The Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

a 501 (c) 3 Nonprofit Organization

      telephone: 954-242-2903       email: info@mvicw.com

 

 

Many of the Vineyard photos courtesy of Vineyard Colors www.vineyardcolors.com

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SCHEDULE OVERVIEW    

Sunday

5:00-7:00 pm: Welcome Reception and Faculty Reading (Alexander Weinstein): All participants are invited to meet visiting

authors and poets at The Cottagers Corner (57 Pequot Ave, Oak Bluffs, MA).  Settle in for an intimate reading from 6-7 pm.

Monday 

10:00-12:30 pm: Opening Seminar: The Writer & The Inner Critic: All Attendees

2:00-4:00 pm: Panel Discussion: Creativity & Play: All Attendees

6:00-7:00 pm: Evening Readings

Tuesday 

10:00-12:00 pm: Fiction Seminar I

10:00-12:00 pm: Poetry Seminar I

2:00-4:00 pm: Fiction Seminar II

2:00-4:00 pm: Poetry Seminar II

6:00-7:00 pm: Evening Readings

Wednesday

10:00-1:00 & 2:00-5:00 pm: One-on-one Editing Sessions

 

Thursday

10:00-12:00 pm: Fiction Seminar III

10:00-12:00 pm: Poetry Seminar III

2:00-4:00 pm: Fiction Seminar IV

2:00-4:00 pm: Poetry Seminar IV

5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Celebration Readings: Participants will share their work with other attendees, visiting authors and poets, followed by a group picnic (weather permitting).

Friday

10:00-12:00 pm: Publishing & Editing Seminar: All Attendees

12:00-4:00 pm: One-on-one Editing Sessions

5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Celebration Readings: Participants will share their work with other attendees, visiting authors and poets,

and afterwards we will celebrate together with a dinner party to celebrate all attendees.

8:00-10:00 pm: Closing Celebration Dinner

 WEEK ONE 

OPENING & CLOSING SEMINARS

 

Opening Seminar: The Writer & The Inner Critic (Alexander Weinstein): As we grow as writers, both professionally and artistically, it's vital to continue to approach the page with a sense of play, curiosity, and wonder. We will discuss various ways to keep this sense of play alive in our writing. In turn we will look at the benefits of literary experiments, the art of taking risks, and explore the "big projects" we've been longing to tackle and how to bring them to the page successfully. This is a class for writers of all genres.

Panel Discussion: Creativity & Play (All Faculty)This panel discussion will address the methods that faculty members have utilized to create successful professions as writers. We will talk about the pitfalls inherent in the process of writing, as well as how to nurture the writing life on a daily basis and find joy in the art.

Publishing & Editing Seminar (John T. Howard): For writers, publication can be as exciting as it is anxiety-inducing.  How do you know your work is ready to send out?  How do you begin the submission process, and how do become friends with rejection?  In this class, we will explore final stage editing techniques, publication strategies, and writing past rejection.

POETRY SEMINARS (WEEK ONE)

 

Seminar I: Deep Imagery–Then and Now (Christopher Citro): In this class we’ll look at poems from the originators of deep imagery (Robert Bly & James Wright), poems from the poets who inspired them (Tomas Tranströmer, Georg Trakl & César Vallejo – in translation), and contemporary poets who regularly use vibrant, psychologically revealing imagery to great effect (Aracelis Girmay, Traci Brimhall, Kaveh Akbar). Readings from the class will take us "Nearly to Milan" to witness "suddenly a small bridge, / And water kneeling in the moonlight" (Robert Bly). Prompts drawn from our readings will help us explore this energizing imagery in our own work. 

Seminar II: The Lyric Essay (Christopher Citro): About this popular hybrid essay form, Deborah Tall and John D'Agata write, [Lyric essays] forsake narrative line, discursive logic, and the art of persuasion in favor of idiosyncratic meditation…. The lyric essay partakes of the poem in its density and shapeliness, its distillation of ideas and musicality of language. It partakes of the essay in its weight, in its overt desire to engage with facts, melding its allegiance to the actual with its passion for imaginative form." In this class we'll explore this experimental genre that combines the nonfiction nature of a personal essay with the lyric possibilities of poetry. We'll try out some exercises and prompts to get us along the exciting and playful path to creating our own lyric essay.

 

Seminar III: Poetry and Play–A Tactile Approach to the Poetry Process (Samantha Tetangco): Tim Brown, in his 2008 TED Talk, speaks about the importance of play for the creative process.  As he points out, children are more quickly and easily open to play, which makes them more open to new possibilities. We adults, on the other hand, become stuck in self-editing and are often hampered by fears of criticism and embarrassment about our work.  In this generative workshop, we will seek to reignite our relationship to play through a series of tactile exercises that will reconnect us to a more child-like poetic self.

 

Seminar IV:  Ekphrastic Poetry–Art Inspiring Art (Samantha Tetangco): In ancient Greece, the work “ekphrastic” meant “description,” and an ekphrastic poem referred to the vivid descriptions of a scene.  Today, ekphrastic poems more commonly refer to poems that respond to a work of art. These responses may include vivid descriptions but usually seek to expand upon or amplify the artwork’s meaning through conversation, interpretation, confrontation, or a host of other means.  In this workshop, we will explore the ways art can inspire our poetry, both by writing about and in response to art, and by writing and responding to the art created by of our peers.

FICTION SEMINARS (WEEK ONE)

 

Seminar I: Small Favors–Using Dialogue and Characterization to Write Compelling Fiction (Robert James Russell): Humans are complex machines, each of us with our own tics and likes and beliefs and perceptions of the world around us. Each of us with our own thread of backstory to be deftly shared. These minor, but telling, details–small favors, a writing instructor once called them–often elevate a piece of writing, whether it be flash fiction or a novel. These are the things we walk away remembering from the work we cherish. This class will explore two specific types of details that writers often struggle with the most–dialog and characterization shared through such small favors–in order to create fuller fiction, both short and long. Working to improve these small favors, we will give our characters life through their particulars.

Seminar II: Road Wounds–Using Personal Memories to Paint Figurative Scars (Robert James Russell): Our personal histories are full of bumps and bruises, both literal and figurative. Often what makes our fiction truly remarkable is not the attention to detail or the characters themselves, but the physicality of the pieces—that they take inspiration from places the authors have been to in real life and can describe elegantly. It is through the physical spaces in these stories that we can achieve truly great moments. Like Alexander Chee writes, these road wounds are created by sorrow; these are scars to show where we’ve come from. What similarities in framework—like imagery, plot, details, and characters—do fiction and nonfiction share, and what are the different ways they approach them? This class will explore the crafts of nonfiction and fiction writing, how we blur the lines of both, and how we can extrapolate physical scenes and senses from our memories and personal experiences to produce more compelling pieces of fiction.

Seminar III: Putting People In Their Place–Crafting Settings Through Character (Randi Beck Ocena)We often discuss character and setting as two separate craft elements, but this workshop will focus on the ways in which people and places interact with, influence, and impose upon one another and how to make that happen on the page, sentence by sentence. We will discuss settings from many angles—from geographical, cultural and historical to local and personal—and learn how to turn flat fictional settings into places that feel more real, memorable and encompassing, not through flowery descriptions of the landscape (well, maybe a little of that), but especially by virtue of the characters we place there and their relationship to it and to each other.

 

Seminar IV: What We Say and How We Say It–Dramatic Approaches to Revising Dialogue (Randi Beck Ocena)Whether you love writing dialogue or despise it, this workshop is for you. This class will be entirely interactive, probably helpful, and (unless things go entirely haywire) quite a lot of fun. In a dramatic fashion, we will work on common issues that come up in writing dialogue–integrating pauses and action, heightening drama, dealing with dialects, etc.–and test out a number of solutions for them. Students will also have a chance to see dialogue from their own stories played out in the classroom and work collaboratively to improve that dialogue. Participation is voluntary, so bring several copies of a scene along (1-3 pages, double-spaced) if you want to give it a try!

 WEEK TWO 
 EVENING READINGS 

OPENING & CLOSING SEMINARS

 

Opening Seminar: Serious Play (Alexander Weinstein): As we grow as writers, both professionally and artistically, it's vital to continue to approach the page with a sense of play, curiosity, and wonder. We will discuss various ways to keep this sense of play alive in our writing. In turn we will look at the benefits of literary experiments, the art of taking risks, and explore the "big projects" we've been longing to tackle and how to bring them to the page successfully. This is a class for writers of all genres.

Panel Discussion: Creativity & Play (All Faculty)This panel discussion will address the methods that faculty members have utilized to create successful professions as writers. We will talk about the pitfalls inherent in the process of writing, as well as how to nurture the writing life on a daily basis and find joy in the art.

Publishing & Editing Seminar (John T. Howard): For writers, publication can be as exciting as it is anxiety-inducing.  How do you know your work is ready to send out?  How do you begin the submission process, and how do become friends with rejection?  In this class, we will explore final stage editing techniques, publication strategies, and writing past rejection.

POETRY SEMINARS (WEEK TWO)

 

Seminar I: On Persona–Exploring Other Voices Respectfully (Ruth Awad): One great tool for poets is the ability to use empathy to imagine lives other than our own. Persona is one way we can delve deeper into an individual experience and elevate it beyond the personal. But how do we respectfully engage with and write from other points of view? This course will examine when to inhabit other voices and how to avoid common pitfalls in persona poetry.

 

Seminar II: The Volta Unmoored (Ruth Awad): The volta is perhaps one of the truest hallmarks of the sonnet, but its utility extends well beyond this form. This course will explore how to use the volta as a technique across poetic forms. We will look to contemporary poets like Terrance Hayes, Ada Limón, Hayan Charara, and more for inspiration.

 

Seminar III: Poetry as Translation (Amy Meng): Translation is a sibling practice to poetry, and extremely instructive in making us better writers. When translating, we pay better attention to language because we are continually asked to think about what could be and forced to choose what will be. Translation creates heightened awareness of our responsibilities as writers as we grapple with how we relay a narrative and what details we include or leave out. In this class we’ll engage in exercises that think broadly about what translation means – including English to English translations – and how translation can hone our craft.

 

Seminar IV: The Unexpected Image (Amy Meng): This class will focus on creating a body of imagery that breaks out of the writer’s typical aesthetic. We will use a series of exercises that help the writer play, experiment, and push past the boundaries of what they are used to writing. As Robert Frost said: "All metaphor breaks down somewhere. That is the beauty of it. It is touch and go with the metaphor, and until you have lived with it long enough you don’t know when it is going. You don’t know how much you can get out of it and when it will cease to yield. It is a very living thing. It is as life itself."

FICTION SEMINARS (WEEK TWO)

 

Seminar I: Speech and Silence–The Art of Dialogue (Samrat Upadhyay)How your characters speak and what they say are crucial components of your fiction. Dialogue is integrally tied to character, but it can also be a powerful tool to add tension to scenes, to advance the plot, to provide subtext, and to accentuate themes. Perhaps even more important, what your characters don’t say–what is suggested in the silences and the gaps and the empty spaces–can speak volumes for your fiction. In this session, through examples and exercises, we will learn to how craft dialogue that will come alive on the page.

 

Seminar II: Let’s Get Political–How to Mix Fiction and Politics (Samrat Upadhyay)In some literary circles “politics” is treated like a dirty word. Politics gets a bad rap because political literature can often come across as didactic, pedantic, creating images of characters on soapboxes raging against the machine. Who, in their right minds, wants to read that? But done the right way, political literature can be subtle and nuanced, filled with great characterization and other ingredients we relish in powerful fiction, without sacrificing urgent themes regarding the human condition. In this session, we will explore craft considerations in writing fiction that’s overtly (or even covertly) political.

 

Seminar III: Building Strong Connective Tissue–Beyond Plot, Character, Setting, and Theme (Phong Nguyen): To craft a lasting story, a writer has to do more than check all the boxes. Does it have a compelling character? Check. Does it have a plot with a strong cause and effect? Check. That kind of editorial checklist will lead to a story that is merely competent. Why is this character in this particular predicament? How does an internal conflict manifest in an external action/setting? Those are the kind of questions that will lead you toward a story that will stick with readers. In this course we will look at the connections between plot and character, between character and setting, and between setting and theme, etc., and strengthen the connective tissue between the various aspects of fiction.

 

Seminar IV: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised–Unchaining Your Writing from TV Tropes (Phong Nguyen): All of us live in

a mediated culture. We grew up on sitcoms and dramas and thrillers and 30-second advertisements. When asked to draw upon our lives and experiences for inspiration, many times we default to what we have heard/seen/experienced through TV: serial killers, alien abductions, police procedurals, etc. There's nothing inherently wrong with this subject matter, but if you choose to write about something completely outside

of your realm of your experience, you need to research it thoroughly in order to do it well. Otherwise you are merely at the mercy of what other (often bad) writers have done. This class will focus on how to reconnect with the real, even when you are writing about situations that are extreme, fantastical, or otherworldly.

 

 

WEEK ONE:

 

Sunday 7:00-8:00 pm: Faculty Reading with Alexander Weinstein

 

Monday 6:00-7:00 pm: Faculty Reading with Randi Beck and Samantha Tetangco

 

Tuesday 6:00-7:00 pm: Faculty Reading with forthcoming faculty and Christopher Citro

 

Thursday 5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Reading I

 

Friday 5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Reading II

 

 

WEEK TWO: 

 

Sunday 7:00-8:00 pm: Faculty Reading with Alexander Weinstein

 

Monday 6:00-7:00 pm: Faculty Reading with Ruth Awad and Amy Meng.

 

Tuesday 6:00-7:00 pm: Faculty Reading with Samrat Upadhyay and Phong Nguyen.

 

Thursday 5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Reading I

 

Friday 5:00-7:00 pm: Attendee Reading II