Southampton Writers Conference

Conference Workshops

July 6-10 | July 13-17 | July 6-17 | 

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Small, intimate Workshops are designed for talented writers looking to take their writing to the next level.  Our workshop faculty are some of the best in the industry - smart, talented writers as well as teachers.  Workshop sessions consist of four (4) workshop meetings over five (5) intense days at either the beginning or the end of the conference (July 6-10 or July 13-17) or five (5) workshop meetings over the span of 12 days (July 6-17).

Of course, with the workshop you still get access to all the morning and evening programming during your stay.  That includes lectures, readings and panels with our guests and faculty.  Take a look at our schedule for an understanding of how your days will be structured.

Looking for more time to write?  Sign up for the Workshop+Residency option.  Workshop either at the beginning or end of your stay with one of our outstanding faculty.  Spend the other seven (7) days of your stay devoting time to your writing, attending readings and master classes.

July 6-10


Write Your Heads Off with Melissa Bank & Matthew Klam: This is a workshop to help you write your head off. You’ll actually be writing in class and, however impossible or painful that may sound to you, it will be great—hard work but really fun. Whether you're writing essays, personal histories, fiction or memoir, we’ll give you prompts, which you can follow or not. Then, in discussing your work, the other writers will be your captive audience, attentive, respectful, honest--the kind of readers every writer needs. Meanwhile, We’ll be trying to help you identify what’s unique and exciting in your work, as well as what may be getting in your way. If everything works the way it’s supposed to, you’ll leave Southampton with a fistful of stories started, and the will and inspiration to do the writing you’re meant to do.


Poetry of the Political Imagination with Martín Espada: This is a generative workshop.  Participants generate new work based on the distribution and discussion of poems by Walt Whitman, Pablo Neruda, Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar Lee Masters, Ernesto Cardenal, Marilyn Nelson, Rafael Campo, Patricia Smith and Lucille Clifton, among others. Workshop participants write on the spot—or beneath a favorite tree—and then share their work, reading aloud to the group (for thunderous applause). Together we will channel anger into art, curse our enemies, speak in the voices of the damned and despised, sing the praises of janitors, laugh at dictators, tell dirty secrets, and dissent from the official story.  The objective is the creation of a new poem every day, exploring how best to combine vision and language, craft and commitment, giving flight to the imagination within us, poetic and political.


Fiction Long and Short with Jane Hamilton: As difficult as beginnings can be, and vexing as middles are, endings often seem like an impossible feat. The question in any work as it is drawing to a close: has the writer used what she has set in place to complete the plot? (And sometimes: does the writer know what he’s set in place?)  We’ll discuss the endings available to us as a species, we’ll think about the infinite variety within our limitations to end a narrative, do several in-class exercise, and discuss your ending anxieties in the context of your novel or story. It is not essential to read Persuasion to benefit from the discussion, but it will enrich the conversation if you do.   

Playwriting with Lucas Hnath: TBA


Publishing Nuts & Bolts with Dan Menaker:  This workshop will discuss the four stages of getting published.

Day 1: The Writing--adjusting your Muse to meet the Market.

Day 2: The Editing--an inside and often outside job.

Day 3: The Pitching--getting an agent and tailoring a submission (sometimes if not often in reverse order).

Day 4: The Publishing--how to help yourself before, during, and after publication.   

Before the workshop, each participant should write a one-page precis/treatment/description of the project he or she is hoping to have published. The workshop will include visits from one or two outside experts.


Short Story with Frederic Tuten: I have no belief in the hierarchy of fiction. For me, there is only exciting or dull writing, interesting or uninteresting work, whatever the genre. Every writer has, because they want to be writers, a genuine spark. The point is how to bring that spark into a flame. I will read and edit your work carefully and as constructively as possible and try to bring to fruition the thrust of your writing. I expect you to treat your fellow-writers’ work with the same consideration.   Of course, I know that we will have lively, passionate and helpful discussions and that we will all come out the wiser for it. So much for procedure, the rest is the unknown, mysterious chemistry of the workshop.  In particular, ours will concentrate on short stories—flash or long exposure. I shall be sending you a reading list of a variety of stories, some of which we shall consider in class. But the focus is, finally, and always your work.


July 13-17


YA: Writing Through the Sliding Door with Gayle Forman: Personal experience is the DNA for many a piece of fiction. But sometimes a direct recitation of true events is not the best way—narratively or even cathartically—to translate an important life event onto the page. Sometimes,you need a sideways approach. In this workshop, we will work on finding the best narrative avenue to tell our personally inspired stories, finding ways to tweak a “true" tale into a “fictional” one. Though by the end of the class, those lines may be blurred. After all, fiction is the lie that tells the truth.


Writing the Memoir Essay, with Adam Gopnik:  We live in an era where memoir often plays the role that novels once did, but where the memoir-essay remains its own peculiar form, combining reflection and retrospection, old emotion and new thought, in a tight-rope walk of writing. In this course, we’ll read many of the masters of the memoir-essay, from Hazlitt to Lamb to Beerbohm and beyond, playing special attention to mid-(last) century masters like Thurber and Woolf , and write some of our own.  The challenge will be to find ways to make the “I”s we write turn into ‘You’s for readers, and the many strange spells that permit this alchemy to happen will be taught, or at least considered, or at least attempted.

Writing Deeper with Lauren Groff: Writers often spend time fretting about their sentences when, in fact, it's the foundations of the stories they are telling that are off-kilter. This course will be split between a more traditional workshop--together, we'll use our knowledge of craft and our critical skills to knuckle down into the stories you've been working on--and a wilder, odder kind of experience, where you'll be making (and breaking) a different story every day with new prompts, forms, and pressures. 

wkspThe Poet's Toolbox with Matthea Harvey: In this workshop we’ll devote ourselves to expanding the tools in your poetic toolbox. We’ll read and experiment with poetry comics, text and image collaborations, erasures, fairytales, and short poems. Expect to generate new work that complicates and pushes past the parameters of the lyric “I.” 

Go Edit Yourself! with Daniel Menaker: Arch-nemesis of danglers, sworn enemy of run-on sentences, champion of clarity and varied sentence lengths, paradigmatic cliche-breaker, blue-ribbon paragraph shaper, structure-clarifier extraordinaire, antagonist of pointless digressions,  New Yorker editor and Editor in Chief of Random House—not necessarily in that order with regard to literary distinction but maybe—Daniel Menaker will help you learn to edit yourself, insofar as such a difficult task stops just an inch or two short of impossibility. 

wkspPicture Books: How to Extract a Great Story from Your Shoebox and Share It with the World: Peter H. Reynolds: Peter’s workshop will be part inspiration and part therapy for those dealing with writer’s block, or struggling with perfectionism. Several creative exercises designed to spark ideas, and get the creative juices flowing will be issued throughout the week. Along the way, Peter will share his own story of how he got started in the business, how he found his agent, how he generates ideas, what his process is, what his struggles have been and continue to be, and other insight that might help you on your own creative journey. One-on-one time with Peter will be scheduled for review of your projects, issues and goals. 

Aim High! The Middle Grade Novel with Tor Seidler: A good middle-grade novel can be timeless—and ageless, too, in the sense that it can resonate with kids and parents alike.  How to achieve such a lofty goal?  Solid plotting, evocative settings, and strong characterization don’t hurt.  But what we’ll concentrate on in this workshop is voice.  I sometimes think each story has one perfect way of being told, one voice—and when you find it, you feel like young King Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone!

Playwriting with John Patrick Shanley: As part of the workshop experience, the Conference will provide actors to sit in on each session to read selections of the participant’s work.


July 6-17


July 6-17 The Flabby Middle with Meg Wolitzer:  Whether working on short stories or novels, all writers run into big problems sometimes.  These include the "Strong start/flabby middle" syndrome, the "I've been working this piece to death and I can't even see it clearly anymore" syndrome, the "Should I change it from third-person to first person?" syndrome, the "Is my long story actually a novel?" syndrome, or the "Should I abandon the whole thing and go on to something new, or stick with it until the end?" syndrome, among many others.  Working together and focusing on one another's manuscripts, as well as on short, dynamic exercises, this problem-solving workshop is designed to help writers figure their way out of a tight spot and transform their fiction. 

July 6-17  Poetry Hydraulics with Billy Collins:  Simple as it may sound, this workshop will focus of the poem's transit from its beginning, through its middle to the end--just so not to leave anything out.  We will observe how a poem launches itself, how it finds reasons to continue to flow, and how it finally discovers a place to settle at the end.  We will also examine a number of verbal maneuvers that can brighten a poem and even liberate it from itself, much to everyone's surprise and delight!  In the right hands, of course.


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 Other Ways to Participate 

Master Class

Writer's Residency Program

Children's Literature

Writing Workshops for Teens