2017 Gathering of Writers Schedule and Class Descriptions


 9:00-9:25      Check-in & Coffee

9:30-10:30     Introduction- Barbara Shoup
                      Keynote Speech by Brian Leung
                      "Raw, Rare, Medium, or Well-done: When can You Stick a Fork in It?
                      (vegetarian version)"

10:45-12:00    Break Out Session 1:

Adrian Matejka

The Masks We Want: Persona Poetry & Its Contemporary Possibilities

Persona poetry is one of the earliest styles of poetry. The word persona comes from the Latin term for the masks ancient Greek actors used to exaggerate their features during performances. Over the last 30 years, a number of poets—including Rita Dove, Andrew Hudgins, Natasha Trethewey, and Kevin Young among many others—have adopted linguistic masks or personae as a way to create new and complicated narratives outside of their personal experiences.

Some of these poets have fabricated persona to explore the intricacies of the contemporary life. Others have adopted the masks of musicians, politicians, soldiers and spelling bee champions who are actual historical figures so the poems become both tools for artistic exploration and also opportunities to share history.

This class will consider the possibilities and implications of contemporary persona poetry. How do we negotiate those spaces that aren’t from our experience? What kinds of opportunities and permissions does writing in persona offer us? What kind of figures are good for persona? By answering these questions, we are better positioned to take advantage of one of literature’s most venerable and wide-ranging styles. 

To prepare for this class, I ask that you come up with two figures whose perspective might be interesting for you to write from: one figure from history who is no longer alive such as Abraham Lincoln, Amelia Earhart, Marilyn Monroe; and one fictitious character such as Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Foghorn Leghorn, etc. Additionally, I ask that you do a small amount of research about your potential speakers so you have a general idea of who they are, where they are from, and what motivates them. We'll do the rest of the generative and exploratory work in class.

Jean Harper

Imagination in Creative Nonfiction

Beyond facts and memory, what can we as writers do in nonfiction? This workshop will investigate the roles of imagination, speculation, fabrication, and even outright lies in writing creative nonfiction. Workshop participants will generate new material and receive an extensive reading list and examples.

Sarah Gerkensmeyer

Headed for the Finish Line? Make a Huge Mess

One of the hardest lessons for any writer may be how to tolerate confusion, uncertainty, and a healthy dose of messiness during the writing process. In this workshop we will discuss the secret power of messes in our early drafts. We will consider ways to tolerate those messes and even let them take control and guide us to a final draft. Participants will complete a few writing exercises that inspire imaginative and inventive messiness in a variety of ways, from creative research to forays into the surreal and the fantastic.


12:00-12:45 p.m.    Lunch  (Open Mic sign-up)

12:45- 2:00 p.m.     Break Out Session 2:

Brian Brodeur

Hearing Voices: Dramatic Monologue, Persona, & the Lyric “I”


Join us for a lively consideration of how these often competing modes complicate what we think about the slippery first-person pronoun that led Czeslaw Milosz to claim: “The purpose of poetry is to remind us / how difficult it is to remain just one person.” 


Michael McColly

Travel Writing Far and Near

This workshop invites writers, travelers, walkers to see that travel writing begins with learning to see the infinitely interesting, wild, and surprising world that exists outside our own door. As we discuss the basic components of what makes good travel writing, we’ll also experiment with how to develop that eye for detail, wonder, and adventure in writing about the world right before us.

Students need to be prepared to write and walk a block or so around the area.

Andrew Black

“The play’s the thing….”  Hamlet, William Shakespeare

For writers who are interested in the experience of seeing how people respond to their work, it is hard to beat playwriting as an outlet. It is hard to beat the thrill of a first production, where the author gets to see the work performed live in front of an audience. If the play is well crafted, the audience will gasp in surprise, laugh in delight and may even shed a tear or two.

But how to craft a play well? In this interactive session, participants will create a premise which could be the basis for a short play. Participants will create a protagonist, pinpoint an inciting incident and create rising action. Participants will know seven key elements of narrative structure and understand how they are used to draw an audience into a story and keep them engaged from start to finish. Participants will also select an image for their own work and determine how it might be used to help the audience “see” the play’s text or the theme.


2:15-3:30 p.m.     Final Session


George Kalamaras

Being a Poet: Seeing the World with the Eyes of a Child

In this session, we will discuss the importance of deep attention in writing poetry: learning what to look at and how. After presenting a few inspirational poems from poets who have cultivated the art of “seeing,” Kalamaras will lead participants in writing activities designed to help participants “see” and, in seeing, transform these observations into metaphorical language. Participants will learn to create images and write poems, with strategies for further poetry writing on their own.


Mary Ann Cain

When Facts Get in the Way: Balancing Imagination, Memory, and Research


This workshop will first provide some context, a map, if you will, for questions that creative nonfiction raises about sticking to the facts versus letting imagination prevail. Often it’s not that clear cut of a choice. How might we deal with that apparent dilemma, both as individuals and as members of society? After providing a map of this territory (including how I’ve cut my own trails through it), we will work through a series of exercises designed to generate ideas and first drafts for creative nonfiction that goes beyond conventional wisdom and into the deeper truths of our perception.


Greg Schwipps

Making Place Matter


Eudora Welty, in her essay, "Place in Fiction," claims: "Place is one of the lesser angels that watch over the racing hand of fiction ... while others, like character, plot, symbolic meaning, and so on, are doing a good deal of wing-beating about her chair, and feeling, who in my eyes carries the crown, soars highest of them all and rightly relegates place into the shade. Nevertheless, it is this lowlier angel that concerns us here."

And, we, too, will concern ourselves with place in this workshop. How does one utilize setting to heighten conflict, reveal character, drive plot?

Discover ways to keep your story's setting from being little more than an afterthought. Used correctly, a strong sense of place can make any story more dramatic, vivid and memorable.


3:45-5:00 p.m.    Open Mic



© Indiana Writers Center 2012