Tinker Mountain Writers' Workshop
P.O. Box 9552
Roanoke, VA 24020-1552
Fax: (540) 561-2325
"A novel is really like a symphony," Katherine Anne Porter once said, "where instrument after instrument has to come in at its own time, and no other." Whether you’re working on conventional or experimental fiction, your novel is shaped by the instruments you choose: the scenes you select and extend, the voices in which you describe them, and your treatment of narrative time. In this workshop, we will examine your novel excerpt (of no more than 20 double-spaced pages) for both technique and the critical impulses that inspire a long work of fiction. What pressures exist in your work that create novelistic tension, and how can these pressures be further exploited? What is your novel accomplishing in its narrative tracks, character arcs, and structural shape? For any writer who has completed several polished chapters or a first draft of a novel, this workshop will help you evaluate how your approach to the novel is working for you and offer you ideas for development and revision.
Instructor: Fred Leebron, advanced fiction
This intensive (yet fun) workshop will guide the beginning and intermediate screenwriter through the entire process of crafting a professional-grade screenplay (or television pilot): idea, story, structure, scenes, dialogue, and description. We'll also explore proven strategies for adapting novels, nonfiction, short stories, and stage plays, since much of the professional screenwriter's time is spent adapting original material. We'll devote considerable time to workshopping pages through engaged table reads, and we’ll also spend time analyzing a number of screenplay scenes (on page and the screen) to see what works and what doesn't. We'll also look at proven methods for writing a compelling logline and synopsis—essential tools for marketing your screenplay and your talent. Students should arrive with a short synopsis, beat sheet, or treatment, and the first 10 to 25 pages of a screenplay in progress.
Instructor: Khris Baxter, all levels
When asked if any of her poems seem to write themselves, Elizabeth Bishop said, "Oh yes. Once in a while it happens." This was 30 years after the publication of her first book, however, so how can beginning poets learn to trust their poems to guide them through the writing process? In this course, we’ll explore methods to build your daily writing practice so that you will be more available to receiving "gift" poems, as well as exercises in associative writing, persona, and form that will allow you access to poems you never thought you'd write. We'll look at the work of established writers as well as workshop your own poems. Participants should bring up to 10 pages of poetry.
Instructor: Emilia Phillips, beginner
What do legendary writers Peter Straub, Jodi Picoult, Patricia Highsmith, Jim Thompson, Daphne du Maurier, and Neil Gaiman have in common? Their writing styles represent a potent blend of literary sophistication and compelling, often thrilling, storytelling. Learn how to create upmarket, page-turning fiction filled with complex characters, intriguing worlds, and fascinating plots. We’ll read both classic and unexpected genre pieces to get you thinking in new directions for your work, workshop your short fiction or novel excerpt (up to 25 pages, double-spaced), talk about commercial fiction markets, and do in-class exercises that will energize and improve your writing and your work’s salability.
Instructor: Laura Benedict, all levels
We’ve all faced it: the blank page. Maybe you have an idea, but can’t find just the right words to express it. Maybe you’ve been writing along happily, and now you‘ve suddenly realized that you’re not sure where to go next. In this workshop, we’ll try time-honored techniques and strategies designed to get you past these roadblocks. We’ll look at advice from fiction writers, poets, and essayists on how to get unstuck and back to work. Finally, we’ll discuss the work you've generated during the week and offer suggestions for moving forward. If you like, you can bring a few pages of an unfinished draft or an idea that you've had trouble getting started with, but it's not required.
Instructor: Mary Stewart Atwell, all levels
Making successful poems requires the writer to read the drafts as mysteries. To shape a poem's energies, we must let its energies shape our shaping. It is a dance of both proximity and distance, vision and blindness. This workshop invites poets with experience and a mature sense of aesthetic persuasion to explore the delicate art of tapping into a poem's urgencies, a kind of open heart surgery. We will grow more familiar with the anatomy and texture of poetry: image, word, diction, voice, syntactical configurations, rhetorical devices, and matters of form and tradition — stanza, line, punctuation, and page. In addition to having our poems read and discussed, we will read widely and closely poems from across the ages as well as read essays on craft. To be considered, please submit no more than six poems and a 200-word description of what you hope to gain from the workshop to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Instructor: Thorpe Moeckel, advanced poetry
Many fine prose stylists struggle with that most basic engine of storytelling: plot. How, within a story or novel, do we gracefully move from Point A to Point B (and onward, to Points C, D, and beyond)? How do we preserve spontaneity and maintain the excellence of our writing in the face of the mechanical necessities of story? These are common worries even for experienced writers. In this class, we will set about the surprisingly enjoyable and liberating work of infusing our fiction with page-turning, heart-quickening plots.
Instructor: Pinckney Benedict, all levels
Phillip Lopate says, “The essayist attempts to surround a something—a subject, a mood, a problematic irritation—by coming at it from all angles.” Broad in its scope and conversational in its tone, the personal essay employs storytelling, facts, judgments, and personality to examine a subject outside the self through the lens of the self. Such an essay, as Scott Russell Sanders tells us, “is the closest thing we have, on paper, to a record of the individual mind at work and play.” In this workshop, we’ll focus on both showing and telling, with an eye on timing, balance, and reader engagement. Open to all levels, the workshop will offer examples (Phillip Lopate’s The Art of the Personal Essay is a good resource), reading assignments and/or exercises if needed, a sympathetic audience, and individual conferences. Please bring one or two examples (up to 20 pages double spaced) of your work in progress.
Instructor: James McKean, all levels
Writers of fiction and memoir are right to be passionate about their work and its inherent value, but successfully connecting with readers (including agents and editors) very often requires considering the reader—and the inherent value of the reader—as well as the merits of the work. In this workshop, we will examine a portion of your novel or memoir (approximately 20 double-spaced pages) with an eye toward understanding how most readers will perceive this literary offering and how you can best revise your material to connect meaningfully with a reading audience. John Updike once said that his ideal reader was a boy somewhere “to the east of Kansas” who discovered Updike's books by accident in a school library. Who is your ideal reader? This workshop will help you identify him and/or her and, through edits large and small, adjust the material that matters to you in ways that will matter to the booklovers you want to reach.
Instructor: Barbara Jones, advanced
Ever since Chaucer and his pilgrims hit the trail, travel has been a central theme in writing. This class will explore the varieties of contemporary travel writing, from online reviews and blogs to travelcentric memoirs and novels, with tips on how to break into the world of professional travel writing. But we'll also explore travel as an entry point to experiments in voice, description, point of view, and metaphor. We will use exercises to push us out of our creative comfort zones and generate lots of new material, learning how to hone our observational eye. This class is not geared exclusively toward nonfiction writers, but also toward writers of all genres who are interested in expanding their use of place, as well as their understanding of the interwoven strands of the literal and metaphysical journeys their characters might undertake.
Instructor: Kim Wright Wiley, all levels
Eudora Welty once wrote, “All serious daring starts from within.” We will put those words to the test. Through daily writing prompts, we will generate new material, focusing on ways to make our rendered personal experiences accessible for the reader. We will read each other’s drafts, offering critique in a supportive workshop setting, and will finish off our week by discussing techniques for effective revision. Please bring a manuscript (up to 15 double-spaced pages) to share.
Instructor: Jon Pineda, all levels
If writers' worst experiences often become their richest subject matter, traumatizing events are nonetheless difficult to render well in fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry because of their effect on the human psyche. In this workshop, we’ll approach the clinical attributes of post-traumatic stress disorder as structural narrative elements and help one another's stories, poems, and essays find forms that will engage a readership without compromising the integrity of the damaging, and potentially still dangerous, events that have inspired them. If turning a traumatic experience into literature takes courage, this workshop will provide a safe environment for doing just that. In addition to reading and responding constructively to one another’s work, writers enrolled in the workshop may expect 1) exercises designed to empower them in their craft; 2) outside readings by writers who’ve managed to render traumatic events in stories, poems, and essays successfully; and 3), believe it or not, fun.
Instructor: Dan Mueller, all levels