Summer Seminar for Writers

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Nearly 70 adult writers will convene on the beautiful Sarah Lawrence College campus for the annual Summer Seminar for Writers, June 16-21, 2019. Participants in this renowned summer writing program come from all over the U.S. and beyond to Sarah Lawrence's campus just outside of New York City to experience six amazing days of workshops, craft talks, generative sessions, and readings. Students choose to study along one of the following tracks: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, screenwriting, or mixed genre.

2019 Summer Writing Program Overview

Writing Workshops

Our weeklong summer writing workshops are constructive, supportive environments in which students are encouraged to take risks. Workshops are capped at twelve to ensure each student has a voice as both a reader and a writer. Each workshop has its own unique atmosphere and strategies. Some will slant toward imagining the possibilities of existing work, some toward the creation of new work, while others will aim for a balance of the two. Teachers may bring in pieces of published writing to springboard into discussions of craft, structure, style, and content. In every workshop, the writing of students will be deeply considered, and participants will receive compassionate and constructive feedback.

Mixed Genre Workshop with Jeffrey McDaniel: “Hybrids of Poetry and Prose”

One of the exciting literary developments in recent years is the plethora of work that refuses easy categorization, by authors like Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Jenny Offill, and Eula Biss. Each class will begin with a close reading of a text that blurs the lines of genre. We will consider architecture, diction, association, metaphor, and other issues of craft. For workshop, students can submit poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, or anything in between. We will aim to locate a piece’s heat—its linguistic, figurative, and musical energy—and consider how that energy might be developed, or maximized, in subsequent drafts and to what effect. Occasionally, we will do in-class writing exercises that emphasize intuition and chance and steer students towards a place of hybridity

Jeffrey McDanielJeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). His other books include The Endarkenment, The Splinter Factory, The Forgiveness Parade, and Alibi School. He’s received an NEA fellowship for creative writing and been published in many journals and anthologies, including Ploughshares, Field, American Poetry Review, and Best American Poetry 1994 and 2010. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

Screenwriting Workshop with Sarah Koskoff

Bastard child of an unlikely love triangle between play, novel, and poem, a screenwriter has to drop in and out of multiple literary forms while being respected by none of them, not even their own. In this workshop, we will attempt to carve out a dignified space for the screenwriter (however temporary) by looking closely at produced screenplays that work on the page as well as the screen. We will do some in-class writing to access unconscious images, language, and scenes, and explore ways to grow these fragments into descriptive settings, connected dialogue, fully-realized characters, and expansive narratives. Students may bring scripts of any length to work on, from features to pilots to web-length shorts. You’ll leave with a head of steam to write and make films, unconcerned with your place in the literary world.

Sarah Koskoff

Sarah Koskoff is a screenwriter, playwright, and former actor. A Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellow, she wrote the screenplay for Hello I Must Be Going, which was nominated for a Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and won the award for Best Screenwriting in Feature Film at the Nantucket Film Festival. The film was honored by the National Board of Review as one of the year’s Ten Best Independent Films. She's now in post production on her indie half-hour pilot, The Summer People, and in development with her television adaptation of Elizabeth Hand’s crime novel series, Generation Loss. Koskoff is also a script consultant on feature films and an ongoing advisor for the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive in Los Angeles. Prior to writing for the screen, she wrote plays and acted in film and television alongside such luminaries as Burt Reynolds, Tobey Maguire, Helen Mirren, Kathy Bates, Gillian Anderson, Ryan O'Neal, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Tambour, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among many others. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two wondrous teenage boys.

Creative Non-Fiction Workshop with Vinson Cunningham

One of our most important items of inheritance as American writers is a penchant for argument. (Americans, you'll notice, despite our fetish for individuality, are always trying to convince someone, somewhere, of something.) In this workshop we'll look at all kinds of nonfiction prose—essays, speeches, magazine profiles, and works of criticism—and look for the explicit and more subtle ways in which their authors have put forward their ideas and made their cases. We'll engage in in-class exercises and brainstorming sessions that will help use the strategies we find to create new work.

vinson-cunningham-09-12.jpgVinson Cunningham is a staff writer and co-theatre critic for The New Yorker. His essays, reviews, and profiles have also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, FADER, Vulture, The Awl, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. A former White House staffer, he now teaches an MFA Writing course at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.

Poetry Workshop with Erika Meitner

Erika MeitnerErika Meitner is the winner of the 2018 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry and author of five books of poems: Holy Moly Carry Me, Inventory at the All-Night Drugstore, Makeshift Instructions for Vigilant Girls, Ideal Cities, which was a 2009 National Poetry series winner, and Copia. Her poetry and prose have been widely anthologized. Born and raised in Queens and Long Island, NY, Meitner is a first-generation American: her father is from Israel, her mother was born in a refugee camp in Germany, which is where her maternal grandparents settled after surviving the Holocaust. Meitner is currently an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech, where she directs the MFA and undergraduate programs in Creative Writing.

Poetry Workshop with Paisley Rekdal

A crash course in meter, rhyme, syntax, and rhythm. Take a quick tour through the history of poetry to learn more about poetic form and the line.

Paisley RekdalPaisley Rekdal was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee, the hybrid photo-text memoir, Intimate, and five books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, Animal Eye, a finalist for the 2013 Kingsley Tufts Prize and winner of the UNT Rilke Prize, and Imaginary Vessels, finalist for the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Prize and the Washington State Book Award. Her newest work of nonfiction is a book-length essay, The Broken Country: On Trauma, a Crime, and the Continuing Legacy of Vietnam. A new collection of poems, Nightingale, which re-writes many of the myths in Ovid's The Metamorphoses, will be published spring 2019.

Her work has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Residency, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, Pushcart Prizes (2009, 2013), the AWP Creative Nonfiction Prize, and various state arts council awards. Her poems and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, American Poetry Review, The Kenyon Review, Poetry, The New Republic, Tin House, the Best American Poetry series (2012, 2013, 2017, and 2018), and on National Public Radio, among others. She teaches at the University of Utah, where she is also the creator and editor of the community web project Mapping Salt Lake City. In May 2017, she was named Utah's Poet Laureate.

Fiction Workshop with Victoria Redel: Vision and Re-vision

This fiction workshop will help writers look at work they’ve been stuck finishing or digging back into and resolving. We will work to identify what works in a story, where there have been false detours, and threads of the narrative that have been abandoned and need further weaving. Through exercises, prompts, and consideration of published stories we will develop to tools open up, reimagine, invigorate scenes and characters, and create new possibilities for the revision process.

Victoria Redel, photo by Sigrid EstradaVictoria Redel is the author of five books of fiction and three books of poetry, most recently the novel Before Everything, which was translated in nine languages. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and a finalist for the James Laughlin Award. Redel’s fiction, poetry, and essays have been widely anthologized and have appeared in numerous magazines and journals including Granta.com, Harvard Review, One Story, The Quarterly, The New York Times, The L.A. Times, Salmagundi, O the Oprah magazine, Elle, Bomb, and NOON. Redel is on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College. She has taught in the Graduate Writing Programs of Columbia University, Vermont College, and was the 2013 McGee Professor at Davidson College.

Fiction Workshop with Rattawut Lapcharoensap

What is a short story? What distinguishes the form? In The Lonely Voice, Frank O’Connor famously characterized the short story as being habitually preoccupied with the lives of “submerged population groups,” of those for whom a “normal society” is the “exception rather than the rule.” But is this right? What other definitions might we add to O’Connor’s? And to what uses might we put such definitions, if any at all, in our own attempts at the form? Through an exploration of published stories, workshopping of student writing, and short assignments, this writing workshop seeks to help students think about the short story form as one defined less by its length as by its formal and thematic energies and interests.

Portrait of Rattawut LapcharoensapRattawut Lapcharoensap. BA, Cornell University. MFA, University of Michigan. Fiction writer. Author of Sightseeing, a collection of short stories, which received the Asian American Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His work has appeared in Granta, One Story, The Guardian, Zoetrope, Best New American Voices, and Best American Non-Required Reading, among others. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin fellowship, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honor, and an Abraham Woursell Prize through the University of Vienna; he was named by Granta magazine to its list of “Best of Young American Novelists.” SLC, 2018–

Preliminary Schedule

Sunday June 16
  • 3:00 orientation meeting in Heimbold, then first classes
  • 6:00 dinner
  • 7:30 reading: Vinson Cunningham and Paisley Rekdal
Monday June 17
  • 8:30 breakfast
  • 10:00 workshop
  • 12:30 lunch
  • 1:30 craft talk: Rattawut Lapcharoensnap
  • 2:30 generative session: Jeffrey McDaniel
  • 4:00 craft talk: Terrance Hayes
  • 5:00 or 5:30 dinner
  • 7:30 reading: Victoria Redel and Terrance Hayes
Tuesday June 18
  • 8:30 breakfast
  • 10:00 workshop
  • 12:30 lunch
  • 1:30 craft talk: Vinson Cunningham
  • 2:30 generative session: Emily Raboteau
  • 4:00 craft talk: Paisley Rekdal
  • 5:00 or 5:30 dinner
  • 7:30 reading: Emily Raboteau and Jeffrey McDaniel
  • 9:30 student rapid-fire reading
Wednesday June 19
  • 8:30 breakfast
  • 10:00 workshop
  • 12:30 lunch
  • 1:30 craft talk: Joan Silber
  • 2:30 generative session: Erika Meitner
  • 4:00 craft talk: Ed Hirsch
  • 5:00 or 5:30 dinner
  • 7:30 reading: Rattawut Lapcharoensnap and Ed Hirsch
Thursday June 20
  • 8:30 breakfast
  • 10:00 workshop
  • 12:30 lunch
  • 1:30 craft talk: Victoria Redel
  • 2:30 generative session: Sarah Koskoff
  • 4:00 craft talk: Sarah Koskoff
  • 5:00 or 5:30 dinner
  • 7:30 reading: Sarah McColl and Erika Meitner
  • 9:30 rapid-fire student reading
Friday June 21
  • 8:30 breakfast:
  • 10:00 workshop
  • 12:30 lunch
  • 3:00 generative session: Sarah McColl
  • 4:00 craft talk: TBA
  • 5:00 reading: T Kira Madden and Kenneth Carroll
  • 6:30 final dinner celebration

Conferences & Generative Sessions

In addition to working with a writing teacher in class, each summer writing seminar student will have a 30-minute one-on-one conference with their teacher, a chance to deepen their dialogue about individual writing.

On weekday afternoons, there will be space for participants to gather and engage in a multi-genre writing exercise, directed by a teacher or visiting writer. This exposes students to different approaches and will be a space to cross-pollinate genres and to roll the creative dice.

Craft Talks & Readings

Each weekday afternoon, there will be two craft talks open to all participants in the Summer Seminar. Students are encouraged to attend and hear faculty and visiting writers explore various topics. Some of these talks will be more like traditional lectures, some will be more illustrative discussions, some will be in-depth interviews. All will deepen student’s sense of the literary tradition and new ways of thinking about the art of writing.

In addition, every evening will feature a dynamic reading with two talented and acclaimed authors. To foster a dance and dialogue between genres, each reading will pair a prose writer and a poet.

2019 Visiting Writers

Kenneth Carroll

Portrait of Kenneth CarrollKenneth Carroll is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and playwright, whose writing has appeared in numerous publications. He was the director of DC WritersCorps where he helped to create the first Youth Slam League. He is past president of the African American Writers Guild and has received several literary fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. His first book of poetry, So What: For The White Dude Who Said This Ain’t Poetry was published with a grant from the Humanities Council of Washington, DC. He’s working on a new book of poetry that captures his many years as a teacher and youth developer. He is married and the proud father of a daughter and two sons.

Edward Hirsch

Portrait of Edward HirschEdward Hirsch has published nine books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems and Gabriel: A Poem, a book-length elegy for his son. His new book, Stranger by Night, will be published by Knopf in 2020. He has also published five prose books, among them Poet’s Choice and A Poet’s Glossary, a full compendium of poetic terms. He is a MacArthur Fellow and serves as president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Photo credit: Julie Dermansky

T Kira Madden

Portrait of T Kira MaddenT Kira Madden is a lesbian APIA writer, photographer, and amateur magician living in New York City. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an BA in design and literature from Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College. She is the founding Editor-in-chief of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art, and is a 2017 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellow in nonfiction literature from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, Hedgebrook, Tin House, DISQUIET, Summer Literary Seminars, and Yaddo, where she was selected for the 2017 Linda Collins Endowed Residency Award. She facilitates writing workshops for homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals and currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. Her debut memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, is available now. There is no period in her name.

Sarah McColl

Portrait of Sarah McCollSarah McColl is the author of the memoir Joy Enough. Her writing has appeared in the Paris Review, McSweeney’s, The Guardian, and StoryQuarterly, which nominated her essay on singer-songwriter Connie Converse for a Pushcart Prize. She has received fellowships from the Millay Colony, Ucross, Vermont Studio Center, and the MacDowell Colony, where she was named the 2017 Mary Carswell Fellow. She lives in Los Angeles.

Photo credit: Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Emily Raboteau

Portrait of Emily RaboteauEmily Raboteau is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter (Henry Holt) and a work of creative nonfiction, Searching for Zion (Grove/Atlantic), named a best book of 2013 by The Huffington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle, a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award, grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival, and winner of a 2014 American Book Award. Her fiction and essays have been widely published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Tin House, Buzzfeed, Literary Hub, The Guardian, Guernica, VQR, The Believer, Salon, and elsewhere. Honors include a Pushcart Prize, The Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lannan Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. An avid world traveler, Raboteau resides in New York City and teaches creative writing in Harlem at City College, once known as “the poor man’s Harvard.”

Joan Silber

Joan SilberJoan Silber is the author of eight books of fiction. The most recent, Improvement, won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. She also received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. Her previous book, Fools, was longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. The Size of the World was a finalist for the LA Times Fiction Prize, and Ideas of Heaven was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize.