Lit Fest Advanced Workshops 2019

Lit Fest features weeklong and weekend advanced workshops in novel, poetry, short story, memoir, narrative nonfiction, hybrid genres, and young adult. Participation is by application only. Prose classes are limited to 10 students each; poetry workshops are limited to 12. Weeklong workshops meet five times, Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 11:45 AM (Note: Sheila Heti's class will meet Sunday through Thursday), and include a one-on-one meeting with the instructor. (Note: Mary Ruefle will meet with two participants over lunch each day instead of one-on-one short meetings.) Weekend workshops meet twice, Saturday and Sunday, from 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM, each day.

See the course descriptions below for more details. Applications are open now, and the priority deadline is March 15, 2019. General Lit Fest registration will open on April 2. Please see instructions for how to apply at the bottom of this page, or head here. Emerging Writer and Veterans Fellowship judges for 2019 will include Bhanu Kapil (Poetry), Emily Rapp Black (Nonfiction), Akhil Sharma (Fiction), and Seth Brady Tucker (Veterans). Happy applying!

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]

Weekend Intensive: Short Prose with Steve Almond

June 8-9, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Writing is decision making, nothing more and nothing less. Join Steve Almond for a workshop focused on improving the decisions you make in your storytelling. By looking critically and carefully at other people’s work as well as your own, you’ll walk away with advice you can apply immediately. 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 (MST) on May 8 to be reviewed during the intensive.

Apply here

Weekend Fiction Intensive: Who's Telling Your Story? with Christopher Castellani

June 8-9, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. There’s no more important decision the writer makes than who tells the story. Whoever the narrator is urges us to tell the story his way, with his frame of reference, his lexicon and baggage. In this class, we’ll discuss why one narrator compels us and another—maybe even a better story—leaves us cold. Join author Christopher Castellani for a workshop focusing on point of view and, specifically, the concept of narrative strategy. Students will submit a complete short story or an excerpt from a novel (with a synopsis) up to 4,000 words by noon (MST) on May 8 to be reviewed during the intensive.

Apply here

Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Gaining Objectivity with Rachel Cusk

June 10-14, 9 to 11:45 AM. The aim of this course will be to show you how to acquire power as a writer, through a better understanding of the role of subjectivity—unconscious personal bias—plays in the writing process. We'll consider the ethics of perception and their representation in language, the pursuit of objectivity as an artistic goal, and the study of structures of living as the template for structures of writing. Through writing tasks and exercises, you'll have the opportunity to gain greater conscious control of your creative work, and to become more competent in representing both the self and the shared reality that is its context. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MST) on May 10 and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Cusk during the week of class.

Apply here 

Weeklong Poetry Workshop: Making a Way Together with Ross Gay

June 10-14, 9 to 11:45 AM. In this generative workshop, we will stoke our imaginations by (often collaboratively) writing and performing mini operas, puppet plays, poem-type-things, making books, studying flowers, and making a way together. Participants will be invited to submit 1-2 poems before the class begins, by noon MST on May 10, and will leave the workshop with multiple drafts to develop. All will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Gay during the week of class.

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Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Writing What You're Writing with Sheila Heti

June 9-13, 9 to 11:45 AM. 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 15 pages by noon (MST) on May 10 and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Heti during the week of class.

Apply here 

Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: The Very Short Essay with Melissa Febos

June 10-14, 9 to 11:45 AM. In this generative workshop, we'll study and practice the art of the short personal essay. Works of 500 to 2,500 words are among the most widely published and the most challenging to write. To reach true emotional depth in few pages requires skillful economy of language, expert structure, and strength of heart. You must know what you have come to say. We'll examine the work of the form’s masters and sharpen our tools of craft—especially story structure, pacing, image, and the art of both showing and telling. Time will be reserved for sharing and feedback, though the focus of this workshop will be on producing our own original essays. We'll examine the personal essay as a place where experience, emotion, research, intellection, activism, and argumentation all meet. Participants will leave the workshop with multiple drafts to develop and will have an opportunity to meet one-on-one with Febos during the week of class.

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Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: Creative Nonfiction and Nature with Helen Macdonald

June 10-14, 9 to 11:45 AM. This course will focus on how we think and write about nature, beginning with the ways in which we recruit particular creatures and landscapes to reaffirm or critique our commonplace understandings of self and world. Through writing exercises and discussion you will engage with matters of genre, style, representation, story and narrative structure, and will gain more expertise in how personal and social identity informs and shapes your creative work on nature. You’ll work on the complex and often surprising interplay between national and natural history, and on the concepts and notions of expertise, memory, empathy, observation and record. We’ll work, too, on how creative non-fiction about nature is tied to our understandings of gender, home, and otherness. There’ll be joy, beauty, and hope in this workshop, as well as environmental shame, guilt, and and matters eschatological: underlying all we will do in the workshop is the pressing question of the place of nature writing in a world undergoing its sixth great extinction. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MST) on May 10 and will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with Macdonald during the week of class.

Apply here

Weeklong Dramatic Writing Workshop with Donald Margulies

June 10-14, 9 to 11:45 AM. This intensive workshop will focus on structure, event, character, objective, dialogue, subtext—the components of writing effectively for stage (and screen). To get things rolling, we’ll read and deconstruct Harold Pinter’s Betrayal before moving on to participants’ works-in-progress. The goal will be for writers to leave the week with specific ideas about how to rewrite with renewed energy. Meetings will include table reads, exercises, and discussions of the business of theater, film, and TV. Each participant will meet individually with the instructor and workshop enrollment is strictly limited to 10. Accepted participants will submit their drafts-in-progress by noon (MST) on May 10.

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Weekend Intensive: Your Voice in Nonfiction with Sloane Crosley

June 15-16, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. Voice is the heart of any great story. As nonfiction writers, we don’t have the pretense of writing in someone else’s voice. The author’s personality carries the story, creates urgency and momentum. In this advanced workshop for writers of narrative nonfiction, particular attention will be given to developing a voice that delivers your message without over- (or under-) whelming the reader. Accepted participants will submit complete essays or excerpts from longer works of up to 4,000 words by noon (MST) on May 15 to be reviewed during the intensive.

Apply here

Weekend YA Intensive: The First Chapter with Erika L. Sánchez

June 15-16, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. The first chapter of your YA novel contains the DNA of the entire book, and whether you’ve just begun the novel or are polishing it for queries and agents, there are considerations that can make the work lift from the page. We will spend the weekend digging deeply into the voice, character, setting, and structure of ten writers’ first chapters, and through exercises, critiques, and discussion set the course for a terrific YA novel. Accepted participants will submit a chapter of up to 15 pages by noon (MST) on May 15.

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Weekend Fiction Intensive: Solving for X with Curtis Sittenfeld

June 15-16, 8:30 AM to 12:30 PM. What is the X factor that makes some short stories come alive on the page while others, even when well-written, remain static? What alchemy of character development, plot momentum, and control over language causes readers to invest emotionally and keep turning pages? We will spend the weekend trying to figure out the answers to these questions both in general and as they pertain to the specific story or stories you want to tell. Accepted participants will submit a complete story or excerpt from longer works of up to 4,000 words by noon (MST) on May 15 to be reviewed during the intensive.

Apply here

Weeklong Fiction Workshop: The Art of Beginning with Julie Buntin

June 17-21, 9 to 11:45 AM. There are dozens of maxims about beginnings, all revolving around the same idea: a beginning is critical because it is the moment when two strangers, writer and reader, meet. In this workshop, we'll study the opening chapters of notable novels to figure out how they work, paying special attention to the ways writers introduce the major elements of their stories—character, narrative questions, setting, theme—and how they establish a relationship with the reader. Because each good beginning is unique to its own good story, we’ll take a close look at endings, too. Writers will have the opportunity to workshop an opening chapter (up to 15 pages) of a longer project. In addition to stress-testing these submissions and discussing ways to improve them, in-class conversation and exercises will also focus on how writers can use their beginning pages to forge a path forward in their work, no matter how far along they are in the writing process. Accepted participants will submit their work by noon (MST) on May 17 and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Buntin during the week of class.

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Weeklong Fiction/Nonfiction Workshop: Autobiographical Fictions/Fictional Autobiographies with Alexander Chee

June 17-21, 9 to 11:45 AM. How do you write about your life? Are you a memoirist, but you fear writing scenes and dialogue? A fiction writer who writes their own stories and changes the names, hoping no one will notice, and hoping it is for the best? This workshop will give you tools to move past this, working back and forth across the line between fiction and nonfiction, teaching how each helps us write and understand the other, and in general, will focus on the tactics of prose narratives, how verisimilitude is conjured, and strategies for using material from your life in fiction and nonfiction both. Accepted participants will submit a chapter, essay or story of up to 20 pages by noon (MST) on May 17 and will have the opportunity to schedule an individual meeting with Chee during the week of class.

Apply here

Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Style and Substance with Gabe Habash

June 17-21, 9 to 11:45 AM. When crafting prose, writers have a wildly broad spectrum of stylistic possibilities. But whether your style is conventional or experimental, the prose must engage and surprise the reader on a narrative level. Participants will look at a range of novel excerpts and short stories that showcase the twin prose engines of narrative and style. We'll discuss how to make each participant's own distinct style shine through while simultaneously discuss how to integrate that style with the narrative, with the intention of making style and narrative complementary. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MST) on May 17 and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Habash during the week of class.

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Weeklong Nonfiction Workshop: The Breath of Life with Amitava Kumar

June 17-21, 9 to 11:45 AM. The title comes from a line by writer and editor William Maxwell: “After forty years, what I came to care about most was not style, but the breath of life.” It is one of my favorite quotes. I think Maxwell is saying that we need not worry too much about well-ordered paragraphs or achieving a distinctive syntactic rhythm—that all we need to catch is something ordinary but vital. I’d like us to devote our energies to the act or the practice of accessing both life and style. Readings will include Vivian Gornick on the difference between the situation and the story; John Berger, John McPhee, and Ira Glass on structure; Svetlana Alexievich, Claudia Rankine, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, and Jonathan Franzen on finding words for living and dying; Janet Malcolm and Ian Jack on reporting about a world of differences; David Foster Wallace and Carolyn Forché on travel writing; and the words delivered in court by a woman raped on Stanford campus—to get to what exactly? Not life simply, or style alone, of course, but to understand what it means to find the right words to challenge the givenness of the world, to make it open to expression and change. Each session will begin with ten minutes of free-writing and will end with a brief discussion of rules of writing. Accepted participants will submit up to 20 pages by noon (MST) on May 17 and will have the opportunity to schedule a meeting with Kumar during the week of class.

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Weeklong Hybrid Forms Workshop: Poetry & the Lyric Essay with Mary Ruefle

June 17-21, 9 to 11:45 AM. This workshop is for those writing prose poems (so-called) and for those engaged in writing lyric essays (so-called). Either may apply, submitting no more than four poems or an essay of no more than five or six pages, or a few shorter essays totaling no more than five or six pages. Is it poetry or is it prose? The motto of this class is "We don't know and we don't care." The class consists of close attention to the participant's work and wherever it may lead us in discussion. Accepted participants will submit their work by noon (MST) on May 17 and will have the opportunity to schedule a lunch meeting (in pairs) with Ruefle during the week of class.

Apply here

How to Apply

We'll begin accepting applications via Submittable (see the link below) on January 2, 2019. 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. Mary Ruefle, Steve Almond, and Rachel Cusk), 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 is March 15, and we'll notify applicants of their status in late March. Applications after the priority deadline will be considered on a rolling basis, space permitting (all of the classes have filled in past years). Please do not send in edited or revised materials after applications have closed.