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Writing Chicago: Northwestern University Summer Writers' Conference

Writers' Workshop and Panel Descriptions

Information about the 2018 Northwestern University Summer Writers' Conference will be posted in early 2018.


Morning Workshops 10:00–11:30 a.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Keep It Moving: A Toolkit for Sharpening Your Plots

with James Tadd Adcox

Before a story can be meaningful, deep, life-changing, or any of the other great things we want out of literature, it has to be read—which means that it has to get readers to keep turning the pages. It needs, in other words, to have a plot. In this workshop we’ll investigate some tools for plotting, exploring the distinction between plot and story, plot as a series of “gas stations,” and the techniques of mystery, conflict, and tension. In addition, we’ll discuss how a variety of well-loved authors and storytellers approach plot.

Workshop B - CLOSED

Asking and Answering Questions in Fiction Writing

with Fred Shafer

In describing the process he follows in writing, one contemporary novelist has said, “I just keep asking and answering questions until I have a scene, a chapter, and eventually a book.” The search for the best questions to ask at the right times is central in almost every profession and area of life, from philosophy and religion to law and medicine, the natural and social sciences, computer technology, business, marketing, and sales. Entire books have been published in some of these fields about the value and purpose of questions, but very little has been written about the questions that are asked in fiction writing, even though one reason why a manuscript can fall short of meeting its potential is that the writer hasn’t raised or answered enough questions. In this workshop we will discuss the kinds of questions that are often asked at each stage in the creation of a novel or short story, from the first draft through the process of revising. We’ll look at several examples taken from contemporary short stories and novels, trying to infer the questions that may have led to a passage or a scene, but that aren’t mentioned. We’ll also discuss the role of questions that actually appear in the text, when the characters are either talking with each other in dialogue or sitting alone, caught up in their thoughts.

Workshop C

Understanding Movie and TV Endings from a Screenwriter's Perspective

with David E. Tolchinsky

In this presentation, we will watch clips and investigate together: Why are some movie/television episode endings satisfying, some unsatisfying, some particularly memorable, some forgettable? As writers, what do we think we should find at the end of our screenplays/teleplays? What doesn’t belong at the end?  Technically, what is the relation of ending to beginning, plot, character arc and moral?  Generally, how do we use an understanding of endings to jumpstart our screenwriting process? Finally, why is our ending the most important aspect of our screenplay, yet often the most attacked? How do we protect our ending and our voice as an artist? Obvious spoiler alert: we will be watching a lot of ENDINGS of films, television episodes and television series! And there will be time to talk about a few of the stories/endings of participants – what might be the ending of your story? How might you make the ending you have in mind stronger?  So come prepared to share.

Workshop D

Agent Queries and the Publishing Process

with Crystal Hana Kim

What do you do when you’ve finally completed your first novel? In this workshop, we will discuss researching literary agents, writing query letters, and navigating the publishing process. In-class exercises will provide time for you to craft a compelling, specific, and succinct query.

Workshop E

Journey (Not the Destination): Travel Writing Basics

with Gretchen Kalwinski

Want to trek the globe and write about it? You’re not alone. Travel writing is one of the most appealing nonfiction genres out there, calling on an author’s skills with concrete detail, point of view, and scene construction to compose compelling, engaging travel narratives. In this short class, we’ll go into the basics of how to write about your explorations, (with a focus on using the five senses) and how to follow your curiosity to pen a travel story only *you* could write. We’ll also go into logistical info for would-be travel writers, including types of travel writing (and corresponding publications/blogs/websites), how to pitch travel stories, and blogging/social media tips. 

Workshop F

How a Flash Essay is like a Baby Elephant: Translating the Big Moment into Small Spaces

with Paula Carter

In a time where the President of the United States is using 140 characters to shape public policy, the power of capturing meaning in a small space has perhaps never been so apparent. Outside of politics and Twitter feeds, there has also been an increase in the popularity of flash essays – essays around 750 words. Whether this is due to shorter attention spans or simply the beauty of this genre, it is hard to know. But, the success of magazines like Brevity demonstrates a hunger for deeper truths to be revealed in tight, potent ways. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the history of the flash essay, read masters of creating a moment like Abigail Thomas and Annie Dillard, examine craft techniques used in the genre, and look at subsections of the genre including lyric, collage, and lists. Finally, we’ll discuss magazines and publications that are looking to publish flash essays. Students will leave the workshop with the beginnings of 2-3 flash pieces.

Workshop G

Telling Your Story to Children

with Esther Hershenhorn

When it comes to telling your story to children, first-hand knowledge of the Children’s Book World can keep you moving forward on your chosen writer’s plotline.  Author, teacher and Children’s Book Writing Coach Esther Hershenhorn shares the bounty of publishing, format, genre and marketplace possibilities as well as the non-stop opportunities to both learn and hone your craft and connect with the writing community, the gatekeepers, the literature and readers. Chicago’s rich children’s book creator resources will be underscored.

Lunch and Keynote 11:45 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Keynote Presentation

A Kiss Crosses the City with Stuart Dybek

Writing about place: place as setting, as character, as story, as image, as voice, place as remembered, as imagined and as re-imagined, place as cityscape, landscape, seascape, innerscape, no escape. 

Stuart Dybek is the author of The Coast of ChicagoEcstatic CahootsPaper LanternI Sailed with Magellan, among other titles. He is the Distinguished Writer in Residence at Northwestern University.

Afternoon Workshops 1:45–3:15 p.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Tear it Down

with Rebecca Makkai

As soon as you’ve built your masterpiece, it’s time to tear it down. So much of editing is removal, and we’ll talk about the large, structural excisions (the “axe work”) as well as the minute erasures (the “scalpel work”) that will make your prose tighter, cleaner, and stronger. We'll also discuss how to deal with emotional resistance to deleting your own words. For this class, please bring one paragraph of your own writing that you feel comfortable sharing with the group.

Workshop B

Torqueing Images: Why You Should Write Unlikeable Characters

with Goldie Goldbloom

The majority of books on the lists of the best books ever written are full of unlikeable characters. Is subtle distortion at work and how do we fine-tune our own skills at torqueing a standard image? What can we learn from artists and dancers in this area? What is it about the human psyche that causes us to love unlikeable characters? Let's play with the way we write characters.

Workshop C

Show Don't Tell: How to build scenes and bring your story to life

with Renee Rosen

We’ve all heard it before, “show don’t tell” but what exactly does that mean to your work? This interactive workshop will explore the difference between the two and is designed to help you get the most out of every scene by letting your characters “do the heavy lifting” and carry your story forward. We’ll take a paragraph that is all “telling” and explore tricks and tools that will turn it into a vivid, active scene.

Workshop D

Turn Your Personal Experience Into History

with Ethan Michaeli

Both fiction and nonfiction writers in this workshop will learn how to combine research strategies to add historical depth to their personal story. By blending journalism, academic sources and personal interviews, writers can drill down into the pasts of the cities, neighborhoods and institutions all around them, creating context for their own experiences and tracing the trajectories of their characters from multiple perspectives. Fusing these disparate sources into a coherent narrative will make the past relevant as well as readable. “The past is never dead. It isn’t even past,” William Faulkner wrote in Requiem for a Nun.

Workshop E - CLOSED

Fast Talk: Four Easy Ways to Make Dialogue Pop

with Juan Martinez

If you have sometimes struggled with writing dialogue, you're not alone. Vladimir Nabokov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez both famously railed against it, and they found ways to avoid writing talk-heavy scenes. That's a perfectly legitimate work-around. However, in this talk we'll discuss four easy ways to make dialogue work — to move scenes forward and to reveal complicated character dynamics, all while keeping your reader interested in what happens next.

Workshop F

Writing About Spiritual or Religious Matters

with Henry Carrigan

The sales of religion books--both fiction and nonfiction--continues to be brisk. What are religion publishers looking for these days? What's the best way to write a spiritual memoir? What religion fiction books sell best, and what topics are hot these days? How can you get a publisher to look at your proposal? A veteran of religion publishing talks about the contemporary religion publishing landscape and offers some tips on how to enter it, answering questions about all aspects of writing and publishing in religion publishing.

Workshop G

Insta-Poetics: Exercises to Generate Poetic Ideas

with Vincent Francone

Regardless of poetic experience, writers of every level can benefit from creating memorable images through quick, creative exercises.  Participants will look at examples of ekphrastic writing (writing about images and objects) and hone their observational skills to generate ideas for future work, as well explore exercises and instant-writing techniques aimed at generating poetic sketches to add to current or future revised work. Writers will leave with low-pressure techniques to defeat writer's block and new ways of looking at livening their craft.

Panel Discussions 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Panel A

Digital Storytelling: New Tools for Telling Stories

with Amy GuthJill HopkinsJonathan Messinger, and Aram Mrjoian (moderator)

Technology has expanded the possibilities for how writers can tell their stories. You don’t need to be a tech genius to create multimedia stories through podcasts and web-based platforms. Three writers with a strong digital storytelling presence share examples of their digital stories, and their experiences and advice for writers interested in utilizing technology to tell their own stories and share their work with new audiences.

Panel B

Finding Fellowships, Residencies, Grants, and Writing Contests

with Ignatius V. Aloysius, Jeremy T. Wilson, J. Preston Witt, Jonathan Jones (moderator)

Three writers/MFA graduates share their experiences with fellowships, residencies, grants and writing contests, many of which are open to emerging writers. Topics of discussion include tips for finding these opportunities, the application or submission process, and their advantages and drawbacks.


Morning Workshops 10:00–11:30 a.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Persons of Interest: the Development of Fictional Characters

with Eric May

If the purpose of plot is to reveal character; that is, to reveal a fictional character’s “true” nature, how do we create fictional people interesting enough to hold our (and our readers) interest? Eric Charles May presents strategies for developing engaging fictional characters.

Workshop B

Specificity and Clarity as Tools for Articulating Ambiguity and Mystery

with Alex Higley

In this workshop, writers will learn how to use specific language and clear action to construct ambiguity and mystery within short stories—important components to keep your reader interested. We will look at short stories by Ottessa Moshfegh, Brad Watson, Alice Munro, and others, and analyze the small, important moves and techniques these writers employ to create a sense of the uncanny within their fiction.

Workshop C

I, You, and All of Them: The Power of Point of View

with Jarrett Neal

A story's ability to capture readers and effectively express a writer's ideas hinges on the writer's proper use of POV. Understanding both the benefits and limits of first, second, and third person POV gives writers the power to lend immediacy and detail to their work or to limit focus to allow other aspects of the story to surface. This generative workshop tasks participants to create microfiction from all three perspectives to better understand point of view and its possibilities.

Workshop D

"Hey I thought this was supposed to be fun"

with S.L. Wisenberg

So you’ve carved out precious time in the early morning to write. Maybe even you’ve quit your job to do this. You sit down at your desk but it’s a slog! Where did that darned muse go, anyway? We’ll use discussion and exercises to coax back the joy of discovery and of hard work, and also bring back the freedom of creativity.

Workshop E - CLOSED

Enhancing the Creative in Creative Nonfiction

with Michele Weldon

Whether you are working on memoir, personal essays or reported nonfiction, it is always possible to improve the phrasemaking and flow. Learn strategies and tips to polish your writing to appeal to publishers and readers. We will work on tactics to enhance tone, voice and style through description, pacing, dialogue and other skills. Michele Weldon is an award-winning author of five nonfiction books, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University, senior leader with The OpEd project and frequent contributor to outlets including New York Times, USA Today, OZY, Narratively, CNN, Time, Motto, Slate, Chicago Tribune, Pacific Standard and many more.

Workshop F

Let's Talk About Sex: The Art of Writing the Intimate

In this workshop, we’ll discuss some approaches to Intimate Lit, writing about sex and bodily intimacy and intimate exchanges and gestures and details. We’ll look at what a few of the pros have to say about writing about sex and read and discuss passages that work, passages that don't work, and passages you're not quite sure about. Ideally, you'll bring some examples of Intimate Lit across the success spectrum, and we'll get you experimenting with intimate lit of your own.

Workshop G

A Beautiful Mess: Writing & Publishing Cross-Genre Work

with Krista Franklin

In this workshop, we will discuss contemporary works that engage hybridity and "the mash up" —the speculative, the lyric essay, narratives in verse, and the ekphrastic—in order to generate cross-genre writing. We will brainstorm new material and ideas toward creating hybrid works, and share publishers who are interested in the cross-genre.

Lunch and Keynote 11:45 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Keynote Discussion

Tell it to the Page and Yell it to the Sky: On Writing and Performance with Ines Bellina, Lindsay Hunter, Parneshia Jones, and Megan Stielstra

Four Chicago-based writers working within multiple genres--fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, screenwriting, journalism, and translation--will discuss the intersections of performance and the page. How do live readings influence the writing process? How have they led to publication opportunities, such as meeting editors or agents? What does it mean to build a creative community, especially at a time when many voices and perspectives are so desperately needed? And how can it be--dare we say it?--fun.


Afternoon Workshops 1:45–3:15 p.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Trusting POV and the Experience of Your Origins

with J-L Deher-Lesaint

Many writers have mentioned that the more solidly rooted in a specific setting, the more universal the dramatized experience becomes—whether one writes in a naturalistic vein or a fantastical one. What role does setting play in narrative, and how does one make setting (whether real or imagined) believable to readers? How can a writer’s unique perspective, origin and overall experience shape the description of an often-described place, such as Chicago? How do writers help readers see setting under a new light that also reflects the interior life of the character through which it is seen?  This session will consist of highly interactive lecture and discussion, analyses of several short text selections and in-class exercises, all leading to some craft points to help writers hone their skills at establishing setting.

Workshop B

Why We Tell Stories

with Vu Tran

As writers, when we ask that most fundamental of questions—Why do we tell stories?—we are also asking ourselves why stories are important to us and what that answer says about us individually and collectively.  This workshop will address these questions through a discussion of Christopher Booker’s Seven Basic Plots and the ways we use stories to organize our ideas about ourselves and the world around us, whether we are writers or simply the audience for them.

Workshop C

Life as War, War as Life

with Ross Ritchell

In this workshop writers will analyze and understand various ways of writing about emotional and physical extremes to better capture the gamut of lives fully lived. Ross Ritchell's "The Knife", a novel written after his war experiences as an Army Ranger, helped him deal with his PTSD after his service. He believes trauma brings out truths writers can use to examine, express and create powerful stories.


Workshop D

Creating a Working Plot Map: What's the Shape of Your YA or Middle Grade Novel

with Laurie Lawlor

Engage in a playful way to uncover the plot and shape of your book using the "right side" of the brain. Middle grade and young adult novelists are invited to bring notes and journal entries that may be helpful in discovering the shape and plot map of their works-in-progress--even in the beginning stages. Participants will brainstorm various plot "shapes" and use large paper and art materials to come up with new insights into story arcs. No artistic skill is required.

Workshop E

Serious Is the Rubber Chicken: Introduction to the (Dubious) Art of Humor Writing

with Ian Belknap

This workshop will help writers sharpen their comedic writing by dissecting recently published examples (The Onion, McSweeney's, etc.) and exercises designed to incorporate new methods into their own work.

Workshop F          

Curses, Blessings, Invocations, and Spells: Magic and Language in Trying Times

with Marty McConnell

Poetry is often where the political and the magical most powerfully meet. Whether the language rallies a crowd to action or aids one individual in their survival in the face of seemingly intolerable conditions, the poetics of politics are everywhere evident and endlessly important. How can we access this magic and harness it for ourselves and our causes? How do the greats, WB Yeats, Wislowa Szymborska, Muriel Rukeyser, Claudia Rankine and the like, do it? This session will take the form of a craft talk and interactive discussion of poems from various traditions and times that speak authentically and overtly to the political and societal contexts in which their authors live/lived and write/wrote. Participants will have the opportunity to begin generating some writing of their own based on those discussions.

Workshop G

Longform Journalism: How to Find, Pitch, Report and Write Great Ideas

with Brian Hieggelke

For thirty-two years, Newcity has published in-depth coverage of Chicago, with a special emphasis on its culture (and subcultures). Newcity has responded to the current publishing environment by swimming against the tide, increasing its typical feature story from an average of 2,500 words a decade ago to 5,000 or more words today. (Last year, they published their longest story ever, at nearly 11,000 words!) The historic legacy of nonfiction writing is dominated by great moments in long-form or literary journalism. Newcity believes the future lies there as well. Newcity’s editor Brian Hieggelke will lead a workshop on the development, pitch, reporting and writing of a long-form magazine story. He’ll discuss some of the defining moments in magazine writing (a syllabus of great examples then and now of long-form magazine writing will be made available), and then dive into the nuts and bolts of doing it yourself.

Panel Discussions 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Panel A

Keeping Print Relevant in a Digital World

with Michael ArndtBrian Hieggelke, Susanna Homan

In this panel discussion, Newcity editor Brian Hieggelke will be joined by other editors to discuss the state of print media and what they’re doing to perpetuate their publications deep into the 21st century. Other panelists to be named shortly. 

Panel B

Journey from a Manuscript to a Published Book

with Mike Levine, Doug SeiboldChristine Sneed, Barbara Egel (moderator)

The purpose of this panel is to provide an overview, from a variety of perspectives, of the journey from a manuscript to a published book. The founder of a Chicago-based independent publisher (Doug Seibold), a fiction writer who has published at both a small university press and a large trade house (Christine Sneed), and an independent editor who acquired fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for a university press (Mike Levine) will explain what usually seems to aspiring writers a perilous, opaque process. Topics of discussion will include how to think about your work in publishing industry terms, how to select and query an agent or publisher, what a publisher will expect from you, and what you can expect from your publisher. The panel will devote much of the time to Q and A. 


Morning Workshops 10:00–11:30 a.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Top 10 Things I Learned at a Prestigious MFA (and how you can use them right now from the comfort of your living room)

with Adrienne Gunn

Curious about what goes on in behind closed doors at fancy MFA programs? Adrienne Gunn thought she’d won the lottery when she was selected out of six hundred applicants for a spot at the University of Oregon’s highly-ranked MFA program. And she sort of did. But the experience also shook her confidence and left her writing irrevocably changed. This workshop will give you insight into succinct strategies MFA programs use to improve your writing right now (order of occurrence versus order of narration; precision; “the wedge”) and shed light into the big MFA lessons (how to find your voice; handling criticism and rejection; networking and developing your brand).

Workshop B - CLOSED

Finding the Right Words

with Lynn Sloan

If it’s possible to come up with one hundred words for snow, why do we struggle to find the right words to express our characters’ feelings? And we must. Nothing is more essential to creating the bond between our readers and our characters than writing about emotions with fresh and authentic language. How do we find the right words? This workshop will probe the stumbling blocks to finding the right words and provide strategies to access our characters’ deepest feelings and get them on the page.

Workshop C - CLOSED

Building Tension and Suspense in Fiction

with Susanna Calkins

What’s going to happen next? How do we keep our readers feverishly turning pages? In this workshop we will explore the elements of tension and suspense, considering strategies for creating and heightening anticipation in your readers.  We will analyze passages from published works to examine how components such as pacing, expectations, obstacles, and emotions can build—or reduce—tension. Participants will also engage in several activities which are designed to allow them to apply components of suspense and tension to their own writing.

Workshop D

This Branding Workshop Will Change Your Life: Story, Saturation and Selling Books in the Age of Social Media

with Ben Tanzer

People will not find your work. Okay, they might, and they do, but mostly they won't. There are waves of good to great writers making noise and a lot of clutter out there. You need to somehow rise above that clutter, if only for a moment, but how do you do that? It involves self-absorption, saturation, compulsion and repetition. It also involves attending this interactive workshop and exploring the ins and outs of branding and publicity in the age of social media.

Workshop E

Live Lit: Using Our Voices for Good

with Jeremy Owens

Our current historical moment is begging for artists of all stripes to speak up and out. This workshop will help writers find and focus their voice and feelings for the purpose of live-lit performance. It will help them use their voices for good! We'll also explore the wonderful world of live-lit performance in Chicago.

Workshop F

Form as Inspiration: How to Write (and Break the Rules of) a Sonnet in 2017

with Vincent Francone

This workshop will focus poetry composition, specifically the sonnet.  While this is one of the oldest and most common poetic forms, we will discuss ways contemporary writers have explored, revised, and abused the sonnet, expanding it from traditional rigid rhyme schemes and meter to looser interpretations that continue to honor the form.  Considering the trend in American poetry currently favors free verse, a discussion and practice of this form will, ideally, serve as a source of inspiration for poets at all skill levels and allow them to see how consideration of form can allow for new kinds of writing. In-session examples will come from the work of Paul Muldoon, Donald Justice, Jo Shapcott, and Michael Donaghy, among other possible readings.

Workshop G

Haunting: Mining Memory to Add Depth and Intrigue

with Jac Jemc

From the absences of Sappho to the ghosts of Henry James to the longing-fueled chases driving Laura van den Berg's stories, the idea of haunting presents itself in many forms throughout literature. In this session we'll explore haunting as narrative driver and resonance builder by reading examples of different modes of haunting and appropriating their forms. Whether you're interested in building a traditional ghost story, a tale of unrequited love or lingering grief, or playing with erasures of source materials, this course can help anyone looking for ways of building theme and image-based collateral in a variety of genres. 

Lunch and Keynote 11:45 a.m.–1:30 p.m.

Keynote Performance

featuring Chicago's live lit storytelling show You're Being Ridiculous

You're Being Ridiculous is a Chicago-based live lit storytelling show. At You're Being Ridiculous, real people tell true stories about their lives. Each performer is linked by rotating themes, and by the desire to make you laugh—and, once in awhile, cry. Their motto: Good stories are better than good times. We laugh at ourselves, and laugh with each other. Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Jeremy Owens will host with performers Ines Bellina, Adrienne Gunn, Andrew Marikis, and Ashley Ray-Harris.

Afternoon workshops 1:45–3:15 p.m.

Workshop A - CLOSED

Grab Them By the Throat: How to Keep Your Audience Reading Past the First Sentence

with Dana Norris

The harsh reality is that whether you're reading your work for an audience or sending it out for publication, no one is obligated to pay studious attention to your piece. We'll read amazing beginnings and discuss what editors and readers are looking for when they read a piece. We'll talk about how to shape your piece when you're reading it for an audience, as well as how to capture click-happy readers in the internet age. Participants will be invited to bring a piece they're working on to class and we will revise it during the session so the piece ignites with the first sentence and quickly pulls the reader into the meat of the story. This workshop will apply to writers of nonfiction, specifically those who are looking to perform their work and/or publish online​​.

Workshop B

Ear Training for Writers

with Gint Aras

This workshop considers the skill of listening to people speak for the purpose of writing dialogue. Just as observation skills are important to develop for the purpose of description, there are techniques writers can use to hone their dialogue-writing skills. The workshop will work with recordings of conversations and also provoke participants into brief conversations about random topics. Participants will consider how word choices, rhythm, diction and syntax contribute to character.


Workshop C

Creative Journal Writing

with Mary Wisniewski

A personal journal can serve many purposes – a confessional, an historic and family record, and a sounding board for trying out new ideas. It is also a way to maintain a sense of privacy and introspection in an increasingly chaotic world. The purpose of this class is to foster a habit of personal creative journaling. It is intended for three types of students – those who have never kept a diary, those who have tried keeping diaries in the past and failed to keep them going, and those who want to expand their journaling practice. The class will start with a discussion of some famous diaries – like those of Samuel Pepys and Virginia Woolf -- and then move to writing exercises to jumpstart the journaling process.

Workshop D

Writing Page-Turning  Family Stories

with Sara Connell

In this interactive workshop, participants will explore how to write the truth of our experiences while respecting people we love, how to create a compelling structure your story/project/book, and three craft techniques to elevate your writing and keep readers reading. Workshop includes writing prompts to put the techniques you learn into action and each participant will leave with a road map to stay motivated, make time to write and follow-through on your project.

Workshop E - CLOSED

Thinking with Metaphors

with Ozge Samanci

This workshop will introduce methods to encourage thinking metaphorically. Telling the readers what they are supposed to think about a situation underestimates their intelligence. Metaphors are poetic tools for conveying complex relationships without being didactic. Like any other device, metaphors needs to be handled with care and used economically. Extreme use of metaphorical narration will lead to outcomes that reads as forced or pretentious. In this workshop, we will explore various types of metaphors through visual and verbal examples and we will practice interpreting these metaphors. Finally we will create our own metaphors by using techniques that we can internalize.

Workshop F

The Fantastic Mongrel: Getting Started on Prose Poetry

with Kathleen Rooney

Prose poetry is far more than just verse without line breaks. Borrowing from a variety of forms and genres, including questionnaires, conver­sations, dream narratives, and art installations like those of Joseph Cornell, these little blocks, patches, scraps, chunks, fragments—whatever you want to call them—are tiny boxes that can contain big things. Through brief in-class readings by such authors as Aloysius Bertrand, Charles Baudelaire, Sabrina Orah Mark, Carol Guess, and many more, students will see how the prose poem represents an exciting inter­section among nonfiction, fiction, drama and poetry. After discussing how these blocks are structured—and talking about where to read and submit these popular genre-bending forms—students will have the chance to do in-class exercises, and will walk out with rough drafts of a few prose poems that they can continue to hone, as well as with a new sense of how to bring innovation to writing of all lengths and genres.

Workshop G

The Poetics of Place. On writing and representing the city you are from

with Kevin Coval

Both Chicago Literature and Hip Hop Poetics are rooted in the representation and thick description of place.  In this workshop we will examine how both traditions converge and interweave and write unabashedly and apologetically about the spot we call home.

Panel Discussions 3:30–4:30 p.m.

Panel A

Indie Presses: Creating New Communities

with Lynn Sloan and Marylee MacDonald

Traditional book publishers have consolidated into a few large conglomerates that rely heavily on “big” books and curtailing their midlists, the books many of us write and read. Now independent presses publish books that once were labeled midlist. Typically run by a few individuals, these small presses support the kinds of books they are passionate about. Their business models are based on keeping the press going rather than making outstanding profits. Independent presses, unlike traditional publishers, can be approached without an agent. This changed landscape has created opportunities for publishers, writers, and readers to forge new communities. These unexpected opportunities will be discussed; the differences between broad categories of indie presses will be clarified; and practical strategies for finding the right press will be provided.

Panel B

Traveling the World and Within

with Ines Bellina, Toni Nealie, Ozge Samanci, and Betsy Haberl (moderator)

Three world-traveling writers discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of writing about journeys. Topics of discussion include borders--imagined and real, physical and geographic, metaphoric and concrete, between adulthood and youth; as well as journeys across the globe, across the state, and within personal experiences.