2018 Faculty + Workshop Descriptions



Fiction: Peter Ho Davies, Anthony Marra, J. Courtney Sullivan

Memoir: Heather Harpham, Bich Minh “Beth” Nguyen

Narrative Nonfiction: Margot Lee Shetterly  *New workshop offering for 2018!

Poetry: Tina Chang

Book Editing: Aran Shetterly





Beginning Writing: Helen Schulman

Readers Retreat (3 days only): Peter McBride

Readers Retreat (3 days only): Bruce Handy


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

Course Description

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.

Anthony Marra

Anthony Marra is the author of “The Tsar of Love and Techno,” a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and “A Constellation of Vital Phenomena,” longlisted for the National Book Award and winner of the NBCC’s John Leonard Prize. He has received the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Whiting Award, the National Magazine Award and the Barnes and Noble Discover Award. In 2017, Granta included Marra on its decennial Best Young American Novelists list. He has taught at Stanford University, and currently lives in Oakland, CA

Course Description

In this workshop we’ll approach fiction as engineers, analyzing the buildings blocks—style, structure, setting, point of view, character, etc.—and exploring how these elements work independently and in concert with one another. Though our time will be largely devoted to your manuscripts, we’ll also read one or two published stories, as well as brief extra-literary texts (we’ll look at obituaries when discussing character, and one-liners when discussing structure). Along the way, we’ll be sure to consider strategies for revision and research. Our ultimate goal is to deepen the stories at hand and expand the possibilities for future work.

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.

Course Description

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.


Heather Harpham

Heather Harpham is a writer, teacher and theater artist whose fiction, essays and reviews have appeared in Slate, Parents, More, Water~Stone Review and Red Magazine in the U.K. Her debut book, a memoir titled “Happiness: The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After,” was published by Holt in 2017 and selected for Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Series as well as being an Indie Next pick. Harpham’s writing for the stage includes six solo plays, the most recent of which, “Happiness” and “BURNING,” toured nationally and were produced in Kathmandu, Nepal. Harpham’s work has been recognized with the Brenda Ueland Prose Prize, a Marin Arts Council Independent Artist Grant, support from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for Women and a New York Innovative Theater Award nomination. Harpham has taught as a guest artist at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and in Europe. Originally from Northern California, she now lives in New York, a short walk from the Hudson River, with her family.

Course Description

All memoir is, like fiction, an act of invention and creative will. Our work together will focus on those issues most pressing for the memoir writer: how to craft a clear narrative arc out of the miasma and mess of lived experience; how to balance point of view so that the writer’s perspective is not the sole lens through which the reader apprehends or interprets events; how to invoke the senses in service of a multidimensional, felt reality; and finally how to make a singular story unique, detailed and “true” enough to resonate with a diverse community of readers. Our specific tasks will include looking closely at the blueprint embedded in every story’s beginning and at dialogue as a powerful narrative engine. Finally, we’ll borrow some of the conventions of writing for the stage–i.e., the ability to create immediacy, intimacy and high stakes–and redeploy them as tools for the memoirist.

Bich Minh “Beth” Nguyen

Bich Minh “Beth” Nguyen is the author of three books: the memoir “Stealing Buddha’s Dinner,” which received the PEN/Jerard Award, the novel “Short Girls,” which received an American Book Award, and, most recently, the novel “Pioneer Girl.” Her work has been featured in numerous university and community reads programs around the country. Nguyen was born in Saigon and grew up in Michigan, where her family settled after leaving Vietnam as refugees. She now lives in the Bay Area, where she teaches in and directs the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.

Course Description

Why memoir? Because you have stories to tell and so many ways to tell them, and sometimes only the genre of truth will do. Whether you’re working on a book-length project or a series of personal essays or something in between, we will aim to find a sense of clarity in your work and process. We will talk about how to shape our experiences, histories, observations, memories, research and reflections into meaningful and resonant creative nonfiction, focusing on elements of craft including characterization, conflict, metaphor and perspective. All of this will take place in an encouraging environment that is geared toward discussion, openness and inspiration. This workshop will not ask anyone to stay silent while the rest of the group discusses the work; rather, the workshop will welcome questions and ideas, so that every writer is included and involved.


Tina Chang

Tina Chang was raised in New York City. She is the first female to be named Poet Laureate of Brooklyn and is the author of the collections of poetry “Hybrida” (2019), “Of Gods & Strangers” (2011), and “Half-Lit Houses” (2004). She is also the co-editor of the W.W. Norton anthology “Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond” (2008). She is the recipient of awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Academy of American Poets, Poets & Writers, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Van Lier Foundation among others. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College and she is also a member of the international writing faculty at the City University of Hong Kong.

Hybrid Beast – Course Description 

The word hybrid comes from the Latin “hybrid,” which means mongrel, a creature of mixed breed. The tradition of poetry is widening, drawing from many art forms, blending and fusing to create contemporary cross-pollinated forms. In this workshop we will explore the many ways in which poetry is increasingly a hybrid beast, as innovative and exciting projects are envisioned across the genres. We will discuss the process by which poets collaborate with visual artists, filmmakers and choreographers, and we will practice one of the following: prose poem, ekphrastic poem, erasure or lyric essay. 


Margot Lee Shetterly

Margot Lee Shetterly is the author of the No. 1 nonfiction best-selling book “Hidden Figures,” and an executive producer of the blockbuster movie based on the book. Before becoming a writer, she worked as an investment banker, spent years as a digital media producer and founded and ran a magazine with her husband, writer Aran Shetterly.

Course Description

“The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” A good story well-told has even more meaning when we know that it’s also true. This course will review the tools of narrative nonfiction, and, with students’ own work as case studies, show how to use the raw materials of nonfiction—interviews, newspaper articles, legal briefs, diaries, photos and other quotidian documents—to build a narrative that comes to life on the page.


Aran Shetterly

Aran Shetterly is the author of the narrative nonfiction book “The Americano: Fighting with Castro for Cuba’s Freedom.” His first job out of graduate school was at Workman Publishing. Since then he has worked in digital media startups, founded an English language magazine in Mexico (with his wife, Margot Lee Shetterly), and helped numerous writers in various genres hone manuscripts for agents and publishers. Aran’s currently under contract with Amistad/HarperCollins to write a book about the 1979 Greensboro Massacre.

Course Description

“The writer begins in a state of chaos and works herself toward form and clarity.” -Paul Hendrickson

This workshop, for writers with completed manuscripts (fiction, narrative nonfiction, memoir) will focus on the art of storytelling. Emphasis will be less on what isn’t working than on helping each other see what can be done to make a story better, sharper and more effective for the appropriate audience. Editing is a skill. So is understanding what an editor wants and how to work with her/him. This workshop aims not only to help writers improve their submitted work, but to make the experience of being edited less opaque, more efficient, successful and even, perhaps, enjoyable.


Helen Schulman

Helen Schulman is a novelist, screenwriter and short story writer.  She is the author of the novels “This Beautiful Life” (a New York Times best-seller), “A Day at The Beach,” “P.S.,” “The Revisionist” and “Out of Time,” and the short story collection “Not a Free Show.” She co-edited the anthology “Wanting a Child.” Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in such places as Vanity Fair, Time, Vogue, GQ, The New York Times Book Review, A Public Space and The Paris Review.  She is the fiction chair at the writing program at The New School, where she is a tenured professor of writing.  She is also the executive director of WriteOnNYC.com.  Her new novel, “Come with Me,” will be published in December 2018.

Course Description

This class is for anyone, experienced or not, who wants to write a story!  Over the course of five days we will use the natural beauty of Aspen, as well as its crazy-quilt mix of personalities and high-low aesthetics to inspire new work.  There will be in-class exercises as well as some homework (which you will enjoy, I promise.)  We will concentrate on such building blocks of fiction as: how to craft an opening, create characters, put them in a scene together, build descriptive writing chops, write (and steal) dialogue and find stories inside us and in the world around us. The workshop should be fun, warm, inclusive and respectful.  We will also read published stories in and out of class as writers, which means reading strategically: learning to mine the work we love most for craft elements.


Bruce Handy

Bruce Handy is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a regular contributor to The New York Times and newyorker.com. He is a former writer and editor at Time and Spy magazines. His first book, “Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult,” was published in 2017. He is currently working on a cultural history of wealth in the 1980s.

Course Description

Bruce Handy, former deputy editor and current contributing editor at Vanity Fair, will provide a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a great piece of magazine journalism. We will examine stories by authors such as Ingrid Sischy, Sam Tanenhaus, Peter Biskind and more, in genres ranging from profiles to investigative reporting to reported essays. Expect a focus on nitty-gritty aspects of craft, reporting and editing. Expect a little gossip, too.