2020 Writers Retreat Course Descriptions

Participants, please review the course descriptions below, then select one course and use the corresponding registration link under the program "description" tab on the previous page.

Writers Behaving Badly: Breaking (Free of) the Rules and Getting Away With It - Peter Ho Davies
Paradoxically, while there are many, often helpful, "rules of thumb”—show don't tell, write what you know, etc.—for writing stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, all writers are rule breakers at heart. In this course we'll consider some of the unspoken "you-can't-write-that" rules that censor our work (craft rules, the rules of polite society, even the rules of physical reality) and then set out to break them. We’ll take inspiration from a variety of works of fiction and non-fiction (and even a few works that defy those rules of genre) by writers like Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Amy Hempel and Philip Roth, using them as jumping off points for a series of exercises designed to stretch our sense of the possibilities of prose. A class for those just getting started, those starting anew, and those looking for a jump-start.

Humor: Eternal Sources of Funny - Andy Mozina
Writing humor is darn near impossible and should not be attempted. Nevertheless, we’ll study comedy in fiction, creative nonfiction, and, dang it, even a little bit of poetry. We’ll springboard from prompts that will help you generate new funny writing or enhance existing drafts. Using examples from the work of such irrepressible jokesters as Nikolai Gogol, Colson Whitehead, Monica McFawn, Lorrie Moore, George Saunders, Nora Ephron, David Sedaris, Samantha Irby, Tenaya Darlington, and James Tate, we’ll analyze several classic scenarios (the surrealistic problem, acting way against type, jesting ‘round the gallows, etc.) and consider risible micro-moves (defamiliarization, the wacky comparison, irony, etc.). Then we’ll examine how to go from gut-splitting premise, to a plot or other forms of forward movement. Finally, we’ll explore how to balance humor with pathos and meaning. Whether you want to spice serious work with humor, go whole hog into comedic writing, or perfect your funny-sad blend, you’ll leave with new pages and new techniques.

Fiction Incubator - Christine Maul Rice
When was the last time you enjoyed writing? Dug in and just had fun? Writers often say, “I want to write a novel but I don’t know where to start.” Emerging as well as seasoned writers often get so overwhelmed beneath the sheer weight of what they want to tell, that they feel frozen. Stories are built by seeing what you want to tell clearly (in your imagination), listening to your authentic voice, and shaping story ‘movement.’ In this high-demand yet fun workshop, we’ll examine ideas—old and new—to see which ones might turn into a successful flash fiction, short story, or novel chapter. As we work through prompts, we’ll excavate your imagination, shuffle through old journals, and resuscitate half-baked ideas (and great ideas!) that, perhaps, didn’t hit the page the way you intended. We’ll write lists, develop characters and places, rewrite and, by the end of our time together, you’ll have made progress on what once seemed like an overwhelming task.

What We Must: Writing for Troubled Times - Holly Wren Spaulding
What use is art when the planet is on fire? Why write when so much else seems urgent? What holds us back from doing what we must—on the page and beyond? Is Beauty enough? In this generative workshop, we will acknowledge the existential pressures that shape our imaginations and emerge more empowered to write our poems, essays, and flash non-fictions from a space of sustainable practice and productive play. We will tune our senses to the wider context of our lives in refreshing ways. We will hone our intuition. We will loosen up. We will laugh. We will self-interview. We will expand the definition of a workshop. We will embody our unique insights and worries. At the heart of our engagement will be a multi-genre inquiry into what it means to be a writer in the world—not just in word, but in deed. We will read Joy Harjo, Ross Gay, Tina Chang, Mary Ruefle, and Ocean Vuong, among others. The week's prompts may lead to a completed stand-alone piece, an eventual manuscript, or even a text-based public project.

Writers-in-Residence: Anne-Marie Oomen and Mary Kay Zuravleff
Anne-Marie and Mary Kay will serve as our writers-in-residence to the participants of the 2020 Writers Retreat, making themselves available for one-on-one tutorials and meetings. Participants may sign up at the Retreat for a limited number of spots, and should be prepared with questions pertinent to their craft, genre, specific project, or the larger topics of book publishing, blogging, touring, and publicity. While this is a chance to ask questions and work with award-winning authors, the writer-in-residence role is not designed to allow for critiques of manuscripts. Please bring questions, but not pages.