2023 Afternoon Craft Lectures & Workshops: Fiction

Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Entering the Dream: Adventures in Openings

The first sentence. The first page. The first chapter. It can be a portal, a firework, a portrait, a spell, a voice, a trick. One of the most important parts of any prose work is the opening. In this session we will look at the way a variety of different authors have approached openings in different forms (short story, novel, essay). We will discuss what makes an opening strong or not, as well as its role in shaping the rest of the piece. We will also work on generative techniques for coming up with and/or revising this first contact with the reader. Participants are invited to share their own questions, problems, and experiences in crafting this entry into the world of the piece. Our goals will be to understand strong openings, to come away with practical exercises to spark or develop your own openings, and to answer questions you may have about both.

Getting Unstuck: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

We’ve all been there. Maybe you’re three pages into a story, halfway through a novel manuscript, or three fourths of the way through an essay. You’ve surfed the excitement of your original idea however far (whether it be three sentences, four pages, or five chapters) and now… what? In this session we will look at why and how we get stuck; we will also discuss practical methods for figuring out how to get unstuck and/or where to go next. We will talk about several practical exercises that can be used if you encounter this kind of problem, and strive to answer questions from participants about how this challenge happens for you and how new ways forward may be found.

The Guilty Witness: Understanding Scene

What is a scene that’s always stayed with you? How do you write something like that? Why is it that there are some scenes you will remember forever, and others you forget almost as soon as you’ve read them? Scene is one of the most commonly mentioned things in writing but it is rarely examined except by isolating its individual elements (e.g. dialogue, action, description, narration) one at a time. In this session we will look at examples of scenes that use these individual aspects in concert to create something larger and stranger than the sum of its parts. We will also try to reverse-engineer how other writers have done this and what methods might work for your own project. Participants will leave the session armed with a variety of techniques both in drafting and revision that can be used to take your scenes to another level.

Arna Bontemps Hemenway is the author of Elegy on Kinderklavier (Sarabande Books), winner of the PEN/Hemingway Prize, finalist for the Barnes and Noble Discover Award, and long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Prize. His short fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Best American Short Stories 2015, A Public Space, Ecotone, and The Missouri Review, among other venues. He holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, is currently Associate Professor of English in Creative Writing at Baylor University, and lives in Dallas, where he cares for his two wonderful children. 

Anna Quinn

Your Wily, Elusive Voice

To write an alive, fictional world layered with meaning, texture, imagery and emotion, a tenacious, uninhibited authorial voice is needed. Voice is the scaffolding underneath it all. Yet, for many of us, voice sometimes feels like a wildly uncontrollable thing, a mysterious notion we’re unsure of, shrink from, are even afraid of, and we find ourselves flailing around as if the sun has melted our wings. In this workshop, through discussion and generative exercises, we’ll explore what voice is and isn’t, how to protect it from doubt, and not only stay true to our own energy, but allow it to surge and reverberate into our stories in ways we may never have anticipated.

Blow Your Mind

All writers crave inspiration, yearn to breathe in new ideas, shake things up and swim through new portals of imagination. This generative workshop for both fiction and non-fiction writers will offer intriguing exercises and fresh approaches to loosen your imagination, make it thrill and ripple, open new possibilities, cultivate experimentation and basically, blow your mind. All you need to do is show up with an open and playful intention and explore the extraordinary places that exist within your inventive, original self.

Anna Quinn is the author of The Night Child, (Blackstone) listed as #1 Best Real Psychological Fiction on Goodreads, and Ingram’s 2018 Best Book Club Book. Her second novel, Angeline, (Blackstone) will be released Feb. 7th, 2023. Quinn’s writing has also appeared in Psychology Today, Writer’s Digest, Washington 129 Anthology, and Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19 Anthology. She is the founder of The Writers Workshoppe in Port Townsend, WA., and has thirty years of experience teaching and leading writing workshops across the country. When she isn’t writing, she’s kayaking the Salish Sea or hiking in the Olympic Rainforest.

What to expect:

To learn more about the Port Townsend Writers Conference experience, please click this link to view the PTWC 2023 Catalog.