2023 Afternoon Craft Lectures & Workshops: Fiction

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. 

Workshops led by Arna Bontemps Hemenway will be shared soon.

Samuel Ligon’s recent serial novel—Miller Cane: A True & Exact History—appeared for a year in Spokane’s weekly newspaper, The Inlander, as well as on Spokane Public Radio. The author of four previous books of fiction, including Wonderland, illustrated by Stephen Knezovich, and Safe in Heaven Dead, Ligon is also co-editor, with Kate Lebo, of Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze. His short fiction has appeared in Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, New England Review, and The Quarterly, among many other places. He teaches at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, and serves as EWU’s Faculty Legislative Liaison in Olympia. He is the former Artistic Director of the Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, the greatest writing conference of all time. 

Workshops led by Samuel Ligon will be shared soon.

Kristen Millares Young is the author of the novel Subduction, named a staff pick by The Paris Review and called “whip-smart” by the Washington Post, “a brilliant debut” by the Seattle Times and “utterly unique and important” by Ms. Magazine. Shortlisted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, Subduction won Nautilus and IPPY awards and was also a finalist for two International Latino Book Awards and Foreword Indies Book of the Year. Her essays, reviews and investigations appear in the Washington Post, the Guardian, The Rumpus, PANK Magazine, and Literary Hub, as well as the anthologies Advanced Creative Nonfiction and Alone Together, which won a Washington State Book Award. A former Hugo House Prose Writer-in-Residence, Kristen was the researcher for the New York Times team that produced “Snow Fall,” which won a Pulitzer Prize. She is the editor of Seismic: Seattle, City of Literature, a 2021 Washington State Book Award finalist. A featured presenter for the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau, she also teaches a personal essay workshop at the University of Washington Continuum College. 

Workshops led by Kristen Millares Young:

The Architecture of the Unsaid 

When we compel readers to think through the choices of our characters, we create empathy with craft. During this generative workshop, you will write in response to a series of timed prompts in the form of questions applied to your protagonist, whether fictional or the “I” of memoir. We will begin with, “What is the hardest thing that has gone unsaid in your life?” From there, I will guide your exploration with questions that help establish the time frame, setting, characters, and context. Finally, I will ask you to consider the various intersecting complicities, whether personal or institutional, which produced that narrative silence. We will go there, but we will not share what we write during this workshop, remembering that we can exercise discretion in revision. 

The Art of Elision 

In this generative workshop, you will learn how to create narrative tension by withholding information through dialogue. Instead, you will rely on setting, image, and syntax to imply emotional landscapes. Along the way, you will map the physical, familial, social, and economic contexts of your characters, knowing that we as authors must understand that which we do not disclose. You will pan for insights like gold in a river by playing with perspective, framing the same scene through various characters.  

On Giving Generative Feedback 

Kindness is the greatest form of rigor. In this workshop, I will show you how to provide constructive comments. We start by naming what a given piece of writing is: its subject, point of view, central inquiry, and genre. Then, just as importantly, we ask ourselves what the writer was trying to do. (Even if the writer is you.) What were her intentions? Rather than leading with critique, we give praise for the strengths we find: the research and craft behind elements like plot, scenes, description, dialogue, and pacing. Only then do we ask questions that allow the writer to consider avenues for thought, research and revision. Finally, we end with praise that provides context and connection: how does the specificity of this writing reveal a larger truth? If that revelation is not yet forthcoming, is there some kind of gesture? Name it, and give relevant reading recommendations. With these actions, you will give better feedback than is present in most MFA programs. Please bring one printed copy of less than five pages of prose which you will share with another workshop participant. Together, we will practice being constructive.