplary scenes from Russell Banks (Cloudsplitter); Amy Bloom (Away); Edwidge Danticat (The Farming of Bones) and John Edgar Wideman (The Cattle Killings) as our examination of historical fiction elements, with particular attention on how to set the scene and establish the period and how to find a voice that is historically accurate in terms of language, but with modern appeal.
  • Saturday, 11:15 - 12:15 p.m.: Poetry
    Instructor: Peter Covino

    Putting Together a Poetry Manuscript
    -- This craft seminar is geared for established and emerging poets who want and want to share practical advice about putting together a poetry manuscript and trying to find an appropriate publisher. The bulk of the discussion will focus on crafting a full-length collection, and when appropriate, smaller chapbook-size projects too. Our main goals will be to demystify the often baffling editorial process of small press publishing. Using two or three samples of anonymous work, this seminar will focus on specific issues of how editors (often quickly) consider issues of manuscript readiness, ordering poems, manuscript structure, and innovative poetic tensions and related techniques.
  • Saturday, 11:15 - 12:15 p.m.: Fiction / Nonfiction
    Instructor: 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, 2:15-3:15 p.m.: Historical Fiction
    Instructor: Russell Potter

    Voice in Historical Fiction: Learning to speak "Bygonese"
    -- Writing about his first foray into historical fiction, British novelist David Mitchell (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet) said that he had to avoid the temptation to imitate period prose, declaring that "to a degree, the historical novelist must create a sort of dialect - I call it 'Bygonese' - which is inaccurate but plausible." In this seminar we'll look at some more (and less) successful examples of attempted Bygonese, and have a try ourselves at evoking with prose the tone and nuance of past epochs.
  • Saturday, 2:15-3:15 p.m.: Memoir
    Instructor: Richard Hoffman

    Narrative Authenticity -- Carl Klaus writes in The Made-Up Self that the narrator in a personal essay or memoir is “a written construct, a fabricated thing, a character of sorts.” Certainly the “I” on the page is not the self but a representation of the self. Successful memoirs and essays must convince readers of the authenticity of the narrator. Through readings, in-class exercises, and assignments, we will explore what features of the “I” — voice, reflection, limitations — communicate authenticity and build trust with readers.
  • Saturday, 2:15-3:15 p.m.: Fiction
    Instructor: Crystal Wilkinson

    What Did He Say? Writing Dialogue
    -- Discover the secrets to strengthening your fiction with dialogue. Through published examples and exercises, you will learn to write dialogue that rings true, reveals character, creates conflict and surprises and informs your reader.
  • Saturday, 3:30-4:30 p.m.: Meditation, Memory & Writing
    Instructor: Mary Cappello

    Sound; Touch; Pause: Conjuring Memory in Memoir -- In this workshop we will explore sundry ways in which memory can be conjured, and thereafter, never merely “transcribed” in memoir but transformed. Emphases on achieving quiet in an increasingly distracting world; learning to calibrate difference; and to cultivate a sensibility. Participants will be enjoined to write in this session in response to a set of richly conceived prompts that will help writers understand how memoir writing might not only access memory but actively theorize memory. What does it mean to re-member in the name of memoir? How do we know where our parents’ memories end and ours begin? What do you do if you want to write memoir but can’t remember? Tactility, sound, the object world, and language itself will bring us back and call forth “memory” as the first ground and order of memoir writing.