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The Writer & The Inner Critic with Alexander Weinstein (All Genres)

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.

The Writer's Life: A Panel Discussion

with Adrian Matejka, Wendy Rawlings, Elizabeth Schmuhl, Keith Taylor, and Alexander Weinstein

​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.


I. Prose Poem and the Very Short (with 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.

II. Nature, Environmental Justice, and Climate Change (with Keith Taylor)

Since we’re here in New England, a region that first defined its literary life in relation to the natural world, it seems right to take a look at the nature writing. 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.


III. The Masks We Want (with 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. 


IV. This is Not a Love Poem Exactly (with 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. 


I. Bringing Voices to Life - On the Uses of Dialogue  (with John T. Howard)

In vivid works of fiction, characters come alive when the content of their speech is rich and real. But it isn't simply the quality of what is said that makes for strong dialogue; it's also the ways in which things are said—how one modulates the voice; how hands and arms can be used to convey thoughts and feelings; how the speaker's stances and actions (or inactions) can contradict what's said; how tense exchanges are often wracked by awkward silences. Add to these tools of dramatization the necessary power of subtext, and we have what's needed for crafting life-giving dialogue for the characters in our stories. In this seminar, we will dissect examples and put what we discuss into practice, with creative exercises designed to hone our ability to write dialogue that is rich, real, and necessary.

II. Bend Me, Shape Me - Genre-Bending Workshop (with 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.


III. The Second Person POV in Three Genres (with 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.


IV. Making the Unbelievable Fabulist (with 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. 


Publishing and Editing: A Seminar and Forum (with 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.


Sunday 5:00-6:00 pm: Opening Reception & Welcome 

Sunday 6:00-7:00 pm: Alexander Weinstein

Monday 6:00-7:00 pm Elizabeth Schmuhl & Keith Taylor

Tuesday 6:00-7:00 pm: Wendy Rawlings & Adrian Matejka



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

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

Friday 7:00-9:00 pm: Closing Celebration Dinner

The Martha's Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing

a 501 (c) 3 Nonprofit Organization

      telephone: 954-242-2903       email:



Many of the Vineyard photos courtesy of Vineyard Colors

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