Advanced Workshops

Lit Fest features intensive workshops for experienced writers of novels, poetry, short stories, memoir, essays, narrative nonfiction, hybrid genres, and screenwriting. Participation is by application-only. Applications will close on March 11.

Emerging Writer Fellowships will be selected by authors in each genre.

Wondering about the cost? Visit our tuition and fellowships page.

Still have questions? Check out our FAQs or send us an email at [email protected]

Advanced Weeklong Short Prose Workshop: The BS Detector with Steve Almond

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Writing is decision making, nothing more and nothing less. What word? Where to place the comma? How to shape the paragraph? Join Steve Almond for a workshop focused on improving the decisions you make in your writing. By looking critically and carefully at other people’s work, you’ll walk away with a better sense of how to improve your own. The idea is not to slow your rate of composition via compulsive revision, but to instead make better decisions in the first place and to recognize quickly when you haven’t. Accepted participants will submit short pieces of up to 4,000 words by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Steve during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Screenwriting Workshop: Breaking the Story—Writing a Great Pilot with Dean Bakopoulos

June 12–16, 9:00 t0 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop, we’ll explore the craft of television writing, specifically crafting your first original television pilot. We’ll discuss character arcs, narrative structure, dramatic escalation, conflict, and the construction of compelling scenes.  We'll use our works-in-progress as a text for the course and also show clips from some successful pilot episodes to illustrate our points. Accepted participants will submit a TV pilot script (25-50 pages max) plus a one-page synopsis of the entire episode by May 15. Students should also put a logline for their TV show on the cover page of their script (check out tips at www.studiobinder.com/tv-show-logline-examples). Accepted participants will also have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Dean during the week of class.

Advanced Weekend Nonfiction Intensive: Writing Repressed Histories with Grace M. Cho

June 10–11, 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM MDT

When we write stories inspired by personal, familial, or historical trauma, there are often forces that put up roadblocks – people in our families or communities who want to keep the trauma hidden or institutions that dismiss or deny our experiences. We also put up our own psychological barriers to writing. Under such conditions, how does one access and write a repressed history? In this generative workshop, we'll practice ways of tapping into our unconscious through the use of psychological and psychoanalytic tools such as dreamwork and trauma narratives, while also casting a critical eye towards the way trauma narratives are produced and consumed in pop culture. We’ll also explore how writing from a marginalized life experience complicates the work of storytelling.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Excavation with Andre Dubus III

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop, we’ll learn to replace outlines and overplanning with the search for your remembered story through an honest excavation of the fragments that have never left you. This is highly subjective material, but it’s where your individual and experiential truths lie. Do this, and the heft and shape (and themes) of your tale will begin to reveal themselves, without any rigid control from the godly, intelligent, well-read, and ambitious author. But how, precisely, does one go about this “excavation”? And how, technically speaking, can we ignite a memoir into writing itself? We’ll seek to demystify those writerly tools and skills that time and time again, if they are sharp enough, and if the writer can summon enough daily faith and nerve, can penetrate the mystery of the story itself, your story in this case. Workshop will focus on nonfiction readings, but fiction writers interested in autobiographical elements or autofiction are also welcome. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Andre during the week of class.

Advanced Weekend Fiction Intensive: The Final Drafts—Revising Your Short Fiction with Jonathan Escoffery

June 10–11, 1:30M to 5:00 PM MDT

You’ve written a draft of one or more stories, now what? In this workshop, you’ll learn techniques for polishing your story drafts. In particular, we’ll workshop in service of your story’s intention, to locate its strengths and weaknesses, and create a plan for taking your draft to a place of completion. Emphasizing revision, this workshop will focus on your story's opening and closing pages, character development, plot and structure, point of view, style, and sentence-level execution. You’ll come away with tools for revising your future short work, as well as a concrete plan for revising your current story draft. Accepted participants will submit up to 15 manuscript pages by May 12.

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop with Forrest Gander

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Workshop description tk

Advanced Weekend Poetry Intensive: Autohistoria-Teoría with Carmen Giménez-Smith

June 10–11, 1:30 PM to 5:00 PM MDT

Gloria Anzaldúa referred to her groundbreaking book Borderlands as her autohistoria-teoria, an epistemological autobiography. She conceived of the liminal space, El Mundo Zurdo, where becoming and thinking converge for radical acts of decolonization, and posited the possibility that writing is the praxis where activism, aesthetics, and scholarship converge. In this workshop we'll consider writing at the intersection of the aesthetic and the intellectual that leads to transformation. We'll discover how these works of absolute receptivity act as liberatory practices for their authors and also engage with these practices in our own work. Accepted participants will submit up to 2 poems by May 12.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Creation and Refinement with Sheila Heti

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

This workshop will be a mix of sharing work—using a method by which the author directs the conversation and is an active and questioning presence—as well as exercises and conversations geared towards the creation of new work, or the continuation or completion of a project that is already underway. The seminar is designed for fiction writers of all kinds. Accepted participants will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Sheila during the week of class.

Advanced Weekend Nonfiction Intensive: Writing Relationships with Leslie Jamison

Few subjects are more essential or elusive than relationships—not just doomed love affairs and long-haul marriages, but vexed sibling ties, primal-scene parental bonds, and life-long friendships. Our lives are structured and sustained and tortured by our relationships—are literally made of them—but they are one of the hardest things to write well: How do we capture the many layers of feeling that inevitably compose any relationship worth writing about—all the rivulets of longing and irritation and need and shame and grace? How do we choose the moments that illuminate the core of a relationship, and keep complicating it? How do we disrupt the overly simple stories we’ve told ourselves about the relationships most central to our lives—keep letting them become stranger and more surprising than we’d understood them to be? In this workshop, we’ll be reading published writing that conjures relationships in nuanced ways, and discussing the craft complexities and possibilities of rendering intimacy on the page.

We’ll also be talking about writing by participants, and to that end, writers are invited to submit up to 20 pages of writing by May 12—either a personal essay or a memoir excerpt—that focuses on a relationship of any kind.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Going Deep on Story Fundamentals with Katie Kitamura

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Good writers are good readers. In this workshop, we'll focus on learning how to read each other’s work, and how to give critique that both helps and challenges each writer.  Focusing on craft fundamentals including characterization, plot and voice, we'll learn to ask the questions that can help locate and in some cases reimagine the parameters of a story. Each participant will workshop either a full story or an excerpt from a longer piece, up to 20 pages, by May 15. Accepted participants will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Katie during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: How to be Authentic with Amitava Kumar

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, the writer is always striving for authenticity, a sense of the real on the page. (William Maxwell: "After forty years, what I came to care about most was not style, but the breath of life.") This workshop will look at brief examples of fiction (Arundhati Roy, Sheila Heti, Zadie Smith, Claire Messud, Denis Johnson, Lydia Davis), memoir (Maggie Nelson, Annie Ernaux, Joy Williams), travel writing (Ryszard Kapuscinski, Ian Jack), journalism (Janet Malcolm, Svetlana Alexievich), mixed-genre writing (John Berger, Claudia Rankine, Carolyn Forche) to learn how to create in our writing a certain effect of solidity or at other times dazzling impermanence or instability and even doubt. There is no one way to be authentic, there is no single, fixed notion of authenticity: instead, the richness of literature, regardless of genre, is the ability to use language to portray the richness of life itself. Each workshop meeting will be devoted to 10-minute writing exercises, an hour of discussion about the readings for the day (10-15 pages), and the rest of the time to a close reading of any one workshop-participant's work. Open to nonfiction and fiction writers, accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Amitava during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: The Origins of the Original with Rebecca Makkai

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

For writing to succeed, it must be both well-executed and original. But when we sit down to write, the first words, scenes, characters, conflicts, and settings we come up with are often the least original ones of which we're capable. Digging past the obvious, the stock (and even the products of the collective unconscious), we might finally arrive at stories that are strikingly new and memorable. In this workshop we'll cover some key elements of originality -- specificity, idiosyncrasy, complexity, repetition, and change -- and talk about accessing them in both drafting and revision. While originality might seem intuitive, or even a product of the writer's personality, it's in fact a skill that can be sharpened. That's what we'll be doing. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Rebecca during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Finding Your Voice—A New Look At Revision with Claire Messud

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Once we've done the intensive work of writing a draft, how might we most fruitfully approach revision? People often think of revising as a burden, but it can be an exhilarating liberation. Workshop feedback is a great gift, but it can also overwhelm and even derail us. How can a writer learn what feedback to take on board and what to put aside, where to make changes and where to remain faithful to one's vision? Accepted participants will submit up to 4,000 words by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Claire during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Writing as Reclamation with Nadia Owusu

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Many of us write to make sense of the world and to wrestle with questions about our own histories, and the histories of our families and the places we come from. We write to process trauma, grief, isolation, dislocation, and disconnection. But what if we discover that so many of the stories we’ve been given about our bodies, ourselves, our homes, and our places in them don’t serve us? What if we discover that some of those stories were created to harm us? We’ll explore what sources we might draw from when the archive and media fail us, how we can interrogate, complicate, and challenge harmful dominant narratives, and how we can reclaim and remake our stories toward healing, self-love, and a reimagined world. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Nadia during the week of class.

Weeklong Advanced Fiction Workshop: Partnering with the Reader with Akhil Sharma

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

When we write stories, we are communicating. This means that we have to know what the reader is able to hear and what she will miss out on. Developing an imaginary reader (whether this is the writers who made us want to write, or a dear friend) is a useful device to help us “aim” our stories. This workshop will focus on the double consciousness that is necessary to both write from our heart and also realize that our heart can be confusing to someone who doesn’t know us. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Akhil during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Writing the Poem No One Wants to Read (and You Definitely Don't Want to Write) with Patricia Smith

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Once you realize that your writing is not simply a recreational activity, that it's utterly necessary in order for you to move yourself from day to day with some level of sanity, you will undoubtedly feel drawn to craft poems that absolutely no one wants to read or hear. For instance, there's the poem about the hollow you feel after the loss of someone you love, something you love, or just love itself. There's the poem that tries and tries to make sense of our current hot societal slop of whizzing bullets, a collapsing climate and rampant racism. But there's a problem--you're weary of the subject matter, and so is your reader. This workshop will examine ways to handle the most difficult, oft-tackled poetic topics to captivate your reader and invigorate your approach to your subject. Accepted participants will submit up to 4 poems by May 15 and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Patricia during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: My Little World with Michelle Tea

June 12–16, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

This workshop is for writers looking to build essays that grow from personal experience, from thought, feeling, and memory. We’ll investigate essays that do the trick of immersing ourselves in a writer’s life and perspective and which take risks around vulnerability and truth-telling. Emphasis will be placed both on the craft of personal essays – tricks and practices that benefit writing (and editing) in all genres – as well as practices that assist with the particular challenges of writing from one’s own life. We’ll discuss and problem-solve issues of vulnerability, shame and other people, as well as get into the incontestable power in claiming your own story, and find ways to link our private worlds to the larger world we’re all part of. Writers will support and help one another through the sharing of work in-class. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 15 and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Michelle during the week of class.

How To Apply

Applications are now open via Submittable. Please submit your best work, which might not necessarily be what you plan to submit for the workshop. If the workshop accepts multiple genres (e.g. Andre Dubus III), please submit your strongest work in any genre, using the appropriate genre-specific form. You'll have the opportunity to choose your first-, second-, and third-choice workshop within each form. We cannot guarantee that everyone will be placed with their first choice. If you'd like to attend multiple workshops, please submit an application for EACH workshop you'd like to attend.