Conference Schedule

All workshops offered online only.

Friday, July 19, 2024
Schedule for Friday, July 19
Time (CT) Title Instructor
9:30am - 10:30am Let Others Carry It: Publishing as Practice Megan Stielstra
11:00am - Noon No Passports or Visas Required: Imaginative Travel Writing Faisal Mohyuddin
12:30pm - 1:30pm Popular Fiction: Character and Story Lori Rader-Day
2pm - 3pm Beyond the Trauma Narrative Kate Harding
3:30pm - 4:30pm How to Find the Heart of the Story Gioia Diliberto

Saturday, July 20, 2024
Schedule for Saturday, July 20
Time (CT) Title Instructor
9:30am - 10:30am Let's Get Down to Earth: Writing as Witness for the Natural World Around You Paula Carter
11am - Noon I Can't Remember How to Do This: Writing Memory in Fiction and Nonfiction Rebecca Makkai
12:30pm - 1:30pm Good Enough Juan Martinez
2pm - 3pm Breathing Life Into Young Adult Fiction Characters Laurie Lawlor
3:30pm - 4:30pm The Power and Poetry of Flash Fiction Christine Sneed




Workshop Descriptions

Friday, July 19, 2024

9:30am – 10:30am CT
Let Others Carry It: Publishing as Practice
Featuring Megan Stielstra

“Once the work is done, it’s not yours anymore,” wrote Frank Chimero. “If the thing you make goes anywhere, it’s because other people carried it.” The choice of if, when, and how to share our work is a deeply personal decision, both terrifying and exhilarating. How do you make it? And once it’s made, what do you… do? This workshop reframes the submission process as a vital and informative part of the writing practice, as opposed to rejection/acceptance roulette. How can our unique publication goals influence rewriting? How does the consideration of a wider audience take our work to the next level and when should we leave those (scary and often very loud) outside voices at the door? And how can we demystify the nuts-and-bolts of submitting—finding the right literary journals, writing a solid cover letter, connecting with editors—and get back to what we’re all here to do: carry each other’s stories. Writers and storytellers at all levels are welcome. (Multigenre)

11:00am – noon CT
No Passports or Visas Required: Imaginative Travel Writing
Featuring Faisal Mohyuddin

Establishing a strong, clear sense of setting is an essential part of writing prose and poetry. Sometimes our work demands we create settings in places we’ve never visited or may never be able to visit; other times, these locations exist only in memory or in a time before we were born. In this workshop, we’ll imaginatively travel — using photographs, videos, maps, newspapers, and social media — and consider how to write about the various places we visit. We’ll explore ways to craft settings that are rich in detail, engaging to the five senses, immersive, and, as best as we can capture, “true.” Additionally, we’ll discuss the ethics of imaginative travel writing and identify strategies that can help us avoid cultural appropriation, stereotyping, overgeneralization, and inauthenticity. No passports or visas required! (Multigenre)

12:30 – 1:30pm CT
Popular Fiction: Character and Story
Featuring Lori Rader-Day

In popular fiction, character is just as important as in literary fiction—but one story may not be enough. In this session, we will discuss the unique demands of popular fiction and introduce the array of characters who populate stories that rely on discovery or suspense—some of them very shady, indeed. Who should lead the story? What do heroes and villains have in common? Who are the people required to build out your protagonist’s world and make readers believe—and worry? (Popular Fiction)

2:00 – 3:00pm CT
Beyond the Trauma Narrative
Featuring Kate Harding

The personal essay or memoir is often dismissed as "misery lit," as if the only life experiences worth writing about are those that led to years of therapy. In this seminar, we’ll talk about where to get ideas for narrative nonfiction, how to tease universal insights from a variety of personal experiences, and how to create dramatic tension without simply reliving your worst moments. (Creative Nonfiction)

3:30 – 4:30pm CT
How to Find the Heart of a Story
Featuring Gioia Diliberto

The best stories – in fiction and nonfiction – are framed around a central idea. Knowing what your story is about, that is, knowing its central idea and being able to express it clearly and succinctly, in a phrase or even one word, goes a long way to enabling you to build a structure that coheres and a powerful narrative drive. It’s also crucial to knowing which scenes and details to include in your writing and which to leave out, and it will streamline your writing process. In this workshop, we’ll explore how to find your focus and practice how to pare down a piece of writing to what is essential. (Multigenre)


Saturday, July 20, 2024

9:30 – 10:30am CT
Let's Get Down to Earth: Writing as Witness for the Natural World Around You
Featuring Paula Carter

It has been scientifically proven that spending time in nature can boost your physical and mental health. What about reading and writing about nature? In this workshop, we’ll discuss how nature and environmental writing can be a meaningful way to make sense of the world around us—particularly at a time when much of the natural world is in distress. Whether you live in an urban or rural area, whether you write poetry or prose, this workshop will offer ways of noticing, appreciating and documenting everyday nature. We will look at writers like Margaret Renkl, Janisse Ray and Meghan O’Rourke for inspiration and guidance and discuss publications that are looking for nature writing. (Multigenre)

11:00am – noon CT
I Can't Remember How to Do This: Writing Memory in Fiction and Nonfiction
Featuring Rebecca Makkai

One of the most frequent questions I get from students is about transitioning into and out of memory or "flashback" or narrative backstory. Given that most of our consciousness is memory (who we are, who we're married to, how we got here, what we're supposed to be doing today), you'd think it would be an easier proposition to approach memory on the page. And it IS easy! I promise! But we tend to overthink things, and either mimic unhelpful film techniques or neglect memory altogether or present it in unwieldy chunks. Let's talk about how to avoid these pitfalls, how to represent memory accurately, and how not to write yourself into a flashback corner. (Multigenre)

12:30 – 1:30pm CT
Good Enough
Featuring Juan Martinez

Here’s a terrible truth: Not everything you write will be great. Not everything that you publish will be great either. We all aim for greatness. We shouldn’t. Greatness is not a useful metric for what we do, so it’s a bit of a puzzle why we obsess over it. What we’ll do, in this talk and generative workshop, is to try to understand how to get over our own greatness meter, and how doing so can let us enjoy what we’re doing, how we can truly dive into a state of play, how to relax into work that is good enough. Good enough for the time being, at least. Good enough to let us move into the next bit of our project or our writing life. Because that’s the other, more mysterious truth about the writing life: we stumble and play through good to arrive at great. (Multigenre)

2:00 – 3:00pm CT
Breathing Life into Young Adult Fiction Characters
Featuring Laurie Lawlor

Change is at the heart of young adult fiction—some of the most path-breaking books published today. This generative workshop will provide tools to create believable, engaging YA characters, whether you’re considering a new project or digging deeper into a novel-in-progress. During our time together, we will also look at published short character excerpts from bestselling and classic YA fiction and discuss the potential for "crossover" between YA and adult readers. (Fiction/YA)

3:30 – 4:30pm CT
The Power and Poetry of Flash Fiction
Featuring Christine Sneed

This workshop will focus on flash form stories, which generally range from 200 to 1000 words. Flash fiction is defined by its compression and precision but it can be as expansive and rich as longer form fiction. Together we'll read and discuss examples of several flash stories by established authors and explore the form's rewards and challenges. Time permitting students will have the opportunity to begin drafting their own flash stories that are informed by vivid concrete imagery and sensory detail. (Flash Fiction)

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