MVICW 2021 Schedule

The 2021 MVICW Virtual Summer Writers’ Conference offers over 30 live seminars in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, panel discussions, late-night open mics, and courses on publishing & editing. Our program encourages cross-genre exploration and attendees have the option of taking seminars in all genres. All seminars are recorded and accessible to attendees for 6 months after the conference.

Scroll to see full schedule or select a date to jump ahead. All times are ET.

 
 
  • Readings
    Sunday, June 6th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Welcome Reading: An Evening of Love

    Alexander Weinstein & Leonard A. Slade Jr.

    Join Director Alexander Weinstein and MVICW Poet Fellow Dr. Leonard A. Slade Jr. for the opening ceremonies of the 2021 MVICW Summer Writers’ Conference.  Alexander Weinstein will be opening the program with a reading from his short story collection, Universal Love, followed by Dr. Slade who will be reading from his recent poetry collection, Selected Poems for Freedom, Peace, and Love.

  • All Genres
    Monday, June 7th

    10:00-12:00pm

    The Writer, The Slacker & The Inner Critic

    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.

  • Poetry
    Monday, June 7th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Prose Poem & the Very Short Poem

    Keith Taylor 

    When French writers started creating things they called "prose poems" they were looking for a way to get the lyric intensity of poetry into short prose fragments. At the same time, American writers were writing stories that kept getting shorter yet still used the techniques of fiction. At some point the genres began blurring. Some of us have found that blurry uncertain place to be very productive! We’ll look at examples, try to find distinctions, and create our own new work in these forms.

  • Fiction
    Monday, June 7th

    2:00-4:00pm

    The Place Where You Come Alive

    Joshunda Sanders

    Maybe it’s nostalgia. Maybe you have always just fantasized about a particular place. Maybe your characters just like to haunt you from a place that you happen to truly love. No matter your story, or the story with your characters, setting can be as important to hone in your fiction work as character or plot. How can we best use our senses and obsession with place to help our fiction come alive? What are the places we have traveled to that remain in our hearts? What are the details of these places from which we can draw inspiration? In this class, we will read selections from fiction by authors like Edward P. Jones (The Known World) and Ling Ma (Severance) that include beautiful descriptions of place, and we will work on developing our own sense of place in our writing.

  • CNF 

    Monday, June 7th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Bend Me, Shape Me: Genre-Bending Workshop

    Elizabeth Schmuhl

    In this class, we'll explore different texts that step outside of conventional genres and open up possibilities for us as poets, storytellers, and essayists for experimentation. We'll create new genres, and share our work with each other in order to further expand our idea of what is possible, and what we're capable of making.

  • Readings
    Monday, June 7th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Evening Readings

    Join us for an intimate reading of new and published works by our Visiting Writers

  • Open Mics
    Monday, June 7th

    8:00-10:00pm

    Late Night Lounges

    Hosted by TBA

    Virtual Late-Night Lounges are hosted by previous MVICW alumni.  Attendees can sign up in advance to read their work and spend an evening sharing their writing with one another. Late Night Lounges are open to all, and attendees are welcome to participate as audience or as performers.

  • Poetry
    Tuesday, June 8th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Loss & Love

    Britton Shurley

    These two big themes, like birth and death, are parts of life we all must experience. No wonder they’re the subject of countless works of art. In this class, we’ll examine how other writers have used these themes in many different ways to create moving, memorable poems. We’ll remember our loves and losses, learning how our own unique experiences can be used to write the universal.

  • Fiction 
    Tuesday, June 8th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Writing Desire, or Lack Thereof

    Tia Clark

    We’re taught our characters must "want and want intensely," but what does that mean for the character who is depressed, lives on the sidelines, or struggles to recognize their own desires? This class will dive into the elements of character development, and how to bring your characters to life through description of their inner worlds as well as their outer--transforming intangible desires to tangible needs that pop on the page. We will explore the many layers of desire and how to use it as a tool to drive character and plot.

  • CNF
    Tuesday, June 8th

    10:00-12:00pm

    The Lyric Essay: An Introduction

    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 as writers 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.

  • Poetry
    Tuesday, June 8th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Ode to Joy

    Britton Shurley

    The "news" most days is bad, and our eyes are drawn to disaster. But as writers we can’t forget beauty, those bright moments of joy so often dulled by the dark. In this session, we’ll focus on finding beauty in unexpected places, exploring how to catch more clearly this flash and dance more freely on the page.

  • Fiction
    Tuesday, June 8th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Writing the Tarot

    Tia Clark

    The Major Arcana of traditional tarot decks tells us of a Fool’s Journey, from stepping out into a new world, to reaching satisfaction and completion. While used for divination and self-reflection, tarot cards can also be a useful tool for writing. Is your character being too much of a Hermit for anything exciting to happen? Does your plot need a Chariot to get it from point A to point B? In this session, we will use the tarot for in-class exercises to jump start our writing, and explore how it can be used outside of the class to facilitate the writing process.

  • CNF
    Tuesday, June 8th

    2:00-4:00pm

    The New Shell: An Intro to the Hermit Crab Essay

    Christopher Citro

    Like the feisty crustaceans after which they are named, hermit crab essays, in the words of Brenda Miller, "appropriate other forms of writing as an outer covering, to protect their soft, vulnerable underbelly." In this class we'll read samples of recent hermit crab essays—a hybrid form of the lyric essay which uses the shell of an existing kind of writing, such as a recipe or questionnaire. We'll gain an acquaintance with this popular new form of the personal essay, then use prompts drawn from our readings to inspire us in our own writing journey.

  • Readings
    Tuesday, June 8th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Evening Readings

    Phong Nguyen and Wendy Rawlings

    Join us for an intimate reading of new and published works by our Visiting Writers.

  • Open Mics
    Tuesday, June 8th

    8:00-10:00pm

    Late Night Lounges

    Hosted by TBA

    Virtual Late-Night Lounges are hosted by previous MVICW alumni.  Attendees can sign up in advance to read their work and spend an evening sharing their writing with one another. Late Night Lounges are open to all, and attendees are welcome to participate as audience or as performers.

  • Poetry
    Wednesday, June 9th

    10:00-12:00pm

    The Masks We Want

    Adrian Matejka

    Persona comes from the Latin word for the masks ancient Greek actors used to exaggerate their features during performances. Over the last 30 years, a number of poets have adopted linguistic as a way to create new and unexpected narratives. Persona relies exclusively on voice and we will experiment with some of the different language components that go into developing a unique and surprising mask on the page. 

  • Fiction
    Wednesday, June 9th

    10:00-12:00pm

    The Second Person POV

    Wendy Rawlings

    Do you ever wonder why the second person is the most underutilized point of view in writing? Have you thought about using it and decided it’s too gimmicky, too awkward, or too confusing? Who is the narrator talking to: The audience? Her/him/themself? Another character in the piece of writing? We will take a look at some uses of the second person in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and then you’ll try out some second person experiments of your own.

  • CNF
    Wednesday, June 9th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Nature, Environmental Justice & Climate Change

    Keith Taylor

    Our recent understandings of climate change and environmental degradations have made our relationship with the natural world more urgent. At the same time, we’ve begun to understand the injustice that forces the poor around the world to be the first people to live with this destruction. As we explore the terrain of nature writing in our own work, we’ll look at examples that continue to put us in awe before the natural world, and others that demand understanding and make a call for action.

  • Poetry
    Wednesday, June 9th

    2:00-4:00pm

    This is Not a Love Poem Exactly

    Adrian Matejka

    Every poem is a kind of love poem whether want it to be or not. Sometimes love is the poem’s engine like in an ode. Other times, the poem pushes back to protect something that is loved—an idea, a person, a butterfly or mountain. In this class, we won't be writing love poems exactly, but we will experiment with some of the ways we can use the idea of love as the foundation, foil, or driver of poetry. 

  • Fiction
    Wednesday, June 9th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Making the Unbelievable Fabulist

    Wendy Rawlings

    The fiction writer George Saunders turns Twinkies, Ding Dongs and a bag of Doritos into sentient beings. In one of Aimee Bender’s short stories, a man buys a tiny man at a pet store and brings him home to live in a little cage. In James Hannaham’s novel, Delicious Foods, one of the narrators is a crack pipe. How do these writers manage to pull off outlandish feats of fiction? How does inventing the unbelievable in our fiction allow us to get at truths that might not be visible to our readers if we stayed within the realm of realism? And how do we make our inventions, well, believable? We’ll discuss some examples and then try making some of our outlandish ideas believable on the page. Risk takers welcome.

  • CNF
    Wednesday, June 9th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Salvage the Bones: How to Self-Edit and Revise

    Joshunda Sanders

    Prose and essay writing tend to incorporate the personal more than other genres, which makes it particularly painful and vulnerable to slash and burn in editing or revision. It is easy to get discouraged and throw away a piece–or just put it in a drawer!–when it feels too hard for whatever reason to revise or edit. For this class, writers will bring a piece that has them stuck or that they might feel sick of so that we can work on seeing it with fresh eyes. This will include writing about the intention behind the piece and its inception, generating a new idea that might be more fresh to revive the idea, the creation of a reverse outline and other tips for revision to salvage the bones of your idea.

  • Readings
    Wednesday, June 9th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Evening Readings

    Christopher Citro & Matthew Gavin Frank

    Join us for an intimate reading of new and published works by our Visiting Writers.

  • Open Mics
    Wednesday, June 9th

    8:00-10:00pm

    Late Night Lounges

    Hosted by TBA

    Virtual Late-Night Lounges are hosted by previous MVICW alumni.  Attendees can sign up in advance to read their work and spend an evening sharing their writing with one another. Late Night Lounges are open to all, and attendees are welcome to participate as audience or as performers.

  • Poetry
    Thursday, June 10th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Who's on First? The Persona Poem at Play

    Amelia Martens

    We play with persona every day, but what voices or stories might come to us, if we play with persona on the page? The persona poem has a long history of offering insight and access, of moving the spotlight of history over lesser-known figures, or altering an accepted point of view. Our ability to imagine alter-perspectives requires cultivation, and presents a limitless door to deeper understanding of experience.  Using a variety of sources for inspiration, we’ll create, alter, or imagine poems from other voices.

  • Fiction
    Thursday, June 10th

    10:00-12:00pm

    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 craft talk 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.

  • CNF
    Thursday, June 10th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Creative Nonfiction Writing Seminar

    Matthew Gavin Frank

    Join Matthew Gavin Frank for a Creative Nonfiction Writing Seminar.

  • Poetry
    Thursday, June 10th

    2:00-4:00pm

    The Pliable Prose Poem

    Amelia Martens

    Subversive, surreal, fable, postcard, polaroid, box: the prose poem can be illusive and magically accessible. Instead of trying to pin down this hybrid form, we will examine several manifestations to expand our notion of what is possible in a prose poem. We’ll play with appearance, discover potential source materials, and generate our own poems that bridge the ordinary and the extraordinary.

  • Fiction
    Thursday, June 10th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Building Character Through Using Hypotheticals

    Phong Nguyen

    Every story is a hypothetical. What if a group of children raised by wolves were forced into a finishing school? (Karen Russell's "St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves") What if a dead aunt came back and tried to fix the mistakes she made in her life by haunting her nieces and nephews? (George Saunders's "Sea Oak") But on the way to writing a successful story, we need to better know our characters. For the purposes of characterization, better than the use of "driver's license details" ("Ken was six feet tall with blue eyes and weighed 180 pounds") or "character sheet details" ("Dinah was skilled at archery, was fluent in Spanish, and enjoyed quilting") is putting your characters through a series of hypotheticals that reveal who they are. In this session, we will be posing questions of our characters-in-development and answering them through various writing exercises.

  • CNF
    Thursday, June 10th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Creative Nonfiction Seminar

    Matthew Gavin Frank

    Join Matthew Gavin Frank for a Creative Nonfiction Writing Seminar.

  • Readings
    Thursday, June 10th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Evening Readings

    Tia Clark & Britton Shurley

    Join us for an intimate reading of new and published works by our Visiting Writers.

  • Open Mics
    Thursday, June 10th

    8:00-10:00pm

    Late Night Lounges

    Hosted by TBA

    Virtual Late-Night Lounges are hosted by previous MVICW alumni.  Attendees can sign up in advance to read their work and spend an evening sharing their writing with one another. Late Night Lounges are open to all, and attendees are welcome to participate as audience or as performers.

  • Publishing
    Friday, June 11th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Editing, Revision & Lit Journal Publication

    Elizabeth Schmuhl

    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
    Friday, June 11th

    10:00-12:00pm

    The Poetry Book as Architecture

    Christopher Citro

    In this class we'll discuss the challenging, joyful process of putting together a poetry book manuscript for publication: things to think about before you begin, tips to help you gather your poems together, strategies for ordering poems, suggestions for how to listen to your book talk back to you as it comes to life. We'll explore how to tinker with your finished manuscript as it continues to grow, and we'll share strategies to help your book reach the ultimate goal of publication. Your instructor will share with you in detail his journey of putting together his two published poetry books. We'll enjoy a hands-on exercise about ordering poems for a book, and we'll end with a Q&A for questions about manuscript structuring and navigating the complex process of poetry book contests and other steps along the path to your book finding its home!

  • Publishing 
    Friday, June 11th

    10:00-12:00pm

    Agents, The Book Deal & Beyond

    Alexander Weinstein

    You’ve made the final edits on your novel, memoir, or short story collection—so now what?  How do you begin the process of seeking an agent, what kinds of questions should you be asking, and what about the next stage: finding a publisher that will be a good home for your work? This course is designed for fiction and creative nonfiction writers who are ready to seek publication, have questions about seeking film/translation for their work, or are navigating post-publication life. It will also lay out the terrain of what happens beyond the Book Deal, how to assess the long-term health of your agent relationship, and how to create a nourishing writing practice as you write your second/third/fourth books.

  • Panel Discussion
    Friday, June 11th

    2:00-4:00pm

    The Writer's Life

     

    This panel discussion will address the joys and dilemmas of writing, along with the techniques the visiting writers use to pursue their profession. We will talk about what methods have worked for us in establishing a regular writing practice and how to remain inspired in one’s daily life, followed by a Q&A with attendees.

  • Panel Discussion
    Friday, June 11th

    2:00-4:00pm

    Taking the MVICW Magic With You

     

    In this panel, MVICW visiting writers and past attendees talk about how they make the time for their writing with family, jobs, and life post-conference. Writers will share their methods for successfully finishing the projects they were working on during MVICW and how to nurture the writing life long after the conference ends.

  • Readings
    Friday, June 11th

    6:00-7:00pm

    Evening Readings

    Adrian Matejka & Keith Taylor

    Join us for an intimate reading of new and published works by our Visiting Writers.

  • Open Mics
    Friday, June 11th

    8:00-10:00pm

    Late Night Lounges

    Hosted by TBA

    Virtual Late-Night Lounges are hosted by previous MVICW alumni.  Attendees can sign up in advance to read their work and spend an evening sharing their writing with one another. Late Night Lounges are open to all, and attendees are welcome to participate as audience or as performers.

  • Saturday & Sunday
    By Appointment

    Manuscript Sessions

    Register for the conference with a 45-minute one-on-one virtual meeting to focus on your poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction. Learn more and register for a manuscript session here!

Monday, June 7th

Tuesday, June 8th

 
 

Wednesday, June 9th

 
 

Thursday, June 10th

Friday, June 11th

 

Sat & Sun, June 12-13th

Sunday, June 6th

This was truly one of the best writing conferences I've ever attended—a perfect balance of creative rigor and creative leisure. The feeling of fellowship among faculty and students was infectious, electric even.

—  Matthew G. Frank, Nonfiction Faculty

The Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

a 501 (c) 3 Nonprofit Organization​

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Submittable

Many of the Vineyard photos courtesy of Vineyard Colors