Workshop News

The following workshops are now full, so registration for these has closed:

  • Non-fiction/Memoir with Kirsten Wasson (Friday 9/20)
  • Fiction with Jane Hamilton (Friday 9/20)
  • Poetry with Bao Phi (Friday 9/20)
  • Memoir with Scott Russell Sanders (Friday 9/20)
  • Fiction with Luis Alberto Urrea (Friday 9/20)
  • Fiction with Rebecca Makkai (Sunday, 9/22)

If you wish to be added to a waiting list in case of possible cancellations, please call the Trueblood Performing Arts Center at 920-847-2528.

Workshop Schedule

THURSDAY, 9.19: Pre-Conference Creative Laboratory 

Our second annual Creative Lab will be free and open to the public. No advance registration necessary. Free-will offering appreciated but not required.

  • 12:00 PM: Bring your own brown-bag lunch, casual meet-and-greet | Trueblood Performing Art Center (TPAC)

  • 1:00 to 3:30 PM: Listen to This: Storytelling as Art and Tradition: Guided workshop with author Paula Carter | TPAC

    • We all do it. Every day, in fact. We tell stories. Your partner asks, “How was your day?” and you tell the story of your coworker’s unsuccessful attempt to fix the copier or how your 5-year-old discovered she loves grasshoppers. It is part of how we make meaning of our days, our lives. Oral storytelling is one of the ways we pass knowledge from generation to generation. It is how we understand where we have come from and where we believe we are going.

      In this Creative Lab, we will explore how to tell a great story. (If you are curious about the style of storytelling, check out The Moth online). We will discuss the difference between telling a true story and writing one. We will do some exercises designed to help you mine your own life for stories and then spend time developing one of your ideas. Finally, we’ll work on performance techniques. By the end, you’ll be on your way to having a story to tell. And hopefully you will tell it! At the Festival’s open mic on Friday evening.

  • 5:30 PM: Dedication of Writers' Walk Plaque and brief reception | Washington Island Farm Museum

FRIDAY, 9.20: "Dedicated to Craft for Readers, Writers, and Creative Expressionists" Workshops and Events

On Friday, our Festival attendees may wish to participate in workshops dedicated to writing craft and literary appreciation.  As a branch of our Festival offerings devoted to writers and readers who wish to practice and evolve their craft, these workshops are offered by our authors and other invited workshop leaders.

Workshops are offered in three sessions: Morning, Early Afternoon, and Late Afternoon. Advanced registration is required. Space is limited, so please register early for best availability! Workshop registration will close end of day Wednesday, September 18. (Individual workshops will close sooner if they fill up sooner.) Please note that you can only register for one workshop per session, and once you have registered, you will not be allowed to switch to a different workshop. (Exceptions were made for those who had signed up for the now rescheduled Makkai workshop.)

There is a separate fee per workshop, but we offer an Islander discount for Washington Island residents. For more details, visit Registration.

Morning Workshops (choose one, registration required):

  • 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM:  Family Tree Talk:  Creating Stories from Generational Passion, Pain and Survival, Non-fiction/Memoir workshop with author Kirsten Wasson | Hotel Washington

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • The act of storytelling is, it's often noted, what makes us human, as well as what sustains our humanity. To perform a story about family is to reveal an intimate understanding of who you are in relation to generational joys, traumas, and absurdities peculiar to your tribe. This workshop will ask you to engage in several short exercises to help develop a piece about how your tribe functions, or doesn't. While the narrative will be, of course, personal, a great story conveys experience in a such a way that it "rings a bell"—creates a universality with the audience, and this resonant "bell ringing" often occurs through imagery. During our time together, we'll be mining the memory for specific images that convey the love, ambivalence, delusion, and mystery that exists within family. Through exercises and discussion, attendees will come away with and/or reframe or fine-tune a pre-existent notion about how to tell a significant family story truly, respectfully, and beautifully, with images that drive at Deep Generational Truth.

  • 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM:  Moving Through Generations, Creative Movement Workshop with writer and choreographer Kai Evans | Hotel Washington Yoga Studio

    • This workshop will present methods to access creative material that resides in each of us in the form of latent memories, sensations, and impulses. What if the body were a living archive of past experiences and patterning, both learned and inherited? Together, we will engage in movement and writing tasks that invite exploration and expression of this latent material. In our investigation, we will employ both verbal and non-verbal modes of perception and production, inviting the opportunity to experience and express the “body archive” in a state where words and movement complement and co-create one another. The following questions will underlie our inquiry: How can the movement of the body help us to access writing material? How can we develop writing material through movement?

Early Afternoon Workshops (choose one, registration required):

  • 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM: Starting with Character, Fiction Workshop with author Jane Hamilton | Hotel Washington

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • There’s a push these days to write novels and poetry from a point of activism. To be sure there is plenty to protest, and more than enough work to do in the real world, but I find there is sometimes a problem in the novels of big ideas and important themes. The characters have been sacrificed; they do not live on the page. (This is hardly a new problem. Virginia Woolf talks about reading the novels written by her contemporaries and how they leave her with a strange feeling of incompleteness; she wonders if the only way to achieve completeness in relation to their novels is to join a society or write a check.) 

      In this workshop we’ll talk about writing character in a way that feels real and true, and also, about the writer’s capacity to take a secret mirth in the people she’s creating. How godly do you want to be, looking down upon your world? Can you be funny and generous at the same time? Is that possible or desirable? We’ll talk about Flannery O’Connor’s idea that the purpose of fiction is to probe the mystery of personality. We'll look at several examples of vivid characters, and do some exercises, in the great enterprise of: What happens if we do . . . this?      

  • 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM: Finding a Voice in Poetry, Poetry Workshop with author Bao Phi | Trueblood Performing Art Center (TPAC)

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • On the page and the stage, one of the most critical aspects of poetry is finding your voice, or voices. We can sometimes be tricked into believing that there's one correct way to write a poem, or one successful way to read a poem out loud. The truth is, every artist's unique decisions is what makes them who they are. This workshop will explore different examples of poetic voice, and will have a short writing and reading exercise in which participants should be ready to share what they have written. 

  • 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM: The Theory and Practice of Trust, Fiction Workshop with author Luis Alberto Urrea | The Red Barn

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • During our time together, we will work toward opening the pathway to collaboration with your writing. You will find that working in partnership with your words -- instead of wrestling with them -- can open unforeseen possibilities in your art. I will share stories and ideas and I will offer you some simple exercises that will unlock story for you. We will focus also on the unseen narrative, the place where all your ghosts reside. Regardless of your genre, please read George Orwell’s A Hanging (full text available online) and bring a copy with you.

Late Afternoon Workshop (registration required):

  • 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM: Telling a Life Story, Memoir Workshop with author Scott Russell Sanders | Fons Boathouse

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • As the name implies, a memoir is a written record that draws on memories—those of the writer as well as those of anyone else the writer might consult. A memoir may vary in length from several volumes to a few dozen pages to a paragraph. If the primary subject of the memoir is the author, it is a form of autobiography; if the primary subject is another person or a group of persons, it is a form of biography. This workshop will offer some writing invitations that are designed to elicit memories, and, as time permits, we will share the results. We’ll also discuss the precautions to take in using memory, the ethics of writing about real people, and a few of the formal options that one might choose in telling a life story.


Due to unavoidable schedule conflicts, Rebecca Makkai has had to reschedule her Friday workshop to Sunday morning, 9/22, from 9:00-11:00 AM. We have sent an email to those affected by the change so that they may contact the TPAC to revise their schedules, if needed. If you have additional questions, please Contact Us for assistance.

SUNDAY, 9.22: Rescheduled Workshop

Sunday Morning Workshop (registration required):

  • 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM: Ending It All, Fiction Workshop with author Rebecca Makkai | The Red Barn

    • This workshop is full, so registration has closed.

    • What do jokes, sex, and fiction all have in common? No matter how good the beginning and middle are, they’re ultimately judged on how things end. So you’ve got your killer first lines, your stunning plot developments, your unforgettable characters . . . But how do you wrap this thing up in a way that honors and elevates the story you’ve poured your heart (and maybe years of your life) into? How can an ending not just tie up the loose ends but actually add meaning to the work? Novelist and short-story writer Rebecca Makkai will talk you through endings that work, endings that are sublime, and endings that fall flat. Whether you’re working on a story, novel or memoir (or even poetry), whether you’re refining the last page or just starting your project, this class will give you your toolkit for a killer ending.

“Intelligent and challenging workshops in an absolutely gorgeous setting.” – Sandra Lindow