2017 Conference Workshops

Conference Workshops

On Saturday at the conference, we’ll have breakout sessions devoted to the craft and business of writing. Here are the offerings from our keynote speaker, our faculty in nonfiction, poetry and creative non-fiction. There will also be member led panels (see the program).

Photo of Nina McCongiley

Nina McConigley

KEYNOTE: Nina McConigley

Writing What You Know: Using Autobiography in Fiction

The old adage is to write what you know. Which is great — but as fiction writers, it’s sometimes safer to fictionalize what you know. In this craft class, we’ll talk about how to take real life experience and fictionalize it. Looking at published texts and with in-class writing we’ll discover how to write about what you know — and how to use the truth to go into imaginary places. 

Writing the New American West: Post-frontier Literature 

Writing about the American West has moved well beyond literature of  American Old West/ Frontier narratives that were typically set from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century.  A new understanding of contemporary western writing is emerging. Sometimes referred to as Post-frontier literature, the more recent literary output of the region tends to engage in a reinterpretation of the region, calling into question the ways in which it has been defined in the past.

Looking at some contemporary post-frontier writers who are writing less traditional narratives about the frontier: Percival Everett, Claire Vaye Watkins, Michael Ondaatje, Sherman Alexie, Bonnie Nazdam, Kirstin Valdez Quade, and Annie Proulx among others. We’ll talk about how the “West” is portrayed in these texts. Then, we’ll work on our own fiction and essays and how we write about the West. 

Rejection to Publishing

This workshop will be a bare bones workshop on publishing. How to craft cover letters to magazines, and help with querying agents.

POETRY: Kristin Abraham

Photo of Kristin Abraham

Kristin Abraham

Fracturing Fairytales

Participants employ various methods of invention to transform proverbial stories into fresh and original poetry.

A Rose Poem by Any Other Name Would Stink

Participants discuss how titles figure in audiences’ general reading habits and expectations, then read sample poems to identify and evaluate various titling strategies. Participants also practice strategies for writing titles that “pass the stink test.” While not a requirement, participants are strongly encouraged to come prepared with one or two of their own drafts for use during writing activities; no one will be required to share drafts with others during the session.

Have You Listened to Your White Space Lately?

Participants explore ways in which a poem’s form can contribute to its content/meaning: discovering meaning in what a poem does not state; experiencing the textual poem as visual art and the page as a canvas; using white space strategically; composing erasures / altered texts.


Clay Landry and Murphy

 The Resources and Methods of Research

Information on the abundant readily available resources for doing historical research will be presented followed by a discussion on applying the “three legged stool” research method to specific topics. The importance of obtaining information from “original” documents will be demonstrated.

Categories of Historical Literature

This session will review the three primary areas of historical authorship i.e., biographies, events & places and material culture. The challenges of researching and writing in each of these areas will be discussed and an example essay on a material culture artifact will be presented.

Uncovering Topics

 Locating viable and interesting western history topics for authors will be discussed and compositional approaches from technical to general will be reviewed. An interesting example of “history sleuthing” will be presented.

Photo of Caskey Russell

Caskey Russell


The Art of Creative Non-Fiction

 Creative non-fiction applies the narrative techniques of literary fiction to the world of non-fiction (essays, journalism, memoir).  This panel will provide suggestions for crafting powerful creative non-fiction. 

Finding Inspiration for Fiction in your Own Life

Sometime the most powerful writing comes from our own personal experiences.  We only need to enhance, embellish, and perhaps lie just a bit to turn those experiences into memorable fiction.  This panel will discuss strategies for creating fiction from our own experiences.

Editing: The Key to the Creative Writing

Let’s face it: the first draft of most any piece of writing is often crap. This panel will discuss tips and strategies for editing and honing your writing in subsequent drafts, and give ideas for turning sad word salads into strong, effective writing. 

Member Led Panels and Poet Laureate

Photo of Gene Gagliano

Gene Gagliano

2017 Poet Laureate Gene Gagliano:  “Want to Write for Children?”

This interactive, informative and entertaining session will provide helpful points about how to use sensory triggers to get story ideas, create real characters and show and not tell in your writing.

Member Panel: “What You Should Know About Self-Publishing

Abbie Johnson Taylor will facilitate a panel discussion in which participants will learn advantages and disadvantages of this type of publish, as panelists share their experiences. Short presentations by Taylor, Linda Crowder, Laurie Marr Wasmund, and Alethea Williams will be followed by a question and answer period. If you’re curious about self-publishing, now’s the time to find out more.

Keri De Deo & Patricia Landy: “Rescuing and Reviving Old Manuscripts”

Susan Vittitow Mark: “Blogging and More: Sailing the Social Media Seas”

From blogs to Twitter to Goodreads and Facebook – learn how to promote yourself and your work. Join blogger and social media professional Susan Mark for strategies, tools, tips, and tricks to build your online presence and connect with readers.