The workshops below are by application only and require submission of a 10-page example of the applicant’s best unpublished work. We also offer a beginning writing workshop that is filled on a first-come, first-served basis and does not require manuscript submission.
Peter Ho Davies
Peter Ho Davies’ most recent novel, “The Fortunes,” won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and the Chautauqua Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He is also the author of “The Welsh Girl,” longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and a London Times best-seller, as well as two collections of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Harpers, The Atlantic, The Paris Review and Granta and been anthologized in “Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards” and “Best American Short Stories.” Born in Britain to Welsh and Chinese parents, he now teaches in the MFA program at the University of Michigan.
In this workshop we’ll read (closely) and discuss (constructively) each other’s stories/novel extracts, giving thought both to what the writer is trying to achieve in them and how best to help him/her realize those ambitions more fully in revision. Your drafts will be our primary material, but I’ll be sure to slip in a few (hopefully fun) mini-lectures on craft questions that arise as we go–everything from macro concerns about structure and point of view, to more localized issues like handling flashbacks, using dialogue tags or coming up with titles. Come with work you care about, that you’ve taken about as far as you can on your own, but want to push further.
Tom Perrotta is the best-selling author of nine works of fiction, including “Election” and “Little Children,” both of which were made into Oscar-nominated films, and “The Leftovers,” which was adapted into a critically acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning HBO series. His other books include “Bad Haircut,” “The Wishbones,” “Joe College,” “The Abstinence Teacher,” “Nine Inches,” and his newest, “Mrs. Fletcher.” His work has been translated into a multitude of languages. Perrotta grew up in New Jersey and lives outside of Boston.
The Character Question
In this workshop, we’ll focus our attention on characters—how writers build them on the page, and how readers construct them in their minds. We’ll explore the relationship between character and POV, examine the difference between an interesting character and a likable one, and consider the ethical responsibility—if any—that writers have toward their characters. Along the way, we’ll try to find ways to make our own characters more complex, more vivid and more memorable.
J. Courtney Sullivan
J. Courtney Sullivan is the New York Times best-selling author of the novels “Commencement,” “Maine,” “The Engagements” and “Saints for All Occasions.” “Maine” was named a Best Book of the Year by Time magazine, and a Washington Post Notable Book for 2011. “The Engagements” was one of People Magazine’s Top Ten Books of 2013 and an Irish Times Best Book of the Year. It is soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, and it will be translated into 17 languages. “Saints For All Occasions” was a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017, one of the Washington Post’s top ten books of 2017 and a finalist for the New England Book Award. Courtney’s writing has also appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, New York magazine, Elle, Glamour, Allure, Real Simple and O: The Oprah Magazine, among many others. She is a co-editor, with Courtney Martin, of the essay anthology “Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists.” She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
The best fiction springs from an obsession on the writer’s part. It might be a childhood memory or a historical event or an overheard conversation. For whatever reason, it takes hold and demands to be written about. In this class, we will discuss how to tune into your obsessions and translate them into compelling stories. We’ll talk about how to give yourself permission so that you might go deeper with your writing and avoid self-censorship. Through close readings and daily exercises, we’ll jumpstart creativity and explore the intricacies of plot, dialogue, point-of-view and character building. We’ll also touch on how to incorporate research so that it serves, rather than overwhelms, the work. I hope you’ll come away feeling invigorated, wanting to deepen the stories you’ve begun to tell, and aware of how best to find the next ones.