Event Descriptions 2013
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.
THREE - DAY WORKSHOPS
Attendees enrolling in a Three-Day Workshop may choose to study fiction, creative nonfiction, play writing, or poetry. The workshops meet Thursday afternoon, Friday morning, and Saturday morning. Workshops are led by our highly accomplished conference faculty members. Spend several hours in a small, intimate setting practicing writing and learning from one another. Workshops are a great place to get feedback from fellow students as well as a faculty member in a comfortable and supportive environment.
Each workshop meets Thursday, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.; Friday, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.; and Saturday, 9:00 - 11:00 a.m.
- Fiction Workship (Beginner)
Instructor: Russell Potter
The purpose of this workshop will be to encourage writers to gain awareness of both external and self-imposed restrictions and rules, and find ways to carefully, thoughtfully, productively break them. We won't judge these rules; our initial goal will simply be to list them out, and select a few of those that each of us feels is the most binding. We'll look at all kinds of rules: formal rules, audience rules, rules about work, revision, format, and even grammar. And then we'll test them out. Each of us will then work to develop our rule-breaking exercise into a short piece or passage of fiction, and see whether we discover in that process some voices, some forms, and some delights that our individual sense of the "rules" prevented us from exploring before.
- Fiction Workshop (Intermediate)
Instructor: Tiphanie Yanique
- In this workshop you will be asked to put yourself in danger. You will be pushed to a point of discomfort, even dismay. We will apprentice ourselves to literature from contemporary masters such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jamaica Kincaid, and learn from newer writers such as Zadie Smith and Ben Fountain. We will focus on craft elements such as narrative voice, dialogue, scene development, structure and character development. But we will not shy away from discussing the provocative elements of craft. Your characters speak a particular kind of English, your characters have a particular kind of sex, your characters act in ways influenced by their particular historical moment and social reality. We will address the politics of your writing under the microscope of craft. You will be encouraged to write literature that not only changes the reader, but challenges you.
- Fiction Workshop (Advanced)
Instructor: Edward Delaney
This workshop will address some of the elements important to the emerging writer, both in terms of short stories and novels. We’ll start with the question of what we’re writing and why we’re writing it: Are we choosing to tell the best stories we can, and sometimes the less-obvious ones? That includes questions of revision and evolution of past work, and conception of new work. We’ll talk about the underpinnings of advanced storytelling, the elements below the surface that inform good stories, and the intangibles that give them life. We’ll discuss more complex storytelling strategies. And, as well, we’ll talk about what might conversely be referred to as either our “audience,” or “the market.” Where does storytelling fit into our world, and why are we choosing to try to tell them?
- Creative Nonfiction Workshop (All levels)
Instructor: Amy Hoffman
In this workshop we will practice reading and writing like writers, by writing in response to prompts (so come prepared with writing materials), discussing one another's work, revising in response to these discussions, and engaging with assigned readings. We'll also think about how to make the emotional, creative, and physical space for writing in our daily lives.
- Poetry Workshop (Beginner/Intermediate)
Instructor: Matthew Gavin Frank
"Writing Place, Writing Home" -- This workshop will engage various techniques regarding the poetic engagement of specific and intimate place, home, and one's home region, while avoiding sentimentality and other pitfalls. (Of course, these notions of "place" and "home" can be variously interpreted). In workshop, we will apply such discussed techniques to the revision of existing poems, and to the generation of new work. We will further discuss notions of situating said poetry within the world of literary journals, publication outlets, and the beginning stages of compiling a focused book-length (or chapbook-length) work.
- Poetry Workshop (Advanced)
Instructor: Mairéad Byrne
Each day of the Advanced Poetry Workshop will include close reading of an exemplary poem selected by the instructor, in-class writing in response to a prompt or exercise, and most importantly--the presentation and critique of participants' poems. Participants will be expected to have thought long and hard about form and economy in their work, and to be open to experiment. In critique, we will pay close attention to subject matter, vitality, and performance. The objectives of the Workshop are for participants to write three new poems, to establish a writing community, and to prepare a short reading of new and/or revised poems for performance on Saturday.
- Open-genre Workshop: "Your Writing Mind"
Instructor: Kristen Prevallet
In this open-genre, deep-immersion workshop you will be invited to learn new ways to creatively unlock your unconscious mind and to use your creativity to heal emotional, spiritual, and physical blocks. In this workshop you will explore strategies to effortlessly generate new writing and revise older work, always with the intent of surprising yourself. Drawing from a wide range of sources -- including neuroscience, poetics, and spiritual texts -- you will be encouraged to break free of your usual processes in order to compose pieces you never knew you wanted to write, and revise your work with renewed enthusiasm.
- Writing the Sea Workshop
Instructor: LaShonda Barnett
The sea serves as more than scenic backdrop in classic literature such as The Odyssey; it has influenced the imaginations of writers throughout history. From James Fenimore Cooper (The Pilot) and Herman Melville (Moby Dick), to Stephen Crane (The Open Boat) and Ernest Hemingway (The Old Man and the Sea) to Charles Johnson (Middle Passage) and Gabriel Garciá Márquez (The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor), writers have looked under real and imagined sails, reflecting upon the sea and its meanings. This workshop will explore the sea's tidal pull on imagination: the myths of its vast expanse, the reflection of the human psyche in its surface, and the history of politics, culture, commerce, and exploration it carries. Charting our course are passages from American literature (see above) in which the sea acts as the setting, a body of symbolism, a mystery, the agent of divine wrath, an epistemological challenge, a means of escape, and a reason to reflect on the human relationship to nature. We will engage with fiction concepts from voice (p.o.v), character, setting and plot. Participants will polish a sea scene from their own novel-in-progress or short story. Prerequisite: Bring me your stories of salty ports, shipyards, coasts stippled with wrecks, and ships in pursuit of slaves, pilgrims, pirates and whales. Participants must submit one 'sea' scene from a work of fiction, 7-10 double-spaced pages. Writing samples should be submitted electronically as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 10, 2013; PDF format is preferred.
- Screenwriting Workshop
Instructor: Rob Cohen
"Blurring the lines: writing for all kinds of screens" -- Everything is communicated on screens: movie theaters, tvs, laptops, Ipads, smartphones. Screens demand entertaining content, and this content requires writers. Writers now work across mediums, blurring the traditional lines: essayists write screenplays, and tv people write advertising. This workshop is for writers who want their work on screen. It will examine the universal skill sets that writers must take with them as they move from one medium to the next. We will look at the best work in each medium and engage in series of diverse screenwriting exercises. At the end of the workshop, each participant will have developed at least 3 different writing samples.
MASTER CLASS (Friday 2:30 - 3:50 pm)
Our master class allows you to study with our featured keynote speaker. This class has limited enrollment to ensure that you have a chance to engage with the instructor and fellow classmates.
- Playwriting/Screenwriting - Ayad Akhtar
Story Workshop - We will discuss a few major paradigms of story structure: the hero's journey; classical three act structure; eleven-point story analysis. The goal will be to provide useful ways of thinking about story for the writer planning a full-length narrative in either screenplay or long-form fiction or stage play.
INTENSIVES (Saturday 9:00 - 11:00 am)
Intensives will allow you to study with one of our featured presenters. These classes have limited enrollment to ensure that you have a chance to engage with the instructor and fellow classmates.
- Sci-Fi Fiction - Intensive
Instructor: Paul Di Filippo
How does a writer--novice or experienced--create a kind of "overstuffed" science fiction that dazzles with a wealth of ideas and characters? All too often, writers of imaginative literature, even the best, are timid and parsimonious when it comes to doling out concepts, feeling perhaps that too much information can overwhelm the reader and confuse the narrative. But many examples of "maximalist" science fiction exist--such as the work of Charles Harness, Hannu Rajaniemi and A. E. van Vogt--and by using the tricks they employed, writers can fashion similar intriguing tales. If students wish, they may consult Di Filippo's How To Write Science Fiction (A Maximalist and Recomplicated Travel into Sci-Fi) in advance, though this is not a requirement: http://tinyurl.com/bw6d3g6
- Crime Writing Fiction - Intensive
Instructor: Robert Leuci
In this intensive workshop, we will discuss the surreptitious and surprising ways we create a crime novel. Join me, and together we will attack the secrets of characterization, of pace and action. We'll discuss the carefully selected decisions authors make when they build a character and we will decipher techniques for portraying the characters to our readers. We will certainly spend time on dialogue. It is always dialogue that will put on view the talent of the writer. In short, we'll chat about how to write dialogue and scenes that capture interest and convince the reader you own the world you are describing. Last but not least you will learn how to piece a perfect crime together and create realistic stories that are taut, immediate and fraught with tension.
- Nonfiction Intensive
CONVERSATIONS (Friday and Saturday)
"The real writer is one who really writes," wrote Marge Piercy. Writers make writing a priority in their lives. And to feed their writing selves, they also read and attend readings, enroll in classes, join groups, enter contests, apply for grants/fellowships, explore markets, and learn new technologies to enhance their success once they're ready to publish. Throughout the conference, we offer moderated conversations with writers about the work of writing.
- Friday, 1:45 - 3:00 pm: Conversation on Publishing
with Betty Cotter, Lisa Tener, and Michael Grossman
"Paths to Publication: Successful Traditions versus Novel Ventures" -- What possibilities do traditional and new publishing formats open up for authors? From e-books to i-books to blogs to interactive courses: how can authors take advantage of publishing's new digital worlds for their books and other materials? What are the pros and cons of taking one of the new routes (as opposed to a traditional) path to publication? This panel of 3 writing professionals: a book coach, a self-publishing consultant and digital book designer, and a novelist who has successfully experienced both traditional and self-publishing options will discuss different routes to publication, so attendees can make wise and well-informed choices. The panel will leave sufficient time to answer questions from participants.
- Saturday, 11:15 - 12:30 pm: Conversation on Agents
with John Rudolph and Padma Venkatraman
John Rudolph of the New York based Dystel and Goodrich Agency, who is interested in adult nonfiction, commercial men's fiction, young adult and also children's books, will set the stage with a short introduction about his work as an agent. The floor will then be open to discussion. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions about the role of agents, seeking representation, the publishing market and other related issues of general interest to all attending the session. Please note that John cannot read or respond to specific manuscripts during this conversation (those who enroll in a one-on-one consultation with him will be given his feedback at another time). Padma Venkatraman will moderate the Q & A.
- Saturday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm: Conversation on Memoir
with Mary Cappello, Amy Hoffman, and Maria Mutch
Three nonfiction writers will discuss the formal, personal, and political challenges of writing book-length memoirs. What makes memoir a particularly capacious and suddenly timely form? What's the difference between memoir and strict autobiography? Between popular memoir and literary memoir? The authors will discuss their own memoirs of sexual and class identity, familial memoirs and thematically driven memoirs; memoirs that un-do narrative conventions of illness (cancer, and AIDS) and ability (autism). How can we write memoir that resists the confessional mode? Why would we want to? Hoffman, editor of Women's Review of Books; Cappello, Professor of English at URI; and Mutch, an alum of the OSSWC whose debut memoir is forthcoming from Simon and Schuster will read brief exemplary passages from their work, and allow for ample time for full-fledged discussion with the audience.
- Saturday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm: Conversation on Playwriting
with Tony Estrella, Deborah Salem Smith, and Kate Snodgrass
Two award-winning playwrights join a distinguished artistic director in a wide-ranging discussion of the roles of the contemporary playwright. Among other topics, the three will examine: the particular circumstances women playwrights face in getting their work produced; relationships among artistic director, director, and playwright; the ten-minute play format; and the docudrama. What particular perils does the playwright confront on the journey from page to production? What challenges face an artistic director who chooses to produce new works? How are today’s political and economic problems affecting what we see onstage? What is the artistic director’s role in nurturing playwrights? The panel will address these questions while leaving ample time for questions and contributions from their audience.
CRAFT SESSIONS (Friday and Saturday)
Our 60-minute craft sessions are designed around a particular aspect of, or approach to, writing and are often genre-specific. Participants will read and discuss examples of writing, then get a chance to complete a short in-class writing assignment. Craft sessions are a chance for you to consider a particular aspect of writing, respond to a prompt on-site, and see how other attendees respond to your work.
- Friday, 1:45 - 3:00 pm: Fiction
Instructor: Robert Leuci
"Mystery Writing" -- The audiences for the mystery novel are voracious readers. Many readers go through a book a week and some a day. That is why there are so many mystery novels written. I know any number of people who would never get on a plane, a train a bus, or a subway without one. Publishers need a whole lot of material to fill such a market. In the time we have at our craft session we will explore how a mystery novel gets written. We'll travel from narrative drive, to finding material and characters, plotting, first and third person and of course dialogue. If you feel as though you have a mystery inside you and you need some sort of incitement to write it, we promise to do our best to get you going. "The average detective novel is probably no worse than the average novel, but you never see the average novel. It doesn't get published. The average or only slightly above average detective story does. Not only is it published but it is sold and read." - Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder.
- Friday, 1:45 - 3:00 pm: Creative Nonfiction Feature Writing
Instructor: Matthew Gavin Frank
"The Wide World of Creative Nonfiction Writing" -- This session will engage various forms of creative nonfiction writing, and will discuss the process of publishing such work in literary journals, commercial magazines, and, eventually, in book-form. Discussion will also include, but not be limited to, the ever-shifting "ethics" of nonfiction writing, nonfiction vs. the essay, "immersion" nonfiction writing, the writing of a good query letter, and developing relationships with agents and editors. Q&A with audience to follow.
- Friday, 3:15 - 4:30 pm: 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. Sessions will begin with discussion and deconstruction of an exemplary scene, followed by workshopping two participants' scenes (chosen ahead of time by me, in tandem with the topic discussed that session). Scenes from the following authors will be considered during the session: Russell Banks (Cloudsplitter); Amy Bloom (Away); Edwidge Danticat (The Farming of Bones); and Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain). In addition to our examination of fiction elements, participants will be introduced to the tools of historical research for novel writing, 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.
- Friday, 3:15 - 4:30 pm: Nonfiction
Instructor: Tripp Evans
In this session we will explore the role of biography in nonfiction writing, from the traditional study of a single individual to the treatment of an entire era. How do writers shape the fragmentary material of a subject’s life into a compelling narrative? What can biographical writing teach us about shaping larger historical stories? We will consider the use of different forms of evidence in biographical writing -- interviews, archival material, and creative works -- as well as the question of audience (how, for example, do biographers trained in a particular field write differently for an academic or a trade press?). Newcomers to the genre are particularly welcome.
- Friday, 3:15 - 4:30 pm: Poetry
Instructor: Mairéad Byrne
Even when extravagant, poetry is a minimalist form. It works in small units, whether the line or the sentence. In poetry, as surely as in html, the weight of the semi-colon is felt. Yet poetry is also robust, completely dependent on the hurly-burly of audience to achieve its arc. In this Craft session, we will investigate poetry economies, in prose and verse. What happens when the poem is "translated" from line to sentence or vice versa? Does the poetry survive? Using the examples of W.B. Yeats, who wrote the poem's argument in prose before hammering it out in verse, my collaborative book Jennifer's Family, and participants' in-class writing, we will assess the magical dynamics of poetry, which responds resourcefully both to the most delicate shifts in punctuation, and havoc.
- Saturday, 11:15 - 12:30 pm: Fiction/Nonfiction
Instructor: Nancy Berk
"Laugh Track: Developing Your Humor Writing" -- Have you always wanted to take a shot at writing humor? Are you a humor writer who wants to kick it up a notch? Whether you're a beginner or well on your way, this session will focus on strategies to strengthen your humor portfolio and build your brand via social media.
Part 1: Inspiring Creativity: We will look at resources and exercises that will get you on the fast laugh track, and take a sneak peek at what it takes to write great humor.
Part 2: Developing Your Voice and Tightening Your Work: Good humor is more than just story telling. We'll examine ways to build your brand and create the best product.
Part 3: Promotion: Sure it's tough out there and everyone who isn't a writer claims they are or will be one day. We'll look at print and online media outlets as well as the power of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Pinterest to create immediate opportunities to level the playing field.
- Saturday, 11:15 - 12:30 pm: Poetry
Instructors: Talvikki Ansel and
"Poem as Event" -- In this craft session we'll explore the sense of discovery in writing poems. We'll be taking as inspiration Wallace Steven's philosophy: "The reading of a poem should be an experience [like experiencing an act]. Its writing must be all the more so…" in trying a few writing exercises in class. We'll also keep in mind Robert Frost's oft-quoted "no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader" and his observation that: "Like a piece of ice on a hot stove the poem must ride on its own melting." How do we write poems that enact this? How do we write poems that keep writer and reader moving through the lines in ways that surprise, yet are possible? We'll read poems by a few contemporary writers and experiment with writing prompts to see what we can discover.
- Saturday, 11:15 - 12:30 pm: Playwriting
Instructors: Kate Snodgrass
"Writing the Ten-Minute Play" -- This short play form is a genre unto itself with its own rules and theatrical expectations. We'll talk about these rules, read a ten-minute play, and discuss which dramatic ideas are most workable for a successful ten minutes. Bring ideas for your own ten-minute play (or the first two pages of one).
- Saturday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm: Fiction
Instructor: Edward Delaney
“Writing Linear Narrative in a Nonlinear World” -- The idea of Narrative carries with it a movement through time, and for a reader this banks heavily on the delayed gratification of a story that reveals itself over the course of its pages. But, conversely, storytelling exists now in a world in which narrative is implied, and “the present” is underlined by media forms and personal behaviors that emphasize the primacy of present moment. From Facebook and Twitter to 24-hour news, people are conditioned to become bored easily, seek constant stimulus and not wait for answers. That often goes against what we offer as storytellers. Some evolving thoughts on how stories might need to be told differently than they were even twenty years ago, and how skilled narrative can work in opposition to these challenges.
- Saturday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm: Poetry
Instructor: Kristin Prevallet
"TrancePoetics" -- Metaphors are key to how writers communicate from our unconscious mind to compose from a “flow state” where the inside and the outside simultaneously create each other. Bridging connections between neuroscience and creative writing, you will come away from this intensive workshop with insights into how to use your creative processes to communicate with your body to both generate material and move through emotional or physical blocks.
- Saturday, 2:45 - 4:00 pm: Screenwriting
Instructor: Rob Cohen
"Television Writing: What can you write in 30 seconds? 30 minutes? 1 hour?” -- Movies, Novels and Theater don’t have a clock. Only Television is the writer's medium with a time limit. Sitcoms, episodic dramas, reality television and non-fiction programming all have their meters that tick, tick, tick as their stories unfold (around the commercial breaks, of course). This seminar will examine the writing disciplines that television demands. The pace and brevity of television is just the kind of muscle that writers from other mediums can learn to exercise. Examples from across the television landscape will be coupled with in-seminar writing exercises.
- Saturday, 4:15 - 5:30 pm: Fiction Craft Session
Instructor: Tiphanie Yanique
"Poetry in the Prose" -- What does it mean to write well? What exactly does it mean to be a good novelist or essayist? When reviewers, publishers and readers say that they've experienced good writing they don't generally mean good plot or scene or even character development--they mean the actual choice of words; their placement and their power. Painters have paint, musicians have bars--we writers have words. In this craft class we will go back to the basics. We will pay attention to word choice and metaphor so that our well-planned plots, our structured scenes, and our compelling characters are more than just the sum of those parts.
- Saturday, 4:15 - 5:30 pm: Historical Fiction Craft Session
with Padma Venkatraman, Jeannine Atkins and Sarah Lamstein
"Keeping Historical Fiction Current" -- Three award-winning and critically-acclaimed authors will lead a discussion on why and how they wrote fiction set in the past. They will provide insights into the process of writing stories set in the past that today's readers find relevant. Attendees will have a chance to do a hands-on creative exercise on developing a layer of history to enrich their works in progress.
- Saturday, 4:15 - 5:30 pm: Fiction/Nonfiction Craft Session
Instructor: Jody Lisberger
"Craft Crossovers Between Fiction and Creative Nonfiction" -- This craft session will examine and offer participants practice on a few of the many craft elements that fiction and nonfiction writers share. For instance, knowing how one genre (fiction) maximizes the dramatic tension of dialogue can also help the creative nonfiction writer know how and where to write--or not write--dialogue; likewise, knowing how the creative nonfiction writer effectively proportions and uses the seen/scene and unseen can also help the fiction writer create effective pacing and dramatic tension in a story or novel. We'll look at examples of both and try our hand in moving between fiction and nonfiction so as to benefit from the craft skills in both.
- Saturday, 4:15 - 5:30 pm: Publishing Craft Session