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. Priority deadline for applications is March 12; applications for late openings or the waitlist are now open.

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 13–17, 9:00 AM 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 noon (MDT) on May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Steve during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Workshop: Breaking the Story—TV for Fiction Writers with Dean Bakopoulos and Alissa Nutting

June 13-17, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop, we'll explore the craft of television writing in a format geared toward fiction writers looking to adapt their own work or craft their first original television pilot. We'll discuss outlines, narrative structure, dramatic escalation, conflict among characters, and the construction of compelling scenes. This workshop is designed specifically for writers who have a specific story/novel they'd like to adapt OR an idea for an original pilot, but need a crash course in the art of episodic, dramatic writing and the nuts and bolts of TV pilot scripts. We'll use your works-in-progess as a text for the course and also show clips from some successful pilot episodes to illustrate our points.

Accepted participants will submit the first 10-15 pages of a TV pilot script plus a one-page synopsis of the entire episode. Students should also put a logline for their TV show on the cover page of their script. (Tips at  Alternatively, students may wish to submit a 15-page original story/chapter they'd like to adapt into a TV pilot (published or unpublished) and the class will brainstorm ways to approach the adaptation. Accepted participants will submit up to 15 pages by May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Dean or Alissa during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Mapping the Memoir with Emily Rapp Black

June 13–17, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

Art is architecture; art is artificial; art is...? The biggest challenge for any writer of narrative is finding the map from beginning to end. This workshop is designed for students who are writing a book-length memoir and wish to delve more deeply into issues of structure, style, and voice: these three craft points will be our focus, as these make up the net that holds a narrative together in a propulsive, engaging, immersive, and beautiful way. The goal of this workshop is to take your completed manuscript to the next level. We'll also discuss different avenues of publication. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Emily during the week of class.

Advanced Weekend Poetry Intensive: Jumpstart Your Engines with Jericho Brown

June 11-12, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM MDT

In this workshop, we'll generate new work through a set of unconventional exercises that keep our ears open and our fingers moving. The workshop engenders new ideas about writing, and as there is a profound relationship between reading poetry and writing it, we participants will read, discuss, and even recite the work of several poets whose examples might lead us to a further honing of our craft. Students will also work through an exercise for writing a duplex poem–a form Brown invented that is featured in his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The Tradition–that blends the ghazal, the sonnet, and the blues.

Each student should bring 14 lines of nine to eleven syllables for each line. The lines should come from the past and might be from sentences they take from their own prose as well as lines from poems that haven't worked. No two lines have to be from the same source or time, but they can. Don't bring poems; just bring disparate lines.  It may be a good idea if some of them have images, but none of them have to have images.  Each student should have fourteen lines and come to workshop with each line on its own small sliver of paper; that means come to class with 14 slivers of paper and a line on each sliver.  

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Time with P. Carl

June 13–17, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

Verb tense and structural chronology constitute two of the great challenges in memoir writing, especially in "transition narratives." As a writer who is transgender the problems created by tense and chronology are magnified as the past and present of a memoir contain two different bodies told through the experience of one life. Transitions of all sorts often frame the motion of a memoir as an author seeks to look back and reflect on how they arrived in a particular present moment with sufficient insight to write about the past. The capacity to reflect with perspective assumes temporary coherence of a fragmented self to bind words together inside the frame of memoir. How can the use of chronology and verb tense create a visceral experience for the reader of the author’s internal and external transitions be they emotional, intellectual, or physical? This course will examine how different uses of time and tense propel transitions in contemporary memoir. Through examples from recent memoirs, workshop, discussion, and in-class writing exercises students will acquire an understanding of how to differentiate between then and now and in what order in their own memoir writing. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Carl during the week of class, as well as send a voice memo. (Students should read Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Tretheway prior to the class.)

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Magical Intentions with Victoria Chang

June 13-17, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

Some people believe that a poem comes from some magical place, the unconscious, the muse, the ether. Other people believe that a poem comes from the writer’s intention, and others still fall somewhere in between. In this workshop, we'll explore both the mysterious magical place where poetry might come from and learn about craft—the writer’s intention (sometimes through the subconscious). We’ll focus on craft and technique with an emphasis on language and the possibilities of language, because studying and reading poetry and picking it apart can aid a writer in maximizing our chances of being in a place where that magic can occur. Students and instructor alike will be pushed beyond our comfort zones—to experiment and try new things, and will leave the workshop with new poems, new inspirations, and seeds for future poems. Accepted participants will submit up to 4 poems by May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Victoria during the week of class. 


Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Dreaming Awake with Dan Chaon

June 13-17, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

This workshop will focus on unique strategies for generating ideas, discovering image, scene, character and plot, and deepening and expanding our abilities to imagine new original narratives using a variety of different techniques and modes.  The course will be exercise-based, with in-class writing throughout the session, and students will leave with several new rough-draft stories in hand and reliable tools for overcoming writer's block.  Workshops will not be traditional critique, instead focusing on the reader’s experience as a traveler in the dreamworld of the story—what do we see, what remains obscure, what do we discover, what else do we wonder about? Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MDT) on May 16, and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Dan during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Percival Everett

June 13–16, 9:00 AM to 12:15 PM MDT

Workshops can be perceived as the pathology labs for fiction, but that assumes there’s a right and wrong way to write. As writers, we have our own expectations, our own attempts to make meaning, and the workshop can be a place to further elaborate them. We’ll look at the rules that exist (and don’t) and work through them, together.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: The Quick and the Deep–The Art of Short Personal Essays with Melissa Febos

June 13–17, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

In this generative workshop we'll study and practice the art of the very short personal essay. Works of 500 to 1,500 words are among the easiest to publish and the hardest to write. To reach true emotional depth in few pages requires skillful economy of language, masterful deployment of both lyric and narrative modes, and strength of heart; you have to get to the core of your experience, and swiftly. We will examine published works that succeed at this (by Annie Dillard, Ross Gay, Mary Reufle, Patricia Smith, Jo Ann Beard, and many others), sharpen our tools of craft—especially story structure, pacing, poetic devices, and the art of both showing and telling—and produce our own original essays. Participants will leave the workshop with multiple drafts to develop and have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Melissa during the week of class. Writers of all genres are welcome.

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Writing Through Grief with Edward Hirsch

June 13-17, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

For many centuries, writing poems has served as a way forward through grief. In this workshop, our focus will be on the transformation of loss into language. With the help of 100 Poems to Break Your Heart, we'll study and discuss examples of celebrated poems that tackle these difficult topics and explore where emotional rending and artful language meet. We’ll honor each person’s story. We’ll see what we can do to turn mourning into art. Accepted participants will submit up to 4 poems by May 16, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Edward during the week of class. 

Advanced Weekend Fiction Intensive: Writing for Art and Action with Vanessa Hua

June 11–12, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM MDT

Stories can inspire a change in thinking, and a change in action—illuminating issues and opening the way for more people to tell their stories too. Let’s ask questions about the meaning of community, family, power, and survival in 2022. This generative class includes guided exercises and in-class readings. On the second day, we’ll discuss our most pressing research and revision questions, and then undertake a bootcamp of sorts, with different exercises that  take apart a novel excerpt or short story with the aim of putting it back together. (Please bring two printed copies of your stories, scissors and colored pens/pencils.) We will hone our craft and return to our work, old and new, with fresh eyes. Students will leave with material to refine later, and the inspiration and tools to do so.

Advanced Weekend Nonfiction Intensive: Writing Relationships with Leslie Jamison

June 11–12, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM MDT

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 14—either a personal essay or a memoir excerpt—that focuses on a relationship of any kind.

Advanced Weekend Fiction Intensive: The Making of Stories with Sandra Newman

June 17–18, 1:00 to 5:00 PM MDT

How does an idea turn into a story? And how do two (or more) stories get together and give birth to a novel? In this workshop, we'll generate new work by turning anecdotes into plots, seeing how the same kernel can grow into almost anything, and how the same series of events can take on various meanings with changes to small details. We'll also work on writing a scene that feels compelling and significant, and figure out how to use it as a building block for a longer story.  

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Writing as Reclamation with Nadia Owusu

June 13–17, 9:00 AM 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 can we reclaim and remake our stories toward healing, self-love, and a reimagined world. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MDT) on May 16, and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Nadia during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: The Art of the Short Story with Laura van den Berg

June 13–17, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

This class will focus on the art of the short story. Through craft discussion and workshop critique we will explore the immense possibilities of the form and encourage participants to locate—and open—new doors in their own work. Several published stories will be provided for us to discuss as a group and exercises designed to encourage creative experimentation with the short form. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MDT) on May 16, and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Laura during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Making People—Empathy and Expertise with Tiphanie Yanique

June 13–17, 9:00 to 11:30 AM MDT

In this weeklong workshop, we'll focus on elements of craft such as character development, narrative control, dialogue, scene development, setting, structure, openings and endings. We'll engage with fiction writing as always about creating human beings with histories, bodies, and social realities; as always about creating a world anew for an audience; and always a form of communication with an ongoing humanity—be it dead writers, current beloveds, future anonymous readers or one’s own self. Students will come to understand the fiction workshop as a place to face fears, biases, and the limitations of the imagination all via practice and hard work. Students will come to see fiction writing as a place to engage bravely and vulnerably with grief, joy and the full range of human emotions between. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MDT) on May 16, and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Tiphanie during the week of class.

How to Apply

Applications are now open via Submittable (link below). 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. Steve Almond), 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.