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Event Descriptions 2010

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.

Two Day Intensive Workshops

Beginning Fiction with Jody Lisberger
This workshop will spend time looking at and doing some writing exercises relevant to the essential craft of writing fiction. We will examine several techniques for developing character, explore the catalysts of conflict and dramatic tension, and investigate how good fiction writers use the seen and the unseen, details, setting, and body language. We will also consider 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 with Crystal Wilkinson
Good writing focuses on both the small things -- what is seen, heard, tasted and felt (both physically and emotionally), the perfect word, the essential detail, the perfect verb and the large things -- scene, beats of action, plot, point of view, etc. Our workshop will focus on how we combine and hone all of these ingredients -- large and small -- and (re)make them into engaging fiction. We will discuss process, narrative strategy, construction; and write a skeleton of a new piece of fiction. The goal of the workshop is that participants will leave with both the bones of a new story/chapter as well as new tips and techniques to take the stories/chapters they have already written to the next level. Students are encouraged to bring a small scene to the workshop for a quick revision workshop (though this is not a requirement).

Advanced Fiction with Peter LaSalle

In this advanced workshop there will be discussion of the need to have a story that surely cries to be told. Following that will be some ideas on the essential elements in a traditionally realistic fiction -- setting, character, plot -- as well as encouragement to maybe go beyond the traditional and embark on fiction involving more daring and even experimental approaches. There will be reading of several short stories assigned ahead of time, so we will have a shared body of good fiction for reference, and also a written assignment to be turned in on the second day of the workshop.

Basic and Bold -- The Remix -- Poetry with Patricia Spears Jones
Every writer finds a niche, a gesture, the thing that works in what they do. At some point it may become a style or convention. Sometimes it becomes a crutch. One way to break the mode is to be radical -- that is, return to the roots. What brought you to poetry in the first place? What did you want to express? Where to do you want your poetry to go? The workshop is for writers who want to make poems that are as ambitious, thoughtful and innovative. Who want to see how poetry basics from line lengths to cadence and rhythm help the poet make poems as bold as they can possibly be. Basic and bold are the workshops focus. There will be in class writing, reading of poets representing a range of styles and approaches such as Ai, Charles Bernstein, Frank Bidart, Brenda Hillman, Bob Kaufman, Maureen Owen, Audre Lorde, Maria Negroni, and Lorenzo Thomas. Also a revision project called CAN THIS POEM BE SAVED? in which you bring a poem that simply has not come to closure; seems to be stuck; or needs to be looked at by fresh eyes in the hope of finding what could make it work or why it simply does not.

The Ninth Letter of the Alphabet -- Nonfiction with Richard Hoffman
First-person non-fiction, whether the short personal essay or a book-length memoir, engages and interrogates subjective experience: I, it says, insistently, I. I think. I feel. I remember. I wish. I regret. I hope. I wonder. Paradoxically, a good personal essay or memoir is seldom about the self, except by extension; rather it is about how one has experienced and understands the world. With all humility, it says, "This is how I see it," not "This is how it is." This seminar will explore several approaches to the personal essay and memoir, beginning with the many possibilities of first-person narration.

Mastering the Publishing Business: An Insider's Guide for Writers with David Groff
Led by a New York editor and writer with 28 years of experience in corporate publishing and in independent consulting for publishers, agents, and private clients, this workshop offers writers an insider's roadmap to navigating the daunting publishing landscape. In this workshop --designed for both fiction and nonfiction writers -- you will learn to develop your manuscript or book proposal so that it will appeal to agents and editors, foster your authorial "platform"  strategize your best path to publication, connect with publishing's gatekeepers, master the editorial and marketing intricacies of the business, and build an enduring career.


Craft Sessions & Panel Discussions

Publishing in a Time of Change: An Agent and Editor Discuss Opportunities for Writers
A conversation between New York literary agent Erin Cox and editor David Groff as they examine the new era of publishing and outline how writers can take advantage of these changes. The rise of digital, self, and niche publishing has allowed many more options for how to publish a book than in a more traditional model. Through social media and blogs, writers can develop new ways to get the attention of publishers of all sizes. You will hear how these changes have impacted the agent-writer and editor-writer relationships and discover new ways to stand out in the crowd.

Holding On and Letting Go, Issues of Craft and Publication with Barbara Siegel Carlson, Darcie Dennigan, Derek Pollard, Moderator: Jacob Nelson

If a poem rides on its own melting, how do we let it ride while still maintaining control of the language? In other words, how do we intuit each turn, so that the concerns become larger and the poem more vertical, while still "almost resisting the intelligence" as Stevens asserted all great poetry must do? On this panel, we will discuss how we attend to our own crafting of each poem, striving to use innovative and compelling language to take us beyond language. In addition, we will address some of the particular issues facing emerging writers as they move toward publication in a market that continues to shift in response to new media and new readerly attentions.

Put Your Thing in Action: Establishing Dramatic Weight in Fiction with Crystal Wilkinson
"A scene is a focused, vivid world where things happen." Ulf Wolf
Something must HAPPEN in fiction. Attention to strong verbs can be a useful way for fiction writers to strengthen scenes. This seminar focuses on identifying and strengthening verbs and by extension examining the dramatic weight of scenes in a short story or novel. During this seminar we will look at examples from the works of A.J. Verdelle, Barbara Kingsolver, James Still, Tania James and others. Writing exercises will be an integral part of this seminar.

Two Heads Are Better Than One: The Poem, the Poet, and the Other with Kevin McLellan and Derek Pollard

William Blake had his Holy Angels, William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin had the Third Mind, Jack Spicer had his "spooks" and perhaps most widely regarded, Arthur Rimbaud had a self he could only call "other." In each of these instances, the writer acknowledges the existence of a larger, collaborative voice that resides somewhere beyond the individual, a liminal presence that shapes and guides poetic composition, often in exciting and unexpected ways. This craft session will explore the phenomenon of collaborative writing through the reading of multiple-author texts, group discussion, and a few collaborative writing exercises aimed at creating a space in which this other, indeterminate voice can join and add to our own as we make new poems together.

What is Young Adult: Writing Fiction that Crosses Age Boundaries with Padma Venkatraman
Is the Catcher in the Rye a "young" adult novel? The goal of this workshop is to explore some fundamental aspects of the fiction craft that are essential to writing novels for any target audience. We will begin with a discussion of why some authors write for young as well as older adults, and why some novels are categorized as young adult novels. We will do some hands-on exercises that move us beyond age-boundaries and end with a short question and answer session on how to become conversant at writing fiction for any age group.

Lines and What To Do with Them with Patricia Spears Jones

I want students to review their use of the line. I want them to see how the line and line length are treated by a broad range of modern and contemporary poets to achieve different effects: long, short and in between. James Schuyler, Lynda Hull, Angela Jackson, Maureen Owen, Sylvia Plath, David Rivard, Jimmy Santiago Baca and/or Gwendolyn Brooks are poets whose use of the line lends itself to study and practice. Each of them consistently choose certain line lengths or change them to suit their poems' purpose. Line lengths may be instilled by specific forms (sonnet, etc.) or blank verse or "projective" verse as Olsen demonstrated. As part of the visual as well as the sonic structure of a poem, lines deeply matter, so arbitrary or inappropriate ones can sabotage what could be a great poem.


Master Classes

Tom DeTitta (focus on screenwriting, playwriting, nonfiction, and literary advocacy) -- Looking Past Your Navel: Writing About the Course of Human Events

This class will focus on the research and writing techniques used to address issues, lives, and historic events. Though the focus of the workshop will be play writing, the research techniques are applicable to any area of creative expression including screen writing and non-fiction prose. The workshop will stand on its head the platitude "write what you know," and emphasize the creation of partnerships between the writer and those who have lived the story being written about; a partnership whereby information is received in exchange for artistic perspective. Participants are encouraged to bring their own nonfiction projects in any genre so the class can discuss research strategies for their work.

Wayne Koestenbaum (focus on nonfiction) -- Experiment and Embarrassment

First, we will figure out how a nonfiction writer might experiment with form, voice, structure, and style. What innovations and eccentricities can we propose? What liberties can we borrow from literatures of the past and the present? Second, we will discuss how embarrassment enters writing. When we compose nonfiction, we must sometimes embarrass ourselves--or others. How can we use embarrassment as our ally? What can it teach us about how to write? Students are welcome to bring in a short excerpt of their own prose or poetry--one page, ideally. This excerpt can relate to either topic, or both: experiment, embarrassment. (The two themes, naturally, overlap.) Finally, for pleasure's sake, we might do a writing exercise together in class.