2014 Southampton Writers Conference Workshops

Fiction | Poetry | NonfictionGet Your Feet Wet | Writers Residency | ScreenwritingOther Programs

July 9-13 Fiction with Frederic Tuten: I love fiction of all kinds. I have no belief in the hierarchy of fiction. There is only good or poor writing, interesting or uninteresting work. 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 intent 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 better writers for it. 

So much for procedure, the rest is the unknown, mysterious chemistry of the workshop.

July 9-20 Creating Characters of Consequence with Julia Glass.  For some fiction writers, stories originate with a visual image or a conversation overheard. Perhaps a title or a single sentence unfurls into a book. Many of us, however, find that the characters themselves beget the drama. Think of the old adage “Character is plot”—or, as I like to say, personality has consequence. Only when the characters are fully and deeply realized can their story catch fire. We will discuss and revise your work-in-progress with an emphasis on character development as a way to strengthen, even determine the narrative flow. Come with the expectation of rigorous revision. 

July 9-20 Troubleshooting for the Fiction Writer 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 9-13 New Shadows: Moving Poems from Imitation to Innovation with Terrance Hayes This workshop is intended to help poets help themselves. It will offer concrete strategies for sustained writing when the only teacher available is a book. We will explore the ways inventive imitation can lead to poetic discovery and innovation. (Think of imitation as transformation not reproduction.) Daily writing assignments will involve discussing and then imitating published poems from a multitude of styles and traditions. Come prepared to generate and share work written in class. In workshops poems will be discussed not for their merit as imitations, but for their originality and potential.

July 9-20 Poetry with Billy Collins.  The workshop will focus on participants' poems with an eye to increasing their sense of momentum and their use of tension.  I would like to put special emphasis on how poets can employ a set of maneuvers to guide their poems to surprising ends.  Each of you should bring a dozen copies of a poem for discussion to each of our meetings.

July 9-13 Writing Funny with Patrica Marx 

“Humor is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility.”   James Thurber

“Comedy has to be based on truth. You take the truth and you put a little curlicue at the end.”  Sid Caesar

“Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.”  Mel Brooks

“...An amateur thinks it's really funny if you dress a man up as an old lady, put him in a wheelchair, and give the wheelchair a push that sends it spinning down a slope towards a stone wall. For a pro, it's got to be a real old lady.”  Groucho Marx

“What is comedy? Comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.”  Steve Martin

“You know, crankiness is the essence of all comedy.”   Jerry Seinfeld

“Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.” E.B. White

“Patty Marx is the best teacher in the Creative Writing Program.”   Patricia Marx

One of the above quotations is false.  Find out which one in this humor-writing workshop, where you will read, listen to, and watch comedic samples from well-known and lesser-known humorists, and complete writing assignments. 

July 9-20 Creative Nonfiction with Matt Klam. Whether they're writing a memoir, first person journalism, a piece of fiction or a graphic autobiography, my favorite authors use personal experience, carefully observed details and facts to make great stories. I'm thinking of writers such as Mary Karr and Alison Bechdel, Jon Krakauer and Ernest Hemingway. In this class we'll focus on creatively made but realistic stuff, essays, personal histories, fiction and memoir, writing every day, reading and discussing a little bit in class, while also talking about your own work in a helpful, constructive manner.

July 9-20 The Memoir and Its Parts with Roger Rosenblatt. This workshop proceeds from the premise that good memoirs are made up of certain components: description, information, emotion, thought, fantasy and memory. The writing of each of these components requires skills that may be looked at individually, one at a time. That is what we will do here. Students will be asked to write one-page pieces that describe someone or some thing; relate information (historical, scientific, political et al.); express a thought or idea; convey an emotion arising from a situation or revelation; tell a fantasy or a dream; and offer a memory of an event, a place, another person, or of oneself. Six pieces in all. You will be asked to come to the first class meeting with two pieces in hand, so that we get a running start -- one descriptive, one informative. We will discuss everyone's work as a group, then move on to the remaining four pieces, which you will write during the conference. (One page, by the way, means a piece of about 250 words, and no longer, to encourage precision and restraint.) Toward the end of the conference, we will try to determine how the six pieces you've written fit into the memoir you are working on, or propose to work on.  Underlying all this is the proposition that your memoir is not just about your life. Rather, it is about the world you observe, understand and appreciate, feel, think about, imagine, and remember. Write these several parts effectively, put them together in  the right order,  and you should be on your way to a worthwhile book.

July 9-13 Find Your Story, Write Your Screenplay with Annette Handley Chandler : This workshop provides writers with the tools to clarify all story elements for a viable screenplay. Writers will identify the spine of their story, the nine essential scenes, character arc and premise through analyzing and deconstructing screenplays and films. Scene construction and juxtaposition will be examined. With an existing script or a new idea, this workshop will help the writer outline a draft more easily and with greater success. All participants - whether writing an original idea or adapting material from a novel, a short story, poem - will be guided through the process in a constructive environment. Beginning and Intermediate Screenwriters.

Get Your Feet Wet

Find Your Voice: The Craft of Writing.  Intimidated by a workshop with Roger Rosenblatt or Meg Wolitzer? Try this creative writing workshop filled with writing prompts, feedback and constructive support. Get access to all the electives, readings, evening events and receptions the conference has to offer. This workshop is led by one of the graduate students in Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA in Creative Writing & Literature.  (for-credit option available). 

Listener's Pass. Love literature but not writing?  Get access to all the electives, readings, mini-workshops, evening events and receptions the conference has to offer and you don't have to pick up a single pen (though you'll probably want to). 


 Writer's Residency Program

Wish you had a place to get away from the distractions of your everyday life and finally finish that manuscript?  Now you do.  Spend 12 days in the seclusion of your own room hammering away at your laptop. When you need a break, some inspiration, or some conversation with other writers, the Southampton Writers Conference is there for the taking.  Catch readings and craft talks with some of the best writers in the country, converse with participants about the pangs of being a writer, then head to your room and crank out some more pages.  As part of the residency program, you have access to all the Writers Conference has to offer, except for morning workshops.  To make the most of your time with us, you are required to reserve a single dorm room.  Room cost is not included.         


Other Programs:

Children's Literature


Writing Workshops for Teens