The following are the workshops we have planned so far, divided by author. Click here for the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Fest Schedule.
Making History/Taking Place
A workshop on place-specific historical fiction. Exercises for writing “place” in fiction; tips on historical research; ways to blend historical research into setting, voice, and character; the necessity of uncovering the macro and micro myths of your place; understanding how the past speaks to the present and vice versa.
Generating and Scrambling the Poem
Students will write in response to several great poems. They can “answer” the poem, or “finish” the poem, as they like. After doing this three or four times, each student will assemble the pieces he or she has, and from those pieces make a new poem. This workshop exercise emphasizes two key features of writing: how it is generated by reading and responding to already-existing poetry and how the flexibility to rethink and rearrange what one has already written as though it were a puzzle, is essential in composition and revision.
The Inside Story: Writing as Discovery
In this session Ron Carlson will set out many examples of
where his stories come from, how he “finds” the story, what “inventory”
is, what the “outer story” is, and the best basic writing strategies for
“surviving the draft.”
Franny ChoiWriters’ Fest Schedule.
Trust Your Instincts
In school, we learn to write essays by carefully planning our arguments. However, a large part of the poet’s job is to listen to instinct and impulse. In this workshop, we will engage in several writing and performance exercises (read: games) designed to wean us off of the need to plan ahead and help us discover new and surprising language. If that sounds scary, this workshop is for you!
Alternate Names: Writing Identity
What names has the world given our bodies? How would we rename ourselves? In this workshop, we will engage with language around the social identities we carry (such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, etc.). We will reject and reclaim, examine and invent new ways to speak about ourselves.
Think Global, Act Local
As one of its most essential components, journalism has always been about providing eye-witness accounts to those people who could not be there to see for themselves, to tell the reader: Here is what is really going on. Often traditional journalists may not have the time, space or latitude to write thoroughly about complex events, and it can be up to nontraditional journalists to do that. In an interconnected, Information-Age society, local writers can tell national, or even global audiences, what is really happening on the ground. In this workshop, Dickson will discuss his work in Alabama, and provide ideas for others to take on similar work.
My Ears are Bent
Daily and weekly newspapers have long served an important function in our society by providing readers with relatively quick summations of local, state and national events. However, reportage has never been limited to these brief treatments. Whether in the Boston Globe’s groundbreaking stories on the Catholic Church abuse scandal or Joseph Mitchell’s wordy rambles about quirky characters in The New Yorker, the long-form literary journalism style offers readers a wholly different kind of reportage, one that offer readers what William Zinsser called “humanity and warmth.” This workshop explores writing both full-length books and long-form articles on neglected or ignored subjects, and provides ideas for how to find similar projects and explore obscure subjects.
Andre Dubus III
Dreaming Fully in Words
Master novelist and short story writer, Richard Bausch says: “Do not think, dream. If you think you’re thinking when you’re writing, then think again; you’re working with the dreaming side of your mind, so dream, dream, dream it through.” I could not agree more. I also believe this holds true whether you’re writing fiction or creative non-fiction/memoir, for when we explore our lives through the subjective lens of our own memories, we’re still dreaming our way back. But how – technically speaking – does one dream fully and honestly with mere words? Come to this workshop, and I’ll try to lay this out with a bit of lecture, in-class creative writing exercises, and a constructive critique of what comes out of you, one honest word at a time.
Jumpstart Your Fiction
What drives a reader to turn the page? This interactive workshop will give you concrete tools to help draw the reader in. In addition to specific elements – such as character, setting, plot, dialogue, etc. – we will discuss specific questions that you can ask yourself about your work, and which you can apply when writing fiction of any kind. Answering these questions will help you feel more confident as a writer when confronting creative challenges, and will help you to make your writing the best it can be. We will also read a “short short” story (or two) and do a writing prompt(s)/exercise(s) based on the story. We will end by sharing some of our in-workshop writing with each other.
Sohrab Homi Fracis
The Long and the Short of Fiction
By way of “showing as well as telling,” we’ll start by reading/hearing (smart phones, tablets, or laptops will come in handy) my short short, “Hood,” which opens with almost but not exactly the same paragraph as the novel manuscript, Go Home, from which it is excerpted. Next we’ll look at the opening page of the novel, see how it differs from that of the story, and talk about why. In the process, we’ll refer to the Contents page of Go Home, noting its structure. We’ll compare that with the unlabeled, compressed structure of “Hood,” and have a bit of fun conjecturing as to where other parts of the short story might belong on the large “map” of chapter titles. Then you will each, responding to a writing-exercise prompt, draft your own brief opening paragraph that could work for a short story as well as, with appropriate modification, a novel. And finally, we’ll get to hear some of your new beginnings!
Where You’re Writing From: Poetics of Place
Capturing an authentic sense of place in your writing isn’t only about finding the right concrete details— it’s about understanding the mood of a specific landscape or interior, a specific period of time. Done well, those particulars begin to accumulate resonance and contribute to the poem, story or essay in ways that are unifying, yet maintain the ability to surprise. In this workshop I’ll show you ways to transform background and backdrop into something more essential, as well as provide strategies for making your reader feel present wherever you’re writing from. We’ll do a writing exercise that takes us step by step from a simple description of setting to the creation of atmosphere.
What Cinematography Can Teach Us About Writing a Poem (or story or essay)
It’s no surprise that the first person to write a book that treating film as an art form was a poet. Both mediums often rely on imagery to carry meaning and tone. Published in 1915, Vachel Lindsay’s The Art of the Motion Picture showed that he understood the transformative power film would have on both our public and very private lives. He also recognized the way this new medium reinvigorated the image. He admonished poets to learn from film, to appropriate where possible. So in this workshop, let’s go the movies! We’ll utilize aspects of cinematography as a means to reinvigorate our own writing. You’ll learn creative ways to consider transitions and movement in your poems and prose, expand your understanding of point of view, utilize juxtapositions and metaphorical dissolves to reveal rather than explain.
Harrison Scott Key
How to Write Funny
How do you write funny? And what does the word “funny” even mean, in literature? The problem is, what really makes a writer funny is having watched a small pet rabbit get run over by a tractor. And that’s what this workshop is all about: suffering. As they say, tragedy + time = comedy. We’ll start by trying to see what most funny stories have in common, and then we’ll apply those techniques to our own sad stories and see if we can’t make them funny. Time permitting, somebody will be run over with a tractor.
Producing Plot in Children’s Literature
This workshop will introduce the traditional elements of plot as they apply to the genre of children’s literature. Participants will apply the terms to children’s books and then create their own children’s story. It is an engaging and creative session open to anyone interested in children’s literature.
Young Versus Adult: The Truth About YA Fiction
What exactly makes a book Young Adult? Some call it a genre. Others claim it’s merely a marketing ploy. Find out what it is that publishers of YA books say they are actually searching for, and how to tap into a genuine voice that might best tell your story, regardless of genre.
LGBTQ+ Lit for Young People
Sometimes it seems coming into one’s own as a writer is as much about reading as it is writing. We’ll discuss favorite books with queer themes, focusing on those for younger audiences, and will broadly explore writing about identity, love, passion, and community.
The Secret Architecture of Short Fiction
There are no Illuminati hiding the secrets of short fiction, but there are some secrets hiding in plain sight. One secret is this: short fiction, like a sonnet, has a secret structure. Imagine designing a house without knowing you’ll need windows and doors, a floor and a roof.Only when you know what you need can you find what you seek. Not to sound too Illuminati, but the key to fictional architecture can be found in the acronym ABCCCE. After ten years of submissions, using this secret code (ABBCCE) unlocked my first publication. Aristotle invented this code, as well as the laws of Causality, which will be explicated on site at no additional charge. Please bring to class some salacious gossip worth calling a friend over at 2 am, and we will together perform alchemy, and transform mere anecdotes into literary short stories in a mere 50 minutes.
Writing Sentences like An Artist
Using art-school techniques we will attempt to break down the walls of ‘concept’ (as in Salinger’s story “Teddy’) to see human beings and trees in their true glory. In short, the largest problem facing writers is not thinking or syntax, but rather how to become the imaginative Artist who “sees the world truly” and then writes the sentence in the same way an artist wields a paintbrush.
Lee Ann Roripaugh
Writing in the Cracks: Hybrid/Mixed-Genre Writing
This workshop session will focus on mixed-genre writing that defies categorization through combining stylistic traits of more than one creative genre. Examples might include the prose poem, narrative poem, dramatic monologue, flash fiction, poetic memoirs, and other hybrids. How does one define hybrid writing? Why work in a hybrid or mixed genre? What are some alternate ways of thinking about hybrid or mixed-genre works? We’ll look at and discuss elements of craft technique in different examples of hybrid works and then move on to generating a few hybrids ourselves.
Insider Tips on Literary Journal Submissions from the Editor-in-Chief of South Dakota Review
In this workshop session, we will discuss tips and tricks for submitting your work to literary journals, including advice on cover letters, journal research, manuscript preparation, submission strategies, appropriate ways of making queries on manuscript status, and how to “decode” editorial responses.
Writing Persona Poems
This workshop involves the writing of persona poems, ones in which the author speaks as another person. There will be a reading and discussion of a set of seriocomic persona poems that will serve as models for ones to be composed in the second part of the workshop. A set of prompts will then be offered to help participants get started on their poems, and the workshop will conclude with participants reading what they’ve written.