Creative Nonfiction Workshops, Panels and Events
To register for the full conference and enroll in a workshop or critical seminar, click on the button below. All keynote talks, panels, one-day workshops, readings and special events are included in general registration, as is attendance at the Poetry Symposium each afternoon. All three-day Workshops and three-day Critical Seminars require an additional fee of $200.
CREATIVE NONFICTION PANELS
Creative Nonfiction Panel #1: Reporting in Creative Nonfiction
Thursday, July 20, 8:30 - 10:00, Taylor Hall 226
Alissa Johnson and Brian Calvert, Co-Moderators, with George Sibley and Mark Todd
Good reporting isn’t limited to news coverage and feature stories—it can also be the bedrock of many forms of creative nonfiction. In this panel, we take a look at the ins and outs of reporting. What is good reporting? How does it change for different types of creative nonfiction? How does it play a role in literary nonfiction? And what do you need to know about reporting if you’ve never considered it part of your own creative nonfiction? We’ll also discuss the role of reporting during a time when the media is under scrutiny and the veracity of facts is being called into question. Join this panel for a discussion on both the practical aspects of reporting—how to do it—and a closer look at its role in creating vibrant and relevant creative nonfiction.
To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:
Alissa Johnson, Co-Moderator
Brian Calvert, Co-Moderator
Creative Nonfiction Panel #2: "The Art of the Fact: Is There a Canon of Creative Nonfiction?"
Saturday, July 22, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 229
Kelsey L. Bennett, Moderator, with Peter Anderson, Kase Johnstun, Valerie Lester, and Sean Prentiss
To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:
Kelsey Bennett, Moderator
CREATIVE NONFICTION ONE-DAY WORKSHOPS
Creative Nonfiction One-Day Workshop #1: "The Art of Biography." Instructor: Valerie Lester.
Thursday, July 20, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 204
I have no intention of lecturing. This will be a loud, active workshop.
We will start with an exercise. You will select a subject for biography, write two to three sentences, pair up, and then take turns in describing this character to each other. When you are ready, you will introduce your partners to the group and describe their subjects. You will all then take three minutes to write one sentence in which you describe your favorite biography.
I will then ask you to write a preface (hook) to a biography of your chosen subject (10 minutes) using color, sound, sensation, and the snap of language to enliven your material. We will listen to the results (so much of writing is listening), and if we have enough time, you will make comments and suggestions on each other’s work.
Together we will find answers to these questions: Why do we enjoy biography? What do we look for in a good biography? What are its required components? Is it necessary to submit to the lockstep of chronology? How does one jump in? Is it possible to delve inside the head of someone who is dead and long gone? Can we rely exclusively on the Internet? What biographies would you recommend to others? (I will provide a list of biographies that I highly recommend.) In the end, we will all emerge energized about the fascinating, difficult and tremendously meaningful work of describing another life.
Creative Nonfiction One-Day Workshop #2: "Pitching the Rockies: How to Sell a Story that Sings." Instructor: Brian Calvert.
Sunday, July 23, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 200
When it comes to telling a story about the Rockies or of the American West, there are few better places to do so than in High Country News, an award-winning magazine with a deeply loyal readership that has covered the region for almost 50 years. Yet pitching to this magazine, any magazine, really, can be hard. Join the editor of High Country News, Brian Calvert, for a workshop on magazine pitching. In a two-hour session, you’ll learn how to convince editors you are the right writer for the job. We’ll go over the editorial decision-making process, along with pitch length, tone and approach, the ever-tricky nut graph, the importance of scope and stakes, how to build narrative drive, and more. At the end of the session, we’ll have a pitch slam, where writers can spitball with the editor before writing a more well-developed pitch for the magazine.
CREATIVE NONFICTION THREE-DAY WORKSHOPS AND CRITICAL SEMINARS
All Three-Day Workshops and Critical Seminars meet Thursday, 7/20, Saturday, 7/22, and Sunday, 7/23, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.
Creative Nonfiction Three-Day Workshop #1: “Taking the 'Me' Out of Memoir. ” Instructor: Kase Johnston.
Location: Taylor Hall 201
I once heard someone recently call memoir, “MEmoir,” emphasizing the narcissistic aspect of writing about self. Though this pronunciation was sarcastic, it roused a feeling that I have experienced many, many times when reading memoirs (including my own): sometimes memoirists take a myopic approach to story telling; we delve so deeply into what we are feeling, experiencing, or thinking, that we disrupt the story's arc, leaving readers bored and drowning in the author’s spiritual wanderings.
To address this challenge, this workshop will explore the usefulness of fictional devices (plot, character, tension, development, suspense) to create memoirs (short or long form) that engage the audience in the same way that fiction does, reeling in the audience through development of story and not monologue. This course will, of course, touch heavily on how to do all of this ethically within creative nonfiction and memoir.
Here’s how I see it happening for the three-day class:
Day One: Craft talk that explores scene building, character development, and tension building in memoir (creative nonfiction). HW: Scene sketches: bring two scene sketches, derived from real-life events, to write about in class.
Day Two: After reviewing what we talked about on day one, we will share the two scene sketches with the class, and the class will vote on which one the author will develop. We will spend the rest of the day writing our scenes. HW: Develop scenes into a full personal narrative/memoir under 2,000 words, using dialogue, tension, character development, rising action, climax, descriptive narrative, and falling action. Submit to all class members via email.
Day Three: Workshop the memoirs in class and leave with a good sense for revision.
Creative Nonfiction Three-Day Workshop #2: "Writing the Environment.” Instructor: Sean Prentiss.
Location: Taylor Hall 229
All writing, from creative nonfiction to poetry to fiction to screenwriting, occurs in some location, whether in the city, wilderness, or some place between the two. And all characters, real or invented, are created and altered by place. And these people and places are affected by our Anthropogenic age of climate change, overpopulation, oil pipeline construction, deforestation, and massive extinction. Many of today’s writers focus not just on the arc of a story or the lyric qualities of a poem but also on how we writers can move readers to action and how place affects our characters in poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. This is what we will be studying in Writing the Environment—how to write about the environments (natural and human constructed) around us, how to use these writings to make readers think in new ways, and how to show place as a character in our narratives.Finding Abbey: a Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, a memoir about Edward Abbey and the search for home. Finding Abbey won the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography, the Utah Book Award for Nonfiction, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography. It was also a Vermont Book Award and Colorado Book Award finalist. Prentss is the co-author of the environmental writing textbook, Environmental and Nature Writing: A Craft Guide and Anthology, and the co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction, a creative nonfiction craft anthology. He and his family live on a small lake in northern Vermont and he teaches at Norwich University and in the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.