Call of the Wild writer Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” When the writers’ block gremlin infiltrates the mind and tangles up the thoughts there into alphabet soup, writers have various ways of swinging at the nasty creature. Some go on runs. Some do some long-overdue cleaning. Some pick up an abandoned hobby. Most writers agree on two most effective ways to break through the block: clench your teeth and put pen to paper, even if what comes resembles nothing less than roadkill; and talk it out, share your ideas, and immerse yourself in the presence of other writers.
The best workshops for emerging and established writers offer an opportunity to do exactly that. Many of those listed below are generative, and participants have the chance to interact with the best practitioners and mentors of their craft, many of whom, I should or can note, are contributors to Adroit. For those with more finished work or manuscripts, there’s a place for you here, too. Several of these writing (and visual arts) programs offer one-on-one mentoring and manuscript consultations, and you’ll get to make connections with a wide range of literary agents, editors, and publishers.
So why wait? Take your club, and let’s get swinging.
Founded in 1926, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference is the oldest writing conference in America and one of the most prestigious. Emerging writers have a chance to work with established writers in five two-hour small workshops in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Faculty also hold lectures and one-hour classes on craft. Beyond classes, the conference is filled with readings throughout the day and night, and writers have the opportunity to meet with agents and publishers. The Conference has grown to offer other week-long programs as well, such as the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Conference for artists whose work centers around the natural world, Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference, and Bread Loaf in Sicily held in Erice, Sicily. For writers ages 18 and up.
Time and place: Summer 2020 TBA, Bread Loaf Campus of Middlebury College in Ripton, Vermont.
Previous faculty: Jericho Brown (Issue Twenty-Six contributor), A.E. Stallings, Mary Szybist, Alexander Chee, with guest appearances from Yusef Komunyakaa and Ilya Kaminsky.
Tuition: $3,525 general contributors; $3,380 auditors. Includes room and board. Financial aid available.
Created for the cultivation of underrepresented African American poets, Cave Canem holds an annual week-long retreat for 40 poet fellows. The program includes four 3-hour workshops and faculty and visiting poet readings and book signings. In addition, Cave Canem offers free or low-cost workshops at its home in Brooklyn. These workshops convene eight to ten times over a few months and have featured faculty like Angel Nafis and Issue Twenty-Four contributor Cortney Lamar Charleston. The community nurtured by Cave Canem is unparalleled; fellows of the retreat have access to other workshops and programs, and its Brooklyn loft regularly hosts readings by established and emerging Black poets.
Time and place: June 7–13, 2020, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Pennsylvania.
Deadline to apply: December 20, 2019 at 11:59 pm EST, applicants notified April 3, 2020
2020 faculty: Major Jackson, Robin Coste Lewis, Evie Shockley and Frank X Walker.
Tuition: $1,050 for tuition and $590 for room and board plus $20 application fee. Financial aid available; some pay as low as $90.
Located in the beautiful dunes and beaches of Provincetown, Massachusetts, the Fine Arts Work Center is primarily known for its prestigious seven-month Writing and Visual Arts Fellowships, a residency program with monthly stipends and lodging for twenty writers and visual artists to pursue independent projects. The Fine Arts Work Center also offers one-week summer workshops centered around topics such as social justice, silkscreen printmaking, novel writing, and landscape photography; the summer program lasts for eleven weeks in total. For rising artists and writers, five interns have the opportunity to help with behind-the-scenes operations. For those who are unable to commute or want a more flexible program, 24PearlStreet, a yearlong series of online workshops, is a great option without the costs of lodging and travel.
Time and place: One week, varies by workshop. Summer 2020 catalog to be released in January.
Previous faculty: Hanif Abdurraqib (Issue Eighteen contributor), Monica Youn, Joan Wickersham, Alan Shapiro, Pam Houston, David Baker, Constantine Manos.
15-hour writing workshop: $650
20-hour writing workshop: $750
15-hour visual arts workshop: $650
20-hour visual arts workshop: $750
Writing and Visual Arts Fellowship Residency
Time and place: October 1, 2020 – April 30, 2021
Deadlines: Writing: December 2, 2020; Visual Arts: February 1, 2020.
Previous fellows: Esther Lin (contributor, Joy Priest, Forrest Gander, Ha Jin, Janet Fish, Yvonne Jacquette.
24PearlStreet Online Writing Program
Time and place: Online, rolling by workshop.
Past faculty: Ada Limón, sam sax (Issues Thirteen and Thirty contributor), Jennifer Tseng (Issue Twenty-Seven contributor).
Tuition: (Not included: $25 registration fee)
One-week workshop: $400
Four-week workshop: $500
Eight-week workshop: $600
The Juniper Summer Writing Institute is associated with the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and accepts applicants for poetry, nonfiction, fiction, and visual art. At a typical day at the Institute, participants generate writing, attend craft sessions or Q&A sessions in the morning, attend workshops in the afternoon, and enjoy readings at night. Past craft sessions have included “Herself Behind Herself Concealed: Forging the Erotic Power of the Feminine” with Safiya Sinclair and “What’s the Point of a Point of View?” with Noy Holland. At an added cost of $300, participants can receive a one-on-one manuscript consultation with a guest writer.
Time and place: Summer 2020, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Past faculty: Ross Gay, Joy Williams, Mitchell S. Jackson, with guest appearances from Safiya Sinclair and Ocean Vuong (Issue Twelve contributor)
Tuition: $1600. Housing, breakfast, and four dinners not included–see list of accommodations ranging from $25–$184 per weeknight.
Inspired by Cave Canem, Kundiman started in 2004 as a way to foster Asian American literature and tackle barriers facing Asian American writers. The Retreat gives 36 poetry and fiction writers the chance to receive a manuscript consultation and attend six-person Master Classes, created to help writers generate new work with prompts and craft talks. Fellows are divided into home groups, all of which receive instruction from all six faculty members. To make its resources accessible to the rest of the Asian American literary community, Kundiman hosts readings and workshops across the country, many of which are open to the public. Fellows are also invited to participate in the annual project initiated Poetry Coalition, a national alliance of organizations dedicated to promote the cultural importance of poetry; the 2019 project led writing prompts and opportunities to take direct action on topics like immigration, activism, documentation, and solidarity.
Time and place: Summer 2020 TBA, Fordham University Rose Hill campus in New York City
Past faculty: Myung Mi Kim, Craig Santos Perez, Tania James, Padma Viswanathan
Tuition: $1500 plus $25 application fee.
As an advocate for LGBTQ writers, Lambda Literary joins the growing collection of organizations dedicated to empowering minority groups in America. The retreat marks the first workshop ever created exclusively for writers in the LGBTQ community. Fellows have the chance to meet with industry professionals and receive the support of those facing similar societal struggles. For those interested in dabbling in new genres or perfecting one or two, Lambda Literary Writers Retreat boasts a wide variety of categories, such as fiction, genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting.
Time and place: 2020 date and application available December 2019, usually Los Angeles
Past faculty: Danez Smith (Issue Nineteen contributor), Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Mfoniso Udofia, Linda Villarosa
Tuition: $850 for workshops and presentations and $800 for housing and meals plus $25 application fee per workshop
The Palm Beach Poetry Festival began in 2004 and has since hosted a wide range of poets at the peak of their profession from all across the United States as well as Israel, Canada, the United Kingdom, Qatar, and Peru. The six-day festival provides a venue for enrichment and collaboration, featuring Q&As, panels, workshops, book signings, readings, and more. Each workshop has a limit of twelve people to facilitate a closer connection to faculty. In addition, the festival offers fellowships: the Langston Hughes Fellowship for one African American poet, CantoMundo Palm Beach Poetry Festival Fellowship for one Latinx poet, and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival Kundiman Fellowship for one Asian American poet.
Time and place: January 20–25, 2020, Old School Square, 51 North Swinton Ave., Delray Beach, FL 33444
Deadlines: November 10, 2019
2020 faculty: Maggie Smith (Issue Twenty-Two contributor), Ilya Kaminsky, Reginald Gibbons (Issue Four contributor), with guest appearances from Joy Harjo and Patricia Smith
Tuition: $950 for 16 hours of workshop, all festival events, and one ticket to the gala plus $25 application fee. $550 for auditors. Housing not included–see list of accommodations nearby.
During the 12-day program of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, writers of all genres experience workshops, craft talks, and an exclusive one-hour meeting with a faculty member to discuss manuscripts. Participants also have the chance to meet with a long list of literary agents, editors, and publishers of publications and presses such as the Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Copper Canyon Press. The conference also offers numerous scholarship opportunities to attend the conference, including the Walter E. Dakin Fellowships and Tennessee Williams Scholarships in addition to over 15 other awards.
Time and place: Summer 2020 TBA, The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee
Past faculty: Tony Earley, Jill McCorkle, Tim O’Brien, Marilyn Nelson, Maurice Manning.
Tuition: $1,800 for contributors, $700 for scholars, and no expenses for fellows.
Now celebrating its twentieth year, Tin House also offers a variety of workshops during the year, including its Summer Workshops, Winter Workshops, and YA Fiction Workshop, as well as one-day craft intensives in Portland, Oregon. The workshops are limited to ten students. All participants have a 15 one-on-one with their workshop faculty member and meetings with agents and Tin House editors. For an additional fee from $800 to $1000, participants can also have access to personalized mentorships with faculty to work on a completed poetry or short story collection, novel, or memoir.
Time and place: July 11-19, 2020. Applications open January 1, 2020, Reed College, Portland, Oregon
Past faculty: Kevin Young, Natalie Diaz, Jim Shepard, Jo Ann Beard.
Tuition: $1600 for tuition and $400 for room and board plus $30 application fee. Scholarships available.
Since 1999, the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation has coupled literary and artistic excellence with social justice; VONA workshops are the only multi-genre workshops exclusively for writers of color in America. In addition to its traditional summer workshops, VONA now offers one-day or two-day programs across the country in places like Los Angeles, New York City, and New Orleans. Each workshop has as little as six participants and as many as 25 and focuses on specific topics in poetry, playwriting, creative nonfiction, fiction, and hybrid forms. Summer workshops cap out at 10 to 12 participants.
Time and place: Varies by workshop
Past and current faculty: Elmaz Abinader, David Mura, Willie Perdomo.
Tuition: $135–$460 plus $10 application fee per workshop.
Featured image: “Dreams” by Deandra Lee from Issue Twenty-Nine.