The Elk River Writers Workshop is a program of Elk River Arts & Lectures

August 11-16

2024 Classes

“Gorgeous setting, inspiring place to work and learn! My workshop leader was amazing, a fabulous teacher as well as an inspiring writer.”

~2022 workshop participant

Each morning workshop in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, is limited to twelve students and meant to provide a personal experience with award-winning faculty, while also allowing you to build relationships with other writers. These workshops will be augmented by craft talks, student readings, panel discussions, lectures by guest speakers.

Please note that classes with Debra Magpie Earling and Ana Maria Spagna are full. Applicants for these classes will be place on wait lists.

Let's Start at the Very Beginning

Taylor Brorby

In this class, we’ll look at how authors begin their works, whether books, essays, short stories, or novels. Since the end depends upon the beginning, we’ll look at how an author establishes tone, setting, and character, getting down to the stoney depths of our sentences to create the bedrock of the stories we’re trying to tell. We’ll look at pieces both classic and contemporary and approach our discussions and workshops with a sense of curiosity and compassion. Should time allow, we’ll also have generative exercises to get us deeper into our current work or explore new work that we might pursue in the future.

Conversations about Narrative Craft

Debra Magpie Earling

“I write to make peace with the things I cannot control. I write to create fabric in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue.”  

~Terry Tempest Williams

Have you wanted to be in deeper conversation about writing? Perhaps not only the mechanics of writing but to explore ideas that might spark writerly connections and expand your understanding about your writerly work? Do you attend a writer’s conference hoping to find both community and the knowledge to help you write more fluently? Then, this is your workshop. We will be in conversation about our stories and so much more. This generative workshop is an open forum to discuss and practice the craft of writing fiction. Bring your questions and stories to the table. Questions can be general or specific. The goal of the class is to help you make your stories come alive, and hopefully bring new wonder and meaning to your work, and offer community. Bring a sense of humor. Oh, and two newspaper articles that would make good grist for stories.  

Note: When we talk about life stories in pursuit of finding meaningful expression, conversations can be uplifting, inspiring, and beautiful, but narrative discussions can also be unnerving. Please practice self-autonomy and excuse yourself if a conversation is upsetting.

Playing God

Jamie Ford
From ballads to imbroglios, this plot-focused workshop is about the fine art of pulling embryonic characters from the ether and menacing them in search of that unique “ah-ha” moment that is the beating heart of great story. We’ll create worlds with benevolent and malevolent figures, wind up our automatons and let them crash into each other until sparks fly and the curtains catch fire. Then we’ll let the whole thing burn just to see what happens next. All fiction genres are welcome in this generative workshop.

Survival for Poets & Poetry

Sean Singer

This class is a survey of craft in poetry, including how poems work, what poems risk, and what functions poetry has. Part of crafting poems is using language and learning the tools of literary craft. Another part is slower, more psychological, and requires psychological sturdiness or bravery. Each day of this course is focused on a different aspect of craft, and there will be a wide range of readings on these topics. The class will be a balance of thinking through poetry, finding the poem, and a practicum on craft skills.

Stanley Kunitz said, “The poet’s first obligation is survival. No bolder challenge confronts the modern artist than to stay healthy in a sick world.” We cannot allow ourselves as poets to be transformed into factories for producing free content for social media companies. Survival as a poet does not mean getting more likes. It does not mean focusing solely on one’s own work. Poets depend on each other for material and psychological support. It’s this exchange of care that marks the poetry community at its best.

Writing is work. There is also much other unpaid labor which is important to support the writing after it’s written. These cannot be done in a vacuum, either. Supporting writers in your immediate circle is vital to keeping poetry in general afloat. Poetry is also too important to let these things fall by the wayside, or be ignored entirely. So, part of craft in poetry is thinking in poetry, and figuring out ways to make poetry a part of your daily life.

Changing Places

Ana Maria Spagna

Often when nature writers focus on “place,” our work expresses a (lovely!) kind of settledness. But place changes. Places change. They (we!) are changing right now in myriad unprecedented ways. For humans and more-than-humans alike. How do writers capture and engage these changes on the page? This cross-genre workshop will focus on change, in the broadest sense, as subject-matter, approach, aspiration, and mindset. Students can submit up to 3 poems or 1,500 words of fiction, nonfiction or hybrid work in advance to workshop together, and can expect to read and discuss contemporary work as well as generate new material during our time together.

Join Us

The Elk River Writers Workshop accepts applications from October through May each year. We make decisions on a rolling basis, and strongly encourage interested writers to apply early as classes fill up fast.