Tom DeMarchi, Director
Sanibel Island Writers Conference
Reed Hall 111
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565
Steve Almond—How to Create an Irresistible Narrator (Th/Fri 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
Many a short story, novel, and memoir have gone unpublished because the author fails to create a strong narrator, one who can act as a wise and entertaining guide to the reader. In this class, we'll examine the work of Ford, Salinger, Austen and others—and try an in-class exercise—in an effort to make sure your next narrator isn't just strong, but irresistible.
Lynne Barrett—Plot & Structure (Th/Fri 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
Too much plot? None at all? Confused about how to handle the past or strengthen your story? This two-session workshop will look at the elements of plot and structure and how they are related. Topics covered will include conflict, complication, resolution, active characters, movement, change, scenic development, movement, presentation of time, and narrative design. Through examples, discussion, and exercises, participants will learn strategies for assessing drafts and revising productively. Note: This class serves fiction writers and those working on memoirs, narrative nonfiction, or any dramatic form.
Dan Bern—Songwriting (Sat/Sun 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
Stretches your songwriting muscles, whether you're Burt Bacharach or have never written a song in your life. Imagine yoga for songwriting. Challenging and fun! Instruments not required!
Richard Blanco—Five Ways to Break a Line and Other Mysteries (Sat 1:15-3:45 p.m.)
Where to break a line? What makes a stanza, a stanza? What's the big deal about iambic pentameter? When does a poem end? These are some of the questions we will ask as we dive deeper into some of these more elusive, yet essential elements of poetry, namely: construction of the line, rhythm, figurative language, and poetic closure, among others. We will read various illustrative poems, and critique student work in an interactive workshop format for well-seasoned writers with a focus on these questions of craft. Please bring copies of two poems you'd like to workshop for distribution.
Margaret Cardillo—Simplicity & Ease (Sat/Sun 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
Sometimes I'll recommend a children's book to an adult and she or he will read it and then say, "That's so simple. I could write that in five minutes." And then I say, "Go ahead," which elicits a smile or a frown or agony, or all three, after an honest attempt. Why is this the case? Because as writers, readers and humans, we are all guilty of the same cardinal sin: mistaking simplicity with ease. Do not mistake simplicity with ease, my friends! In this workshop we will discuss successful children's books, from classics to contemporary masterpieces, and what makes them so great. We'll also look at writing samples and, as a group, workshop them to make them better. As a current author and former children's book editor at Hyperion Books, I will also speak to the truths and myths of children's publishing and how to get your manuscript in front of someone who can turn it into a published book. You know, one of those simple ones...
Christopher Castellani—Objective Correlative (Fri 9:00-11:45 a.m.)
One of the most difficult challenges every fiction writer faces is how to evoke strong emotion in the reader without melodrama, sentimentality or obvious manipulation. In this class, we will start with T. S. Eliot's oft-quoted definition of "objective correlative," discuss its limitations as a general rule, and explore the various ways it can be useful to the fiction writer. We will then look at excerpts from one contemporary novel (Peter Cameron's Coral Glynn) and one "classic" (Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road) and discuss ways the objective correlative can evoke/contain emotion, transition to backstory, and develop theme.
Brock Clarke—Lifting Hearts (Sat 9:00-11:45 a.m.)
Even the greatest fiction writers sometimes have trouble reaching their readers. The fiction writer Flannery O'Connor admitted as much in her essay "Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction": "I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up.'' This is a most wanted writerly medical procedure: to be able to move someone else's heart to the place where you can then lift it up. In this workshop, we will read work by Flannery O'Connor, Joy Williams, Grace Paley, Donald Barthelme, John Cheever, and Padgett Powell, among others, and we'll also do exercises and some workshopping, with an eye toward perfecting exactly this kind of surgery. We will also talk about how to get your work out in the world, into the hands of agents, editors, and readers.
Ron Currie Jr.—Hitting, Punching, and Pushing: How and Why to Jettison the Rules (Sat/Sun 9:00-10:15)
John Dufresne—Screenwriting (Sat/Sun 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
We've got two days to figure out how to tell a story visually. We'll start with story, and that means plot. What, then, is the basic plot of every story? And knowing that character is the heart of every story, we'll consider what makes for compelling and intriguing characters. Hollywood expects a three-act paradigm for its films, so we'll discuss how to fit our basic plot into that 120-page, two-hour matrix. And always we'll be thinking about what the audience is looking at up on the silver screen (or on their iPads). That and the moments we're always writing toward.
Beth Ann Fennelly—The Magic of Metaphor (Sat 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
What does new research from various fields--medicine, science, and advertising--have to teach us about the metaphor? How can a metaphor be a generative machine that creates a surprising poem? We'll look at extended metaphor poems by Susan Ludvigson, May Sarton, and Emily Dickinson, and we'll end class with an assignment designed to elicit one.
Beth Ann Fennelly—One Minute Marvels: Micro Poems, Flash Fiction, One Minute Plays (Sun 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
What can we learn by radically shifting scale? How can attention to the tiniest literary creations challenge and inspire us? In this class we'll focus on miniatures and after looking at some twentieth-century examples, we'll attempt to create them ourselves.
Craig Finn—What Makes a Great Song (Th/Fri 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
We will work on songs, discuss what makes a great song, and what techniques might help songwriters grow.
Roxane Gay—Looking In, Looking Out (Sat/Sun 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
The best essays draw both from the writer's experience and somehow comment on the world we live in. In this workshop we will discuss and develop strategies for writing meaningful personal essays that also offer nuanced insight into ideas, events, or issues beyond ourselves.
Kristen Iversen—From Personal to Powerful: How Do Our Stories Matter? (Sat/Sun 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
In this workshop we will consider context in memoir, biography, and the personal essay. Exercises, short readings, and discussion on how to think about connecting personal stories to a broader historical and cultural context.
Tim Parrish—From Start to Vision in Fiction and Dramatic Nonfiction (Th/Fri 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
Each of us deals with countless micro and macro questions as we write: What's a good starting point? What is conflict? How do I create an external vehicle for internal conflict? What's my best subject matter? How do I best dramatize? What's my vision as a writer? I'll start our workshop by reading a short piece I wrote for The Short Story Writer's Market, entitled "Where's the Story?" Then we'll talk about where people are in terms of their craft and process and go from there. We'll focus on as many areas as possible with discussion, exercises and Q and A, and try to give you something to take away that suits right where you are.
Benjamin Percy—Suspense and Momentum (Sat/Sun 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
In this workshop we will discuss the art of suspense and momentum in fiction and nonfiction. Craft lessons will be accompanied by small-group and individual writing exercises. Examples will include William Gay, Tim O'Brien, Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, Harry Crews, Flannery O'Connor, among others.
Nahid Rachlin—Memoir & Fiction Workshop (Th/Fri 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
There is a fine line between writing a personal memoir and writing fiction. A memoir has to stay with the essence of the truth, but in fiction we can make up and add to what is often based on our own experience or what we know about others. In either case we need to engage the reader. In discussing your work we will focus on the craft of writing, and that applies to both fiction and memoir—dialogue, point of view, pace, character development, structure, voice. Criticism will be constructive—we will point out strengths as well as weaknesses and make suggestions for improvement, I will also discuss publishing aspects of writing—how to go about getting an agent, writing a cover letter, what to expect from the publishing world today.
Kathleen Rooney—Obstructionism: Finding Freedom in Poetic Restraint (Th/Fri 10:30-11:45 a.m.)
Poet Marvin Bell has remarked that "The plain truth is that, except for mistakes that can be checked in the dictionary, almost nothing is right or wrong. Writing poems out of the desire to find a way to be right or wrong is the garden path to dullness." Through close attention to form, detail, and constraint, this intensive session will do its best to keep your poems from ever being dull. In order to achieve that end, this class will interfere with and re-direct your poetic intentions and drafts. This obstructionist approach—predicated on the idea that a poet can often find the greatest freedom of expression within the strictest of restraints—might, at times, be frustrating. But if you participate with an open mind and strive to cultivate an attitude of flexibility and fun, your willingness to embrace these obstructions will lead you to discoveries—about structure, about content, and about your processes and preoccupations as a reader and writer of poetry.
Michael Steinberg—One Narrative, Two Personas (Th 1:15-2:30 p.m.)
The most authentic and insightful personal narratives that I've read make conscious use of two persona's/selves--one tells the story (what happened), the other explores and searches for some larger meaning. I think we need to pay some attention to that second, more reflective, self. This talk/workshop then, will demonstrate how both beginning and advanced writers can make fuller use of their more experienced, more perceptive, selves.
Darin Strauss—The Art of Fiction (Th/Fri 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
Our class will emphasize shop talk: how to begin a story, say, and how to introduce a character. And we'll take up such questions as, "What is the relationship of plot to sub-plot? How does one hold the reader's attention?" Of course, in Art, rules must be flexible—but I ask my students to think of writing in strategic terms; each story-telling decision needs to make tactical sense. With that in mind, we'll examine—with fantastic esprit de corps and style —the tenets of the Art of Fiction.
Emma Trelles—I Am A Camera: The Power of Imagery (Th/Fri 9:00-10:15 a.m.)
Photographer Diane Arbus once said that a picture is a secret about a secret, and the same can be said about the images in a poem. The best of them hold more at their core than mere description. When carefully curated, a poem's images can deepen its meaning and imbue landscapes large and small with resonance. In this class, poets will consider ways to discover, imagine, and include memorable and relevant imagery in their own poems. We will read work by master image makers, participate in writing exercises, and share and discuss poems written in our workshop. We will also contemplate "object" and "place" as sources of inspiration. Writers are encouraged to bring a digital or phone camera for use in drafting.