Aspen Summer Words workshops are designed to accommodate both experienced, published writers in addition to promising emerging writers who have yet to publish their work. The majority of Aspen Summer Words writing workshops are determined by a juried admission process. Applicants are asked to submit a sample of their writing, which will be reviewed anonymously by a jury of professional readers. We generally ask for a 10-page manuscript of unpublished work and strongly recommend submitting a short story or beginning of a novel in fiction pieces. Acceptance is based on the strength and promise of the writing sample. More details about the application requirements for 2015 will be available in December 2014.
The listings below, from June 2014, exemplify the caliber of faculty and types of workshops generally offered at Aspen Summer Words.
For this Reading Retreat, Jamie will take readers on a strange, and inspiring journey through the centuries that will include writing by Philip Pullman, Emily Dickinson, Russell Brand, Yehuda Amichai, William Shakespeare, Ralph Ellison, Virginia Woolf, David Eagleman, Joseph Conrad, Malcolm Lowry, Miranda July, Gil Scott-Heron, Michel Faber, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Ernest Hemingway, William Steig…and Pussy Riot. Among the pieces will be a number of unpublished texts. Readings will be distributed to participants one month in advance of the Retreat. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
Jamie Byng is the Managing Director of the Edinburgh based, independent publishing house Canongate Books and has been since 1994 when he was involved in a management buyout of the company. During this time Canongate has grown significantly in size and reputation and has twice been named Publisher of the Year at the British Book Awards (2003 and 2009). Its international, prize-winning list of authors includes Yann Martel, Barack Obama, Ruth Ozeki, Karl Pilkington, Niccolo Ammaniti, Nick Cave, Philip Pullman, Scarlett Thomas, Charles Bukowski, Margaret Atwood, Noel Fielding, Simon Garfield, Ben Fountain, Rebecca Miller and Geoff Dyer, among many others.
In 2011 Byng founded World Book Night, a literacy charity that promotes reading for pleasure with a particular focus on getting books into the hands of those who rarely read. Byng is also a Trustee of the Arts Foundation, sits on the Council for the Publishers Association and has been given honorary doctorates by both the University of Edinburgh and Dundee University.
Byng lives in West London with his wife, Elizabeth Sheinkman, a literary agent at William Morris Endeavour, and their two children.
Our discussions will cover as many aspects of poetry you participants are interested in — everything from titles to stanzas, from audience to line breaks, from tone to surprise. I will encourage you to see each of your poems as an imaginative journey through itself to an unforeseen ending. In addition to a set of meanings, your poems will be viewed as a series of steps (missteps are sometimes better) and maneuvers that carry the reader into territories at once unexpected and inevitable.
Billy Collins is the author of 10 collections of poetry, including the New York Times bestseller Aimless Love (2013). He is also the editor of three anthologies: Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Bird Poems. His poems have been published in a variety of periodicals including The New Yorker, Harper's, and The Atlantic, and he appears regularly in The Best American Poetry. A Guggenheim Fellow and a New York Public Library "Literary Lion," he is a Distinguished Professor at Lehman College, City University of New York, and a Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins College.
This is a workshop to help you write your head off. You’ll actually be writing in class and, however impossible or painful that may sound to you, it will be great—hard work but really fun. I’ll give you prompts, which you can follow or not. Then, in discussing your work, the other writers will be your captive audience, attentive, respectful, honest — the kind of readers every writer needs. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to help you identify what’s unique and exciting in your work, as well as what may be getting in your way. If everything works the way it’s supposed to, you’ll leave Aspen with a fistful of stories started, and the will and inspiration to do the writing you’re meant to do.
Melissa Bank is the author of the best-selling story collections The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot. She received the Nelson Algren Award for short fiction from the Chicago Tribune and holds an M.F.A. from Cornell University. Her work has been translated into 33 languages.Bank has published stories in the Chicago Tribune, Zoetrope, The North American Review, Other Voices, and Ascent. She teaches in the M.F.A. program at Stony Brook Southampton.
Master novelist and short story writer Richard Bausch says: "Do not think, dream. If you think you're thinking when you're writing, then think again; you're working with the dreaming side of your mind, so dream, dream, dream it through." I could not agree more, but how — technically speaking — does one dream fully and honestly with mere words? Come to this workshop, and I'll try to lay this out with a bit of lecture, in-class creative writing exercises, and a constructive critique of your work.
Andre Dubus III is the author of six books, including the New York Times bestsellers: House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days (soon to be a major motion picture) and his memoir, Townie (a #4 New York Times bestseller). His new book, Dirty Love, was published in 2013 and has been listed as a New York Times Notable Book, a 2013 Notable Fiction choice from The Washington Post, and a Kirkus Starred Best Book of 2013. Dubus has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, The National Magazine Award for Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, and he is a 2012 recipient of an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. His books are published in over twenty-five languages, and he is a professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
In the age of tweets, memes, and fun-size candy bars, how do you get a reader to embark on the sustained narrative of a so-called “short” story — or commit to the time-consuming journey a novel entails? You must do more than suspend disbelief; you must overrule the digital enthusiast’s addiction to brevity. The proverbial hook is more important than ever. Though we will spend most of the workshop discussing your stories and novel openings in their entirety, we will also focus on creating strong beginnings and dissect opening pages from published works.
Julia Glass is the author of four novels: And the Dark Sacred Night, The Widower's Tale, The Whole World Over, and Three Junes (winner of the 2002 National Book Award in Fiction). Her third book, I See You Everywhere, a collection of linked stories, won the 2009 SUNY John Gardner Fiction Award. She has also won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Her essays have been widely anthologized, most recently in Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book, edited by Sean Manning, and in Labor Day: Birth Stories for the Twenty-first Century, edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon.
Taking an "if not now, when?" approach to writing fiction, this workshop will get class members thinking about, talking about, and working on the kind of strong, undiluted prose they've always wanted to write. Through daily exercises, close reading of manuscripts, and vigorous discussion, we'll try to figure out ways to be more open and authoritative in fiction and to solve the problems that inevitably come up.
Meg Wolitzer is a New York Times-bestselling author whose ten novels include The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife. The Washington Post called her most recent book, The Interestings, a “sprawling, marvelously inventive novel…ambitious and enormously entertaining.” Her short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Wolitzer is a guest artist in the Princeton Atelier program at Princeton University and teaches in the M.F.A. program at Stony Brook Southampton. Additionally, she has taught in the graduate writing programs at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Columbia University, Skidmore College, the University of Houston, Boston University, and Barnard College.
The memoir is one of the most popular and exciting genres in contemporary literature. But how does one begin to translate personal experience and shape it into a work of art that is accessible to readers whose experiences and concerns may be vastly different from our own? How can we begin to harness our autobiographical impulses and create stories that rival the best fiction and theater? How does one begin to shape the often-amorphous sprawl of memory and contain it in the unified and emotionally stirring form we call a memoir? The workshop will be a forum in which to discuss these and other pertinent questions.
Bernard Cooper has written three memoirs, a novel, and a short story collection. Among others he has received the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Award, an O. Henry Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Known for his razor-sharp wit, The New York Times called Cooper an “honest and keen-eyed” writer. His most recent memoir, The Bill From My Father, received great critical acclaim. Cooper is the 2014 Distinguished Visiting Writer at the University of Iowa and he is a core faculty member in the M.F.A. Writing Program at Bennington College. Cooper also teaches in the Masters of Professional Writing program at USC and at the UCLA Writers’ Program.
"What kind of writer am I? Am I an essayist or a memoirist (and what's the difference)? Am I a critic? A reporter? A humorist? Some combination of all of these?" Most writers ask themselves these questions early in their careers and the answers sometimes wind up surprising them. This course will encourage the student to experiment with different styles and subjects with an aim toward finding a voice that is uniquely his own and that will help separate him from the pack. In other words, this is a course on how to "sound like myself."
Equal parts reporter, storyteller, and satirist, Meghan Daum is the author of Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a personal chronicle of her obsessive fascination with houses. She has written a novel, The Quality of Life Report, and an essay collection, My Misspent Youth. Since 2005, Daum has written a column for The Los Angeles Times, which regularly appears on the op-ed page. She has taught nonfiction writing at the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference, Columbia University, and the California Institute for the Arts.
This is a rare workshop designed for writers who have a completed a novel and want to engage in an intensive critique with their peers. In this workshop students will receive personal guidance and industry advice on how to polish their manuscript into a publishable novel. Applicants for the Novel Editing workshop MUST have completed a novel to be eligible for acceptance into this workshop. Up to 150 pages of your novel will be shared during the workshop process.
Kathleen Anderson is an award-winning editor and agent who has been working in the publishing business since 1979. She was a founding partner of Anderson Grinberg Literary Management, Inc., and then formed her own firm in 2006, Anderson Literary Management LLC in New York. She specializes in adult and young adult literary and commercial fiction, narrative nonfiction, American and European history, literary journalism, nature and travel writing, memoir, and biography. Among her many clients are Emma Donoghue, who was short-listed for the Booker Prize for the best-selling novel Room; Rebecca Walker, who will be publishing her first novel, ADÉ, next year; and Melissa Harris-Perry, who hosts her own weekend show on MSNBC and who published her first trade book, Race Talk, in 2013.
Are the best novels and short stories born out of inspiration or hard labor? If the answer is both, then in what proportion? In this intensive workshop, students will use writing exercises to explore the basic elements of fiction: character, point of view, distance, time, voice, plot, dialogue, and setting. We will discuss the idea of “muse” and the art of finding one’s subject. In addition, the workshop will analyze “model” stories by Alice Munro, William Trevor, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, and others.
Mary Beth Keane is the author of The Walking People (2009) and Fever (2013). In 2011, Keane was named one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35.” Her short fiction has appeared in various newspapers and journals including The Chicago Tribune, The Antioch Review, The Baltimore Review, New York Stories, and The Recorder. She attended Barnard College and the University of Virginia, where she received an M.F.A. in Fiction. Since graduate school, she has taught in the writing programs at James Madison University and Temple University.