Workshops will be posted as they are developed. Please check back periodically for updates. View sample workshops from prior festivals below. Click here for the Douglas Anderson Writers’ Fest Schedule.
Sample Workshop Descriptions – NOT AVAILABLE
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
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.