“I came to Writers in Progress needing to learn about narrative flow and character development. The workshops did that for me, and much more…”
Kris Holloway, author of Monique and the Mango Rains
Saturday Jumpstart Retreat, with Dori Ostermiller
Even the most seasoned writers have difficulty summoning inspiration and carving out the time… Come spend a summer Saturday at our lovely, bright Florence studio jumpstarting your writing! This all-day retreat will provide time to warm up, plenty of fabulous prompts and ideas to get you rolling, several hours of quiet, structured writing time among peers, and thoughtful, encouraging feedback to keep you going.
The retreat will be broken into two three-hour writing sessions–morning and afternoon–during which we’ll warm up, launch into a sustained writing block, then share some of our work and receive thoughtful feedback. In the middle, we’ll break for lunch and trade ideas about the writing life. Refreshments, handouts and craft tips included. Make some serious headway in your writing projects in this intensive Jumpstart!
Saturday, July 20th, 9:15 am – 4:30 pm ($125) Register Now
Character and Conflict, with Jacqueline Sheehan
Making nice with each other may be our goal in life, but when it comes to writing, conflict is key. Whether external or internal, conflict really is the cog that turns the wheels of a story. But how do you create conflict in a way that doesn’t feel forced or contrived? In this all-day workshop, writers will explore myriad ways to create conflict that propels the plot and creates complex characters. We’ll discuss protagonists and antagonists, the internal and external forces working against the main character’s desires, and how even the use of language, imagery and sense detail can raise the stakes and keep our readers transfixed.
Saturday, September 28, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ($150) Register Now
Jacqueline Sheehan, PhD is the New York Times bestselling author of The Comet’s Tale, Lost & Found, Now & Then, Picture This, The Center of the World, and The Tiger in the House. She writes NPR commentaries, travel articles, and essays including the New York Times column, “Modern Love.” She edited the anthology, Women Writing in Prison. Jacqueline teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and around the world.
Building a Book with Good Bones, with Randy Susan Meyers
Whether you’re writing your first novel or your fifth, it’s easy to get lost in the morass of researching, generating and sketching. For those beginning a draft (or those lost in their umpteenth revision) this all-day workshop will provide a valuable and effective approach for building (or rebuilding) your book structure. We will employ the ‘how do you eat an elephant’ approach: one bite at a time. Starting with an initial idea, participants move through a step-by-step outlining process. We’ll explore “what-if’s,” create a concept paper, transition into characterization, indexing and finally spine-building. By the end of this day, you will have a strong skeleton on which to hang your book. Appropriate for memoirists too!
Saturday, October 12, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ($150) Register Now
Randy Susan Meyers is the author of five novels: The Murderer’s Daughters (a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award), The Comfort of Lies, Accidents of Marriage, The Widow of Wall Street, and recently, the critically acclaimed, Waisted. Meyers lives in Boston and teaches writing at Grub Street and Writers in Progress.
What’s Your Big Idea? A Memoir Workshop with Cathy Luna
We hear it all the time: the best memoirs tap into something universal in the human experience. In these memoirs, the authors’ stories teach us something important about a larger theme (loss, courage, coming of age, etc.). But how, as writers, do we uncover the themes or big ideas at the heart of our own stories? And how do we craft our stories so that these larger meanings shine? In this half-day workshop, we will examine several best-selling memoirs for their themes and play with a variety of active techniques to help uncover and illuminate the big ideas within our own true stories. Workshop participants will leave with a strong sense of their memoir’s theme as well as how to structure their story around this central idea.
Saturday, October 19, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75) Register Now
Cathy Luna, PhD has published excerpts from Missing Lessons, her memoir-in-progress, in Lunch Ticket, CONSEQUENCE, and The River Teeth Journal. A former faculty member at UMass Amherst, Cathy has taught writing for more than thirty years. Since 2010, she has been a writing consultant and writing coach for Five College faculty writers.
Pitching the Personal Essay, with Meghan Nesmith
Personal essays are both hugely popular and hugely misunderstood. How can a writer convince an editor that their own deeply intimate story will be of interest to a broader audience? What are the best places to pitch a personal essay? And how does one write a pitch in the first place? In this workshop, writers will learn the basics of pitching personal essays, including finding the the right editor and venue for your work. Then, we’ll look at how to craft personal essay pitches that highlight the universality of our stories, find a “hook” to make our stories timely, and demonstrate to an editor that our stories will resonate with readers. We’ll break down successful personal essay pitches and have plenty of time to practice writing our own. At the end, we’ll go over a list of places to pitch your work! Perfect for nonfiction writers of all levels.
Saturday, November 2, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75) Register Now
Meghan Nesmith’s work has appeared in numerous print and digital publications, including Teen Vogue, Bon Appetit, the Globe and Mail, the Guardian, Man Repeller, and more. A former editor for The Billfold, she has also worked as a content strategist and consultant for brands such as Spotify and Slack. She received her MFA from American University and now lives in Boston, where she is at work on a novel.
Experimenting with the Hermit Crab Essay, with Sarah Earle
The Hermit Crab Essay is an essay form coined by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola in “Tell it Slant: Creating, Refining and Publishing Creative Nonfiction.” The idea is that the essay’s tender, vulnerable truth seeks an outside structure to contain it. Just like the hermit crab itself, which spends its life seeking out a succession of ever-changing mollusk shells, writers go about combing life’s ocean floor for carapaces for their own material. These forms might not, at first glance, seem literary: a recipe, a how-to guide, an FAQ page, a real estate ad… Once the writer’s story starts to inhabit the form, there is no telling how it will grow.
In this half-day class, writers will be introduced to the concept of the hermit crab essay, and spend some time reading and discussing different published examples together. Then, they’ll explore, feeling out their options, picking up shells and putting them back down, deciding if their heft, size, and weight feel right for the story they will contain. By the end of the class, students will have generated the first draft of a hermit crab essay and have the opportunity to gain feedback from teacher and peers about how to move their essay forward.
Saturday, November 9, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75) Register Now
Sarah Earle is a lecturer at the University of New Hampshire in English and Composition. She has also taught Creative Nonfiction at St. Paul’s Academic Summer Program in Concord, NH. She holds her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of New Hampshire; you can read her essays in Bayou Magazine and The Cobalt Review, and her stories in The Rumpus and The Carolina Quarterly.
The Art of Historical Fiction, with Susanne Dunlap
A work of historical fiction is so much more than period costumes and far-off settings. How does one wrestle with the trajectory of history and develop a satisfying narrative arc at the same time? How can you create characters who are believably of the period, but not hopelessly out of touch with the modern reader? And how does one integrate research without bogging down the story? In this half-day workshop, writers will learn some key craft elements to creating effective historical fiction. We’ll discuss tools and techniques for organizing your research, keeping your timeline under control, and identifying unintentional anachronisms, and then we’ll put these principals into practice with some time to write. Perfect for writers who are thinking about writing historical fiction or who are developing a work in progress!
Saturday, November 16, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75) Register Now
Susanne Dunlap is the author of seven historical novels for adults and teens. Her young adult novel The Musician’s Daughter was a Junior Library Guild selection and a Bankstreet Children’s Book of the Year, and it was nominated for the Missouri Gateway Readers Prize and the Utah Book Award. Her latest novel, Listen to the Wind, is the first volume of a medieval trilogy for adults, The Orphans of Tolosa. Susanne earned her PhD in music history from Yale, is a Smith College graduate, and lives and writes in Northampton, Massachusetts with her partner Charles and her beloved dog Betty.
More Than a Pretty Place: Making Your Setting Work for Your Story, with Emily Everett
When writers create setting, they often treat the landscape as a simple visual backdrop, just a place for showing off their descriptive writing skills. But when setting works well—both in fiction and nonfiction—it’s so much more than background. Through setting, writers can build mood, tone, tension, and conflict. A well-integrated setting changes and challenges your characters, or redirects the plot. And setting plays a major role in the overall feel of the narrative. But all this is only possible when writers give setting the space it needs to grow and develop into a real place, with room for history, interaction, and complexity. In this half-day workshop, writers will look at effective examples, experiment with uncommon techniques, and learn to write places that jump off the page. Perfect for all levels and genres!
Saturday, November 23, 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ($75) Register Now
Emily Everett is managing editor of The Common, a biannual literary magazine publishing stories, essays, poems, and images with a modern sense of place. With other editors, she selects pieces for the magazine, and edits and develops that work with authors prior to publication. Her fiction is forthcoming in The Kenyon Review and Electric Lit, and has appeared in Tin House and The Tishman Review. Her nonfiction appears online for The Common and Take Magazine. She studied Literature at Smith College and Queen Mary University of London.
Revision Intensive, with Emily Lackey
“The best way out is always through,” Robert Frost said in his poem “A Servant to Servants,” and the same can be said for writing: the best way to finish your work in progress is dive headfirst into the muck of your draft and find your way through. That stage—the revision stage—is where the real writing happens. But why then is it so hard to revise the thing we’ve already written? In this workshop, writers will learn real strategies for tackling the revision process. We’ll spend the morning interrogating where the reluctance to revise comes from, investigating tips to organize our projects, and exploring innovative ways to see our work anew. Then we’ll spend the afternoon putting those lessons to use, diving headfirst into our drafts and finding our way through. Writers of any genre are welcome. Participants should bring two printed copies and one digital copy (on a computer) of a draft they are interested in revising.
Saturday, December 14, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. ($150) Register Now
Emily Lackey’s stories and essays have been published in Glimmer Train, Prairie Schooner, Post Road, The Literary Review, Longreads, The Rumpus, Green Mountains Review, The Huffington Post, Bustle, Hobart, and Cleaver Magazine, among others. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and an artist-in-residence at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts and Newnan ArtRez. After receiving her MFA from the University of New Hampshire in 2014, she taught writing at the University of New Hampshire and in the graduate writing program at Southern New Hampshire University.