2014 Lit Fest Juried Workshops

We're very pleased to announce the list of our 2014 Juried Workshop Leaders. 

Advanced writers of fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and screenplay are invited to apply for our weeklong or weekend intensives. Each weeklong intensive meets five times (Monday through Friday) for a morning session, and is supplemented with an individual one-on-one meeting with your instructor. Tuition information here. Our application can be found here.  Questions? Check out our FAQ

Priority Deadline for Applications was MARCH 15, 2014

 

FICTION

Advanced Short Story Workshop: Organic Unity with Antonya Nelson
June 16-20, mornings, with one-on-one meeting in addition

CLASS FULL

Short stories are effective inasmuch as their content and form are in sync. That is: a story needs to achieve Organic Unity. This workshop will address that notion in several ways: by reading exemplary texts (masterful short stories) and by exploring the possibility inherent in each student manuscript in terms of occasion, character, point of view, and shaping devices. Most great writing stems from emotional uncertainty, and we will work to move your stories into the heart of such uncertainties, but with a steady sense of craft. Each participant must submit up to 20 pages for critique by May 17, and will have the opportunity to schedule an individual meeting with Antonya the week of class.

Bio: Antonya Nelson teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, and is the award-winning author of three novels and four short story collections. Winner of Guggenheim, NEA fellowships, and the Rea Award for the Short Story, her fiction regularly appears in The New Yorker, Harper's, and Best American Short Stories. She divides her time among Texas, Colorado, and New Mexico.

Nelson Notes: "I scan the tables of contents of magazines, looking for Antonya Nelson's name, hoping  that she has decided to bless us again. She's absolutely one of my favorites among story writers today, and I envy the reader who has yet to discover her work." Michael Chabon

 "Any lover of realistic narrative fiction about actual and unglamorous people will be greatly rewarded by the work of Antonya Nelson. Her voice is sure, her wit is quick, her observations continually resonate and her honesty is unwavering." Dave Eggers
 
 "I've been a Toni fan ever since I read a story of hers called 'The Salad' on my second or third day of graduate school. I read her newest collection so fast the pages are singed." David Foster Wallace
 
Advance Reading: Check out a recent story in the New Yorker!
 
 
 
Advanced Novel Workshop: An Intimate Distance with Mat Johnson
June 16-20, mornings, with one-on-one meeting held in addition 

Novels are long, often unruly, inherently ambitious projects that need the writer to be both intimate and at times distanced from the text. It's easy to type a bunch of pages, but it’s hard to make them captivate the reader and ensure that the journey adds up to more than the sum of its parts. This course will explore the tools needed to bring your novel-length manuscript to life in its strongest form. Your novel has strengths: we will build on them. Your novel has weaknesses: we will identify them and create strategies to overcome them. Together we will identify what your novel is actually about as opposed to what you planned for it to be about, examine its hidden structures and make it even better, in such a way that your characters and their struggles come alive on the page. Participants will submit one chapter of up to 20 pages for workshop by May 17 and schedule individual meetings with Mat the week of class.

Bio: Mat Johnson was born and raised in Philadelphia. He is the author of the novels Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. He is a recipient of the James Baldwin Fellowship, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers selection, and the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. He is a faculty member at the University of Houston's creative writing program.

Mat Matter: "The sharpest and most unusual story I read last year... [Mat] Johnson's satirical vision roves as freely as Kurt Vonnegut's and is colored with the same sort of passionate humanitarianism." Maud Newton, New York Times Magazine

"Mat Johnson's new novel is nothing short of fantastic, in every sense. I fell in love with the voice, the tone and the world of Pym. This is an adventure novel, a work of historical and social commentary, a rumination on identity. The only problem I could find with this novel is that I didn't write it. It's a beautiful piece of work." Percival Everett, author of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

"You can trust the veracity of this account: Mat Johnson's Pym is a spectacularly sly and nimble-footed send-up of this world, the next world, and all points in between. A satire with heart, as courageous as it is cunning." Colson Whitehead 

"An acutely humorous, very original story that will delight lovers of literature and fantasy alike." Kirkus, starred review

Advance Reading: Here's an excerpt from Pym, Johnson's latest novel.

Apply to take Mat Johnson's workshop.

 

Advanced Short Prose: The BS Detector with Steve Almond
June 7 & 8, half-days

CLASS FULL

"Writing is decision making," says Steve Almond. "Nothing more and nothing less. What word? Where to place the comma? How to shape the paragraph? Which characters to undress and in what manner? It's relentless." The best way to develop the ability to make these decisions is to learn how to judge your own work, and the best way to learn to judge your own work is to look critically and carefully at other people's work. That's what participants will do in this  workshop. "The idea is not to slow your rate of composition via compulsive revision," says Almond, "but, on the contrary, to make better decisions in the first place, and to recognize when you haven't quickly, without succumbing to the opera of self-doubt."

Experienced writers of short prosefiction or nonfictionwill submit their work to be considered by their peers and Almond in this back-by-popular-demand, specially condensed weekend intensive workshop.

Bio: Steve Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently the story collection God Bless America. Almond's second book, Candyfreak, was a New York Times bestseller, won the ALA Alex Award, and was named the Booksense Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year. His books have been published in half a dozen foreign countries and translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, and Croatian. He has published more than 150 stories in magazines such as Tin House, Playboy, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, with several anthologized in Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. His essays and journalism have appeared in venues such as The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, Poets & Writers, and Real Simple. He regularly teaches at the Tin House Writer's Conference, and has taught fiction at Boston College, Wesleyan, and Emerson College.

Fan Notes: "Steve Almond is one of our finest literary provocateurs. His stories are without equal in their beautiful terrible honesty. Stylish and finely wrought, these are tales with the force of life itself." Junot Díaz

“Steve Almond’s work is funny and beguiling and completely original.” —Lorrie Moore

"These wonderful, wickedly hilarious stories have forgiveness at their core. Steve Almond's characters are sons and fathers, inveterate gamblers, thwarted dreamers, the mothers of children gone astray, and God Bless America teaches us how to love every one of them. Almond always has an ear to the ground for 'the dumb throb, the frantic seep' of human hope, which his prose transmutes into music." Karen Russell

"You could drop Steve Almond onto any strange planet and within days he'd beam back a story written by an insider, maybe even a native, that creeps you out it's so familiar and strange. His imagination is chameleon and ruthless, his fiction masterful right down to the sentence, the word." Brad Watson 

Advance Reading: Check out a sampling of Almond's fiction and nonfiction here.

 

 

NONFICTION

Advanced Memoir and Narrative Nonfiction: The Prologue with Robin Hemley
June 9-13, mornings, with one-on-one meeting in addition

CLASS FULL

This course will focus on the art of the long-form memoir and narrative nonfiction book. There are many pitfalls in writing any book-length work of nonfiction, for instance, what to include and what to leave out (as it’s your life, what fascinates you might not fascinate the reader, and what you think of as boring the reader might find fascinating), what your work is about and what it’s really about, the tricks you play on yourself to avoid writing what you should be writing about, when it’s okay to invent or conflate and when it’s not (though there’s no absolute consensus on this), and how to focus on the form as much as the content of your memoir.  Regarding this last point, we’ll be trying our hand at writing prologues to our memoirs as a road map for both the reader and ourselves.  Even if you’ve already written a prologue, be prepared to write at least one more during the week. You should come to the course with a four to five page prologue for your memoir in which you lay out to some extent what’s at stake in the writing of the memoir. You will also submit 15-20 pages for the class to critique. 

Bio: Robin Hemley served as the director of Nonfiction Writing at the University of Iowa for nine years previous to taking his current post as writer-in-residence and director of the Writing Program at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He's the author of numerous books, including such works as Nola: A Memoir of Faith, Art, and Madness; Reply All; Do Over, and the craft guides Turning Life into Fiction and A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel. His many awards include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Nelson Algren Award, the George Garrett Award, and three Pushcart Prizes. 

Rumors about Robin: "Robin Hemley is on my very short list of writers I not only wish to read, not only need to read, but downright can't wait to read.  Do-Over!  is quintessential Hemley, full of wit and invention and brilliant language and warm humanity and when you least expect itmid-belly laugh, mid-bon mothe will sneak up on you with a dazzlingly smart, deep-cutting insight into human nature.  Do-Over!  is an instant classic."Robert Olen Butler

"Nola is really the biography of a family, by a writer who understands the complex inter-relationships between people who love each other helplessly. Robin Hemley investigates the shifting space that so often separates spiritual quest from insanity, divides a healthy search for the light from a dangerous staring at the sun. And finally, this is a writer's story, painful, edgy, honest, and humble before mysteries even the best observer and family archivist will never understand." Rosellen Brown

"Robin Hemley has given us a haunting, strange, and beautifully luminous work in Nola, a portrait of the artist's quest for fulfillment complete with all its attendant sorrows and joys. Powerful, moving, genuinely gut-wrenching without losing its own sense of humor and pathos, Nola is one of the best works of nonfiction I have read in years." Bret Lott
 
"An eloquent elegy to his sister (possibly a suicide and almost certainly a saint), Robin Hemley's Nola is the extraordinarily moving story of a rational man's education into mystery and magic." --David Shields
 
Advance Reading: Check out his Modern Love column in The New York Times. 
 

 

Advanced Memoir: The Fearless Story with Emily Rapp
June 16-20, mornings, with one-on-one meeting in addition 

CLASS FULL

In this workshop we’ll go fearlessly into the story of what happened, how you feel about it, and what it has meant to you over time. The class will consist of daily lectures, discussions, and writing exercises aimed at helping you learn more about emotional complexity, narrative structure, the art of revelation, building metaphor from real life, creating tension, and finding and digging deep into all the layers of your story without sparing yourself or alienating everyone in your life. Each writer should submit up to 20 pages of his/her literary nonfiction for class discussion by May 17, and will have the opportunity to schedule an individual meeting with Emily during the week of class.

Bio: A former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Emily Rapp is the author of two memoirs: The Still Point of the Turning World and Poster Child: A Memoir. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award, a James A. Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas-Austin, and the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Bucknell University.  She is currently professor of creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and a faculty member in the University of California-Riverside MFA Program.  Her writing has appeared in Slate, Salon, and the New York Times.

Rap sheet on Emily: "The Still Point of the Turning World is about the smallest things and the biggest things, the ugliest things and the most beautiful things, the darkest things and the brightest things, but most of all it’s about one very important thing: the way a woman loves a boy who will soon die. Emily Rapp didn’t want to tell us this story. She had to. That necessity is evident in every word of this intelligent, ferocious, grace-filled, gritty, astonishing starlight of a book." —Cheryl Strayed

"It's hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp's The Still Point of the Turning World. It's one of those rare books that you want to press into people's hands and simply say, 'You must read this. You will thank me.' At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family's story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us." —Will Schwalbe, New York Times bestselling author of The End of Your Life Book Club
 
"Rapp has an emotional accessibility reminiscent of Wild author Cheryl Strayed; her unique experiences have a touch of the universal. She comes across as open, midthought. In her book, she wrestles with the ideas of luck and sentimentality and life and love and often circles back, unresolved. Despite being a former divinity student, she bypasses religion for literature, seeking meaning in poetry, myth and, especially, Frankenstein and its author, Mary Shelley... Her kind of parent? The dragon mother: powerful, sometimes terrifying, full of fire and magic." —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times, "Faces to Watch in 2013"
 
"A beautiful, searing exploration of the landscape of grief and a profound meditation on the meaning of life." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
 
"Ronan's ‘death sentence’ was for Rapp and her husband, Rick, living in Santa Fe, a time of grief, reckoning, and learning how to live, and her elegant, restrained work flows with reflections and excerpts from writers and poets like Mary Shelley, Pablo Neruda, and Sylvia Plath, as well as supporters who helped her during the difficult unraveling of her son's condition. Writing about Ronan allowed her to claim the sorrow and truly look at her son the way he was... Unflinching and unsentimental, Rapp's work lends a useful, compassionate, healing message for suffering parents and caregivers." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
 
"A writer writes; a mother mothers. When those passionate vocations merge in crisis, more than a memoir emerges. The Still Point of the Turning World is a philosophical inquiry into the nature of faith, character, love, and dying.  This book is Rapp’s, and Ronan’s, enduring gift of selves for the rest of us." —Antonya Nelson
 
Advanced Reading: Check out some of Emily's nonfiction here.
 
 

 

Advanced Short Prose: The BS Detector with Steve Almond
June 7 & 8, half-days

CLASS FULL

"Writing is decision making," says Steve Almond. "Nothing more and nothing less. What word? Where to place the comma? How to shape the paragraph? Which characters to undress and in what manner? It's relentless." The best way to develop the ability to make these decisions is to learn how to judge your own work, and the best way to learn to judge your own work is to look critically and carefully at other people's work. That's what participants will do in this  workshop. "The idea is not to slow your rate of composition via compulsive revision," says Almond, "but, on the contrary, to make better decisions in the first place, and to recognize when you haven't quickly, without succumbing to the opera of self-doubt."

Experienced writers of short prosefiction or nonfictionwill submit their work to be considered by their peers and Almond in this back-by-popular-demand, specially condensed weekend intensive workshop.

Bio: Steve Almond is the author of ten books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently the story collection God Bless America. Almond's second book, Candyfreak, was a New York Times bestseller, won the ALA Alex Award, and was named the Booksense Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year. His books have been published in half a dozen foreign countries and translated into German, Dutch, Spanish, and Croatian. He has published more than 150 stories in magazines such as Tin House, Playboy, Zoetrope, and Ploughshares, with several anthologized in Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. His essays and journalism have appeared in venues such as The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, Poets & Writers, and Real Simple. He regularly teaches at the Tin House Writer's Conference, and has taught fiction at Boston College, Wesleyan, and Emerson College.

Fan Notes: "Steve Almond is one of our finest literary provocateurs. His stories are without equal in their beautiful terrible honesty. Stylish and finely wrought, these are tales with the force of life itself." Junot Díaz

“Steve Almond’s work is funny and beguiling and completely original.” —Lorrie Moore

"These wonderful, wickedly hilarious stories have forgiveness at their core. Steve Almond's characters are sons and fathers, inveterate gamblers, thwarted dreamers, the mothers of children gone astray, and God Bless America teaches us how to love every one of them. Almond always has an ear to the ground for 'the dumb throb, the frantic seep' of human hope, which his prose transmutes into music." Karen Russell

"You could drop Steve Almond onto any strange planet and within days he'd beam back a story written by an insider, maybe even a native, that creeps you out it's so familiar and strange. His imagination is chameleon and ruthless, his fiction masterful right down to the sentence, the word." Brad Watson 

Advance Reading: Check out a sampling of Almond's nonfiction here.

 

 

POETRY

Advanced Poetry: Raising the Stakes with Mark Doty
June 9-13, mornings, with one-on-one meeting in addition

CLASS FULL

Do you ever look at the carefully shaped poem you’ve written and sense that so much—the shining hard-to-grasp, what you felt but couldn’t say—has been left out? This workshop is designed for experienced poets who would like to deepen, complicate and enlarge their poems. We'll read exemplary contemporary poems, engage in in- and out-of-class writing exercises, and cheer each other on in our quest to get more of the gorgeous mess of life onto the page. You will need a notebook or laptop, a willingness to experiment, and a degree of courage, which the group will help you find if need be. Each participant will submit up to four poems for review by May 10. Although all four poems may not be workshopped in class, there will be an opportunity to discuss them all in depth during individual meetings with Mark to be scheduled the week of class.

Bio: Mark Doty is the author of the National Book Award-winning Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is also author of four memoirs, including the New York Times bestseller Dog Days, and numerous essays on poets including Walt Whitman, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens, some of which are collected in his most recent book, The Art of Description: World into WordDoty is the only American poet to have received the T.S. Eliot Prize and he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ingram Merrill, and Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Foundations, and from the National Endowment for the Arts. Other honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards, and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction. His poems have been widely published, appearing in magazines including the Atlantic Monthly, the London Review of Books, Ploughshares, Poetry, and the New Yorker; and in anthologies including The Norton Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. He's a professor of English at Rutgers University.

Doty Dotage: “In Sweet Machine, we see an already masterful poet refusing to lapse into nostalgia or to unthinkingly reuse the poetic strategies that have served him so well in the past. Instead, we find Mark Doty exploring new territories and questioning himself at every turn.” --Joel Brouwer in The Progressive

"The important variety in Doty is not rhythm or vocabulary but situation: all that iridescence is there to tell us something about being human.” --Ruth Padel, The New York Times
 
“Unlike his contemporaries, Doty has never eschewed beauty. Indeed, beauty, its unlikely, often unexpected, yet constant recurrence and its elusive fleetingness, is central.” --Reginald Shepherd, Publisher's Weekly 
 
 “Mark Doty holds a magnifying glass to his subjects. He uses language as a way to highlight a moment, elevate it, and unearth hidden depth and meaning.” --Elizabeth Lund, Christian Science Monitor
 
Advance Reading: Read some poetry and nonfiction by Doty here.
 

 

SCREENPLAY

Advanced Screenwriting: The Full Script with Gordy Hoffman
June 9-13, mornings, with one-on-one meeting in addition

CLASS FULL

Back by popular demand for the second summer in a row, critically acclaimed writer, director, and former USC screenwriting instructor Gordy Hoffman (Love Liza, A Coat of Snow) leads his fun and rigorous full-script workshop for advanced writers of screenplays. 
 
Everyone can write a problematic first draft. This isn’t the issue facing the unproduced screenwriter. Writers often find themselves in a rush to be “done” with their script. The final chapter in the road of a screenplay toward production is one not often undertaken, as many screenplays never get any interest or response from the industry. What is happening here? Why are our scripts not where they should be? A writer’s ability to stay open to feedback and recognize for themselves how their screenplay can be as emotionally engaging as it can be is the difference between the amateur screenwriter and the professional. Through this workshop, we will identify how a very strong script can become unstoppable and examine through discussion of the screenplays how writers can better serve themselves in the final stages of the process. We are often in our own way. We are the ones who stop writing short of something very special. Let’s look at how we might explore the last chapter of development and devise a completely new definition of “done.”
 
Bio: Gordy Hoffman's screenplay for the film Love Liza (starring his brother, Philip Seymour Hoffman) won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival. He made his feature directorial debut with his script A Coat of Snow, which world premiered at the 2005 Locarno International Film Festival. Gordy has taught screenwriting at the USC School of Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, as well as led workshops all over North America, Poland and the UK. He has served as a panelist for the IFP Script to Screen Conference in NYC, Women in Film’s Script DC Conference in Washington, D.C., the George Eastman House Film Festival, as well as a judge for the McKnight Screenwriting Fellowships in Minnesota. A proud Jayhawk, he sits on the Professional Advisory Board of the Film and Media Studies Department at his alma mater, the University of Kansas. Gordy Hoffman founded the BlueCat Screenplay Competition in 1998 and remains its judge. He’s currently working on a project for Abigail Spencer
 
Advance viewing: Check out the trailer for Love Eliza, a film made from Gordy's award-winning screenplay, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathy Bates.
 

 

TUITION INFORMATION

Week-long Tuition: $695/members; $745/non-members (discounts available through the Gold, Silver, and Bronze Lit Fest passes, coming soon)

Weekend (Almond) Tuition: $395/members; $425/non-members
 
Application fee: $20 (non-transferrable, non-refundable)
 
Unfortunately, we're unable to offer our typical Writership Tuition Assistance for juried courses. We do, however, have many payment plans available which can make the payments manageable for many people.

 

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