Advanced Workshops

Lit Fest features intensive workshops for experienced writers of novels, poetry, short stories, memoir, narrative nonfiction, hybrid genres, and dramatic writing. Participation is by application-only. 

Emerging Writer and Veterans 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 Nonfiction Workshop: Writing Into Hybrid Forms with Hanif Abdurraqib

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop, we’ll consider the flexibility of creative nonfiction. How do we transcend genre to create something artistic and true? If writers bring other forms—poetry, fiction, dramatic writing—into their nonfiction, what are the ways to build meaning and create patterns or braids of narrative? Through a combination of workshops, discussions, and in-class writings, participants in this workshop will leave with a dynamic understanding of where to go next with their work. This course is ideal for those writing toward hybridity, but also to writers of more traditional nonfiction. Accepted participants will submit chapters or essays of up to 15 pages (double-spaced) by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Hanif during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Finding Truth in Fiction with Steve Almond

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

This class is for novelists and story writers (and brave memoirists) interested in finding and developing deeper truths in their narrative. Where does the story need more digging; where does it settle for a lie? In this workshop, we'll explore the transformative power of finding your character’s truth, as well as tackle craft concerns like structure, dramatic build, memory and imagination, narrative voice, and metaphor. Careful and in-depth critiques will help uncover the most captivating aspects of your story so that you can develop them. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages of fiction by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Steve during the week of class.

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

June 7–11, 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 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Emily during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Information Wars with Helen DeWitt

June 7-11, 1:15 to 3:45 PM MDT

When we use information in fiction we find ourselves in hostile territory, facing entrenched terms like "infodump" and "hysterical realism." As writers we might do better to learn from power users. JRR Tolkien, Georgette Heyer, and Patrick O'Brian are, in radically different ways, master world builders. Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side) did not simply sell millions, he entranced a reader with no interest in baseball or football, and Edward Tufte, guru of information design, expounded the virtue of a high ratio of data to ink as a mark of respect to the reader. Workshop writers will be at the stage where “cut” is a standard response to information in the text; we’ll look at more interesting ways to think. Participants can use their work-in-progress as a starting point or focus on exercises offered in the class. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Helen during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Expanding the Personal Narrative with Jaquira Díaz

June 7-11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop, we'll examine how personal narrative can speak to something larger, more expansive; how personal stories are connected to the larger world; how personal narratives can engage with music and history and place and culture; and how a news story, or music, can become a vehicle for a personal story. We’ll read and examine excerpts of memoirs and personal essays that incorporate music, history, pop culture, and family lore, with a particular focus on expanding personal stories to connect them to the larger world, and in workshopping student writing, we’ll discuss how you can model this in your own work. 

Workshop will be a conversation that encourages and prioritizes the centering of marginalized and underrepresented voices and communities, and that pushes writers to see the writing in front of them as a work-in-progress rather than a product. Writers are expected to read others' work and think beyond their own aesthetic to consider the writer's vision rather than their own, and to think critically and creatively about how they can contribute to a larger conversation about craft. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages of nonfiction by May 10, and will have the opportunit to meet one-on-one with Jaquira during the week of class. 

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Composing, Weaving, and Structuring with Carolyn Forché

June 7-11, 1:15 PM to 3:45 PM MDT

An investigation of process having to do with word hoards, notebooks, hybrid forms, docu-poetry and the poetic modes, this workshop will be dedicated to new approaches to generating first drafts, as well as some unusual revision techniques that will allow us to see our poems in different ways. We'll consider the poetic process (reading, writing and revision) and then, guided by presentations and prompts, we'll write five new poems in first draft, revising them using experimental techniques. Accepted participants will submit up to 4 poems by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Carolyn during the week of class. 


Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Write More with Sheila Heti

June 7-11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

The process in this workshop will be the opposite of the standard writing workshop, in which the person who is sharing their work has to remain silent while the others speak. In our workshop, it will be the person who wrote the piece who will be the main person speaking, and who will be asking questions of the others in the room. This puts the emphasis on the writer—to think about what they want out of a reader, and what sort of relationship they want the reader to have to their text. Accepted participants will submit up to 10 pages of a work-in-progress by May 10 and 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

June 12-13, 1:30 PM to 5:30 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 Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Intimate Distance with Mat Johnson

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

Novels are long, often unruly, inherently ambitious projects that need the writer to be both intimate and at times distanced from the text. It's easy to type a bunch of pages, but it’s hard to make them captivate the reader and ensure that the journey adds up to more than the sum of its parts. This course will explore the tools needed to bring your novel-length manuscript to life in its strongest form. Your novel has strengths: we'll explore how you can build on them. Your novel has weaknesses: we'll identify them and create strategies for you to overcome them. Together we'll reveal what your novel is actually about, as opposed to what you planned for it to be. We’ll examine its hidden structures, and enable your characters and their struggles come alive on the page. Accepted participants will submit one chapter of up to 20 pages for workshop by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Mat during the week of class.

Advanced Weekend Poetry Intensive: Documentary Poetics with Layli Long Soldier

June 5-6, 1:30 to 5:30 PM MDT

This weekend intensive will be driven, primarily, by conversation and discussion of texts that fall under the wide umbrella of Documentary Poetics —an unfolding of concerns and approaches. We'll discuss aspects of ethics, accountability, and citation. We’ll consider varying approaches—writers who work with governmental policy, legalese, and the language of public domain, as well as poetry that uses personal ephemera such as family photographs, correspondence, or interviews as source material. Participants are asked to read Zong! by NourbeSe Philip and Ghost Of by Diana Khoi Nguyen. Other texts will be provided as electronic handouts during class. Students should also identify at least one document of their own choosing to work with and respond to; this can include legal or governmental documents, photographs, correspondence, articles, scientific texts, interviews, or films (Note: films or interviews will require transcription prior to workshop). The goal is to experience a process of engaging with documents that impact our personal living, and/or the lives of our families, communities, and people; to examine these documents critically and emotionally; and to "think out loud," together. Accepted participants will submit 1-2 poems by May 7.

Advanced Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: The Self, the Selves with T Kira Madden

June 7-11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

Our lived experiences, and our memories, are rarely understood through a tidy chronology. They seldom mirror a Western “hero’s journey.” In this generative workshop, we'll experiment with splintered structures, alternate realities, hypothetical What If’s?, and different versions of the Self as Narrator in order to find the truest version of our stories. We'll focus on isolation and compression, on finding narrative heat and emotional potency in our memories, our selves, and all the selves we’ve been, discussing strategies one uses to render work inspired by real people and events, and the compromises and thrills that come with that responsibility. The scaffolding behind published works will serve as blueprints for generative writing exercises, and we'll workshop submissions up to 20 pages (submitted by May 10) with the writer leading the way. Writers in this workshop will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with T Kira during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: The Arc of Story, The Architecture of Plot with Rebecca Makkai

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

No one’s ever going to force you to write a traditional plot arc, but the tools of narrative momentum—cause and effect, development, change, stakes, suspense—should be in every writer’s tool kit, if only so we know what to rebel against. We'll workshop student fiction in this light—focusing on arc, on shape, on plot or the intentional lack thereof—asking, in every case, what moves the story along, and how it earns and keeps its audience. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages of fiction by May 10, either a complete short story or a section of a novel, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Rebecca during the week of class. 


Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Style, Intimacy, and Setting with Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

In this workshop we'll examine the relationship between style, intimacy, and setting. We'll explore how the three operate synergistically in a good story or a novel. In order to arrive at a clear understanding of style (the particular tone and tenor of a piece of writing), intimacy (the dynamic between characters), and setting (the atmosphere, mood, and backdrop of a scene), we'll conduct close readings of work by stylists such as Kevin Barry, Sally Rooney, Virginia Woolf, Roberto Bolaño, Sonallah Ibrahim, and James Baldwin. We'll gain a greater understanding of what makes characters lift off the page and how setting and diction/tone can be used to animate the reader's imagination. We'll complete writing exercises to practice our hand at creating layered, dynamic scenes that are sensory, immersive, and inspired. Writers will walk away with a more clear and concrete understanding of the elements of fiction, as well as the interdependence and unique capabilities of these elements. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages of fiction by May 10, and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Azareen during the week of class.

Advanced Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Enemies of the Obvious with Gregory Pardlo

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

Clichés are not just trite or overused phrases. They are the images, ideas, and narratives that make up the shared body of knowledge we call “common sense.” In the writing process, we poets often reach for clichés and common-sense-thinking in times of crisis or discomfort instead of boldly bringing the idea or thing into its truer focus. As a result, language that is flat and unimaginative can signal, paradoxically, the very passages in a poem that are the most emotionally fraught. Rather than simply discarding them, we might consider ways to honor the impulse buried within that stale language. In this workshop, we’ll discuss strategies for getting at the useful emotionally raw material fossiled into such otherwise disposable language. Accepted participants will submit up to 4 poems by May 10, and will have the oppportunity to meet one-on-one with Gregory during the week of class. 

Advanced Weeklong Dramatic Writing Workshop: The Poetics of Playwriting with Sarah Ruhl

June 7–11, 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM MDT

This generative workshop for advanced playwrights seeks to harness the beginner’s mind and open up possibilities in our writing. We’ll look at how the language of poetry can be our friend in the dramatic genre. We’ll explore questions like: how can the list poem become a soliloquy, how can we distill language down, how can we explode language dramatically? How can a fragment from a haiku become a scene? The workshop will include in-class writing exercises that culminate in the writing of scenes. Supportive feedback will be given, with an emphasis on being generative and kind and trying new forms. Since this course is generative, no advance submissions or reading will be required. Work will be shared throughout the week, and individual playwrights will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Sarah during the week of class. 

Advanced Weekend Fiction Intensive: Queering the Arc with Bryan Washington

June 5–6, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM MDT

In this workshop, we’ll explore challenging all of the norms. If we believe our stories are greater than the structures a traditional canon can offer, especially among queer storytellers and narratives, then we must examine what this means. In this workshop, we’ll go over extrapolating, contorting, and expanding on how queer and unique narratives continue to change and subvert expectations. Accepted participants will submit up to 15 manuscript pages by May 7

How to Apply

We'll begin accepting applications via Submittable (link below) on January 4, 2020. 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. The priority deadline has now passed, but if you’d like to apply for the class if space remains available, you can do so at the link below. Please do not send in edited or revised materials after applications have closed.