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Registration for our 2024 Workshop opens January 2, 2024

About Writers' Conference

July 14-20, 2024

Since 1974, Centrum’s writing programs have brought together aspiring and master artists to ignite creativity, find and provide mentorship, and build community. A week of generative, craft-centered workshops, lectures, and intensives in an inclusive environment is designed to de-privilege the literary art form, and serve the wealth of diverse voices from across our nation.

Take in craft lectures, open-mics, and readings, open for both in-person and online participation. Faculty offer lectures on literary writing and craft-focused workshops, all of which are recorded and available for multiple viewings by participants for up to one month post-conference. The experience provides a multitude of inspirational opportunities and moments of quiet reflection as well as a way to make friends who understand and support the writer’s journey.

Centrum writing workshops at Fort Worden

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Writers' Conference

Writing Conference Facts

  • Established in 1974
  • Workshops, lectures, open-mics, and readings
  • Sessions: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, visual storytelling

Welcome to The Writing Conference


In-person participants register for a Morning Intensive in poetry, fiction or nonfiction with a faculty member of their choice. Meeting for two and a half hours each morning over the course of five days, these workshops are designed for writers who wish to ignite their creativity and challenge themselves.


Mirror and Lamp: A Poetry Workshop – Kim Addonizio
In this workshop, we’ll collectively look at your drafts from the perspective of both readers and writers, reflecting back what’s working for us, and what’s problematic. We’ll also turn our spotlight on the possibilities inherent in the work, looking for where and how you can dig deeper. Not a generative workshop (though we will generate lots of ideas for revision and development); come prepared with drafts of three to four poems you want intense feedback on. We’ll discuss things like focus, imagery, clarity, vulnerability, wildness, revision, and whatever other craft and process concerns are raised by your individual work.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

Conjunctions of Past and Present – Tess Gallagher
Poetry is the last freedom. You can start anywhere and go anywhere in your imagination which is vested to a large degree in your memory, your past, and also your present. How you engage these very elements is also the job of the imagination. Our main question is: how do we get to immediacy in the poem using the past and present. For example, the present often carries the strongest imprint on the reader; therefore a past telling can sometimes live with more vitality in the present by using present tense verbs. Our class explores, through writing prompts from a variety of contemporary and past writers, how negotiations of past and present can best enter the consciousness of your reader with impact. During the remainder of the classes we will work at revising our generated poems to sharpen and shape them to full dimensionality.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

Turning your Blues into a Muse: How to Create Art When Your World is Burning – Derrick Harriell
This workshop is interested in considering how we might use writing as a catharsis for the often-traumatic world around us. Recently, we’ve been called on to endure political, social, and viral pandemic traumas, live an ever-shifting reality, and then imagine how to create art through it all. In exploring the work of both canonical and contemporary Blues poets, we’ll contemplate the ways in which our creative work can thrive when we find ourselves at these various crossroads. More than reaffirming “tortured artist” troupes, we’ll meditate on how writing can be an act of healing, and subsequently an act of love.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

From Confirmations to Affirmations: Writing From The Body With The Haibun – Anastacia-Reneé
In this workshop we unabashedly confront and discuss negative self-talk along with pop culture’s incessant negative chatter and impact on our minds and bodies. We study the format of the Haibun and use it as a conduit to create three Body Haibunpoems to counteract, confront, or decolonize the negative messages we’ve received over time. We use Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals as our daily generative writing prompt, and collectively, we create a powerful manifesto for our present and future bodies of 2023 and beyond.
Each class participant receives a small self-care kit prior to the first day of class.
Digital text or handouts are provided to workshop participants, but having a copy of The Cancer Journals before class begins is preferred.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.


Visionary Text – Ravi Howard
Through the study of images and patterns, we consider what it means to be a visual storyteller. Texts such as Susan Sontag’s anthology of images and grammar of seeing and Toni Morrison’s process of moving from picture to meaning to text are also our guides. Other lessons in photography come from Teju Cole, Eudora Welty, Dawoud Bey, Carrie Mae Weems, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and others. The goal of the workshop is to find the language that best fits each writer’s visual intentions. What should we see? What is the relationship between the visual story and the interior? Through our readings, writing assignments, and conversations, we will examine how single images are developed and combined to create a complete narrative.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

Flash Fiction Intensive – Sam Ligon
In the anthology Sudden Fiction, Robert Kelly refers to short-short fiction as “the insidious, sudden, alarming, stabbing, tantalizing, annihilating form… neither poetic prose nor prosy verse, but the energy and clarity typical of prose coincident in the scope and rhythm of the poem.” In the same anthology, Joyce Carol Oates writes that, “Very short fictions are nearly always experimental, exquisitely calibrated, reminiscent of Frost’s definition of a poem—a structure of words that consumes itself as it unfolds, like ice melting on a stove.” Very short fictions tend to rely on surprise, a hard turn at the end. They’re often elliptical or fragmented, shaped by tone and shadow. In this workshop, we explore compression and limitation, evocation and implication, formal constraint and what might arise from line pressure and narrative restriction. We’ll immerse ourselves in a fever of flash fiction reading and writing, composing and workshopping three short-short stories—an intensive in the annihilating form.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

Prose Style: Storied Obsessions - Kristen Millares Young

What happens when we stop hiding, especially from ourselves, while we write? In this prose workshop, you will go there. Alongside reading excerpts from Valeria Luiselli, Ocean Vuong, Anthony Veasno So, Terese Mailhot (Seabird Island Band), Audre Lorde, Savannah Johnston (Choctaw), Gabriela Garcia and Gloria Anzaldúa, we'll use a generative workshop model to help you better pursue and convey the preoccupations that compel you to write. After reading the finest works of my favorite novelists, short story writers, and memoirists, you will give rein to your obsessions. Throughout the week, during class and on your own time, you will complete a series of research, writing, revision and feedback sessions, guided by my timed prompts and Jesmyn Ward’s belief that drafting is “a continuous thing.” Workshopping in small breakout groups, you will learn how to provide constructive comments to yourself and others. Our workshop will culminate in an in-class reading of new pages you’ve produced during our time together. 

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.


You Are Everything Connected – EJ Colen
Collage has been called the single most important innovation in art of the 20th century. In this workshop-based class, we will explore the visual and literary roots of this innovation and examine the ways in which lyric essay/literary collage can use experimentation, unconventional movements, thematic links, imagistic echoes, and in-between spaces to cultivate meaning. We experiment with ways to grow your writing by examining known and unknown factors, making connections both obvious and unexpected, and creating or expanding an essay to include the wide world around you. In this workshop, both generative and process-focused, we spend the week discussing several short examples of innovative craft and working towards completion of one short personal essay. You are encouraged to bring a work in progress (two-five pages) that you want to shake up. This generative workshop is appropriate for writers at all levels, working within, between, or across any genre.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

An Intimate Cartography – CMarie Fuhrman
This class is for the curious nonfiction/memoir writer who wishes to go on an intimate journey of memory, place, and meaning. You can expect to see writing in color, texture, ridgelines, and roads. You will engage curiosity and create new work through a series of exercises meant to find meaning in the places, things, and beings that your compass rose swings toward, that have been waiting for you to awaken them in your memory’s geography. You will find that story, your story, is rich, complex, and waiting for you.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.

Writing From Your Life – Shawn Vestal
All writing emerges from our own experience – even the most fictionalized narratives and most stylized inventions are built upon the foundation of inescapable, personal, lived experience. In this workshop, we are going to discuss, and practice, how to draw material from the well of our own lives and shape it into essay and memoir. Each class is framed around a theme (The Journey, Home, Unearthing Meaning, Placing Yourself in the Wider World, etc.), and is divided between in-class writing, and reading and evaluating published essays. Our in-class writing is built on the use of timed prompts that are suggestive, not proscriptive – including photography, objects and sound – to help you identify and visualize experiences from your own life, begin writing about those experiences, and discuss ways to expand that in-class writing after you leave.

This workshop is offered in-person only and runs from 9-11:30am PST.


Afternoon workshops, craft lectures, open-mics and readings are open for both in-person AND online participation. Faculty offer lectures on literary writing and craft-focused workshops, all of which are recorded and available for multiple viewings by participants for up to one month post-conference.


Entering the Dream: Adventures in Openings - Arna Bontemps Hemenway

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 - Arna Bontemps Hemenway

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 - Arna Bontemps Hemenway

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.

Your Wily, Elusive Voice – Anna Quinn

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 – Anna Quinn

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 offers 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.


Images conjure memories and emotions, but who do you tell? How do you frame the moment, the conversation between a piece of art and an unknown person? Recreating a gallery experience, you will respond with letters to loved or hated ones. We will enjoy art from Kehinde Wiley to Georgia O'Keefe, Jacob Lawrence, Annie Liebowitz and more to generate our epistolary essays. Our work will be grounded in literary examples from James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, E.M. Cioran and my ekphrastic commissions for work at the Seattle Art Museum, NW African Museum, MOHAI and the Henry Art Gallery.



MindF*ck – Melissa Febos

Desire drives any story worth telling. One of the most notoriously difficult forms of desire to write is the sexual. As Audre Lorde wrote, “The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, the plasticized sensation.” To write scenes that remove sex from patriarchal structures means to (re)place them in the context of their inhabiting corporeal bodies and realities, to engage topics of identity, gender, family, politics, history, and, yes, the nature of love and longing. That is, writing about sex and sexuality is an exploration of our humanity. It is a craft issue. It is a radical and necessary practice for the writer interested in changing their world. In this class, we will practice changing our world and our minds by reading and writing about the erotic.

Nonfiction Forms Lab – Melissa Febos

Conventional essay forms offer us familiar containers in which to pour our content. And essays are traditionally driven by content. It is a formula that works. The problem with formula, and the familiar, is that it lulls the imagination and protects the psyche. But what happens when we lead with structure? What happens to our content when it meets an unfamiliar container? Sometimes, by disrupting the familiar forms that narrative takes, we can find a truer story. In this generative seminar, we will examine short works by contemporary masters and generate work using forms from diverse sources such as playlists, bestiaries, instruction manuals, and letters.

The Stories that Guide Us – Sasha LaPointe

In search of resilience, turn to story. Sometimes our own stories are heavy with grief and trauma; where can we look to for strength? This workshop will explore research and memoir, mythologies and personal narrative. We will focus on the art of weaving research into personal narrative, and what it means to look beyond our own experiences in search of resilience. We will look at the braided form, write together using several prompts and share and discuss our creative work.

Hybrid Moments – Sasha LaPointe

We live in a time that challenges the binary and explores intersection and identity. In this class we will radicalize our approach to the personal narrative. What happens when we intertwine poetry and personal memoir? How do our stories of self become more realized when we break the constructs of traditional personal essay?
Have you ever wanted to experiment with form and narrative? This class will be the space to explore fusions. We will write lyric essays, explore the braided form, and learn how to weave multiple ideas together like strands and produce hybrid essays that celebrate both personal story and poetry.
In our workshop, we will have writing prompts meant to generate these kinds of pieces. We will read and discuss successful examples of lyric essays. We will engage in fun and experimental writing exercises and we’ll share our stories with one another.

The Landscape of Memory – Sasha LaPointe

The places we most often return to in our writing are the places we know. These places carry weight. As Native writers there is often an expectation to only write our traditional homelands. These places of course can be important but sometimes we’ve been removed from these places, sometimes these places are heavy with memory, with traumas both lived and inherited. What happens when we begin to map our places according to moments and memory? Places of origin. Haunted Places. Places of joy or growth. What happens when we make a cartography of the heart rather than the land? It’s a privilege to remain connected to our places of origin in the face of settler/colonialism. What happens when we invent our own? What is your place of origin? Where did something begin for you? This is our starting point.
In this workshop we will map out important memories, with attention to place and setting. The land that surrounds us as we move through some of our most impactful experiences deserves space on the page. We will experiment with writing exercises and share our work together.

Like Dancing to Architecture: Using the Visual Arts to Generate New Material – Sebastian Matthews

Why not dance to architecture? For isn’t dance an art of movement and choreography—bodies in space—and architecture the study of static form existing in and altering its environment? Couldn’t a dancer choose to dance, say, in the courtyard of a castle or on a wharf? One art calls to the other; one artist pays homage to, collaborates with, another’s work. George Steiner dubs this “enacted criticism.” I see it as a desire to create hybrid forms. In this 90-minute craft workshop, we explore the ways in which paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture inspire, collaborate with, and complement our writing process. We start by examining both ekphrastic and hybrid works by writers such as Claudia Rankine, Geoff Dyer, Larry Levis, Yusef Komunyakaa, Teju Cole, W.G. Sebald, Sally Mann, Ross Gay, Terry Tempest Williams, and Michael Ondaatje. We then try our hand at a pair of exercises that engage these techniques.

Points of Entry: On Collage & Collage Technique – Sebastian Matthews

Collage technique, like its progenitor Surrealism, is becoming ubiquitous in popular culture. Just look around and you will see collage moves everywhere—magazines, book covers, Facebook ads, fashion, movies and television. One could argue that collage has become one of the major aesthetic forces in art and design. This phenomenon holds equally true in literature. In this 90-minute craft workshop, we first look at the work of collagists Ray Johnson, Hannah Hoch, Lorna Simpson, Jean Lacy, Man Ray, and Kurt Schwitters, before turning to examples of collage technique in the work of contemporary poets and writers Vievee Francis, Sarah Manguso, David Shields, Michael Ondaatje, Dinty Moore, Renata Adler, Dana Levin, and Maggie Nelson. We will discuss ways to apply collage technique in our own work and do a group exercise that highlights the power and flexibility of collage.

Space is the Place: Utilizing Cinematic Technique in Your Writing – Sebastian Matthews

It’s almost taboo to say that creative writers are influenced by movies. Supposed to be the other way around, right? Movies as bad company. However, writers have for a long time embraced the attributes of classic cinema—close-ups, fades and cutaways, white-outs, deep focus photography, and mise en scene. In this 90-minute craft workshop, we will study aspects of cinematic technique used by great directors—Kurosawa, Welles, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Campion, and Krzysztof—before turning to the work of writers who apply similar techniques in their prose, including James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Melissa Febos, A. Van Jordan, and Paul Yoon.
We will discuss ways to bring these techniques to bear in the revision process then begin a two-part exercise: “writing the tracking shot.”


Unmaking the Unpoetic - Quenton Baker

Whether it’s language, format, content/subject matter, etc., there is an “acceptable” range of poetic material that we often feel “allowed” to work within. Of course, there is nothing wrong with staying in that range but there are ways, if one is interested, to push into a new field, to broaden the range of acceptable poetic language.

Probably the most common way to make the unpoetic poetic is to write about something that poetry hasn’t touched yet. Before poets wrote about/with/inspired by jazz, jazz was considered unpoetic. Before poets starting writing about social media, cell phones, the internet, etc., those topics–and the language associated with them–were considered outside of poetic language and construction. Neruda’s odes are a good example of this. Did anyone consider socks as poetic material before “Ode to My Socks” or large dead fish as valid elegiac subjects before “Ode to a Large Tuna in the Market”? Who knows. Probably not, though.

In this workshop, we will read and discuss mentor texts from Neruda, Marwa Helal, Will Alexander and others in order to examine what it looks like when the unpoetic is altered. Participants will also work on a series of generative exercises meant to exhume what they are passionate about but have left out of their poems because it seems ill-fitting or out of place. We will give ourselves any permission we need to step outside of any notion of what “counts” as a poem and see where it takes us.

Theft as Practice - Quenton Baker

One of the foundational aspects of any poetic practice is poetic lineage. Who inspires you? Who makes your work possible? Who changes/shifts/expands your sense of what is possible in a poem? Whose work is yours in correspondence with? None of us write in a vacuum; none of us came to our poetic proclivities fully formed. We owe debts to the poets whose work shaped our perspectives and tastes.

It’s important that we not only know where we fit in a lineage, but that we also know how the poems that hold us enthralled weave their spell. One of the best ways to figure that out is to steal. To imitate. It’s how anyone learns a craft, from blacksmiths to ballet dancers and poets are no different. The poets who grab you, whose work is affective in the best ways, are a path into your own work. Reverse engineering exactly how a poet arrives at a certain effect can have profound implications on what’s possible within your own writing. Figuring out how an image, or set of images, functions, how a sonic landscape is being created, how a line break reflects intentionality, etc.; all of these things hold keys for us to unlock another hidden room in our poetic practice.

In this workshop, we will look at poems that have “stolen” (in the kindest way) and the originals they are using as a base. We will also go through a series of exercises with the goal of arriving at a draft of a poem that uses another as its starting point. The goal is for us to really chase what is affective, what speaks to us, what draws us in. We will diagnose exactly what

those aspects are, how the poet accomplishes it, and how you’d like to both incorporate it into a poem of your own and expand on it some way.

The Value of Repetition - Quenton Baker

Poems function on an economy of tension and release, of anticipation and payoff, surprise and expectation. There are many ways to engage in the building of tension and the offering of release but one of the best is through repetition. Whether it’s anaphora, epistrophe, or the repetition of lines, stanza structures, or other formal elements, repetition, when used well, channels all of its incantatory powers to produce wonderful effects.

One of my favorite poetic maxims is: make it strange. Repetition is one of the best pathways into the strange, the surreal, the dislocating, but it’s also a way into tenderness, rage, grief, care, because it is a fantastic way to manage and play off of the reader’s expectation. Because repetition is hitting on sound, sight, and sense simultaneously, when it’s skillfully placed, its draw is almost impossible to resist. Of course, even when there is no sense, in the ways we would expect, the heavy sonic presence of effective repetition has the ability to make a kind of sense, a sonic/rhythmic sense that opens up the field of possibility within a poem.

The difficulty with repetition is that it absolutely must be done well. The line between repetition and repetitive is one we never want to cross, and it’s intentionality and surprise that keep us on the proper side. Repetition that isn’t seen as a deliberate author choice becomes distracting, and the best way to sidestep that problem is to think of it as an organizing, structural principle for your poem.

In this workshop, we will read mentor texts from Fred Moten, Patricia Smith, Agha Shahid Ali and more. We will use a series of generative exercises to explore the different ways that repetition can be used as an organizing principle with the goal of arriving at least one draft of a poem, if not more.

In Media Res, Beginning a Poem - Alice Derry

As in fiction, a poem begins at the moment of greatest emotional load, often even at the end of what we are drafting. A poem is not a riddle with a surprise ending. Most likely, that ending is where it begins. If you know the ending of your poem before you write, that is the clue for where it begins. From that moment, the poem reaches out into the unknown and leads the writer (and the reader) somewhere they have never been before. We’ll look at some poems with great beginnings. If you want to bring a draft poem or poems, you can try out different beginnings and see where you go. Or begin a poem with one of the great first lines we’ll be looking at.

Ellen Bryant Voigt: The Art of Syntax - Alice Derry

We’ll explore some of the ideas Ellen Bryant Voigt presents in her slim volume, what she calls “rhythm of thought, rhythm of song.” In free verse, syntax, line break, free meter and phrase create a poem’s rich tension and rhythm. “This structure―this architecture―is the essential drama of the poem’s composition,” she argues.” Using prompts I provide, we’ll draft a poem and think about its syntax.

Finding Our Way Through the Poem - Rena Priest

Sometimes, this means getting from the top to the bottom of the poem—answering questions like, How do you begin a poem? How do you come up with a title? How do you know when the poem is done? You know, the basics. Other times, finding our way through the poem means something greater. It means using the poem as a compass—a figurative GPS that helps us navigate the tangled thoroughfares of our lives and find our way back to the places we want to return to again and again. In this offering, we’ll talk about the practice of writing poetry—what it means in our lives, why we do it, and how we can hone our skills.

Snapshots of the Essential - Rena Priest

“…all / the stuff they’ve always talked about / still makes a poem a surprise!”—Frank O’Hara

In this information-laden world, it’s easy to document, file, and forget the greatest marvels of our lives. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a poem is a technology that records the human spirit. In this workshop, we’ll read and discuss poems that preserve a moment or capture the essence of a person or place so that whenever we encounter it, even hundreds of years later or for the hundredth time, it always feels fresh and alive—surprising. We’ll also respond to a series of generative writing prompts.

Music and Identity in Poetry - Rena Priest

One of my favorite lines of poetry is by Mark Strand, who writes: “Any idea of yourself must include a body surrounding a song.” (“A Suite of Appearances III”) Embracing this idea makes for an exquisite sense of identity and an excellent place to start a poem. In this workshop, we’ll talk about the music of our human language and how to harness it in our poetry. We’ll talk about how to control pace and tone, as well as how to use silence and jarring juxtapositions for emphasis. We’ll also discuss voice as identity and respond to generative writing prompt

The Dead Poem Society - Gary Copeland Lily

It’s about resurrecting them, that’s right.  You know those dead poems I’m talking about. We all have them. Perhaps you have triaged them as needing life support, but those ghost poems keep nagging at you. Join Gary Copeland Lilley at a workshop about revision, and a re-visioning of the poem from the central images and essential details. Become the poem-whisperer that you need to be. Check out the crafting skills that will sharpen images, enhance the rhythm and musicality, and doing it all without blowing up your original draft. Absolutely true, this ain’t snake-oil, this is putting a heartbeat into the poem using those words that you’ve already written. Yes, you can make your dead poems come alive.

Historical Friends - Laura Read

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, obviously has Amelia Earhart, Alexandra Teague, author of Or What We’ll Call Desire has early twentieth century model, Audrey Munson, and Natasha Tretheway has Native Guard, a black regiment from the American Civil War. In this workshop, we’ll look at some poems by these authors that feature figures from history whose stories help the speakers better tell their own. Then we’ll make a connection with a “historical friend” who in some way belongs to us and write several poem drafts to and about these friends. While of course you may bring your own Historical Friend with you, some Historical Friends will be provided.

No One Puts Baby in a Corner - Laura Read

But you might put her in a poem! In this workshop, we’ll study contemporary poets who incorporate popular culture in their poems, including Morgan Parker, Diane Seuss, Tracy K. Smith, and Victoria Chang. We’ll discuss the personal and political reasons these poets refer to the popular culture icons they do, and what these references add to their poems. We will then identify personal touchstones from our own connections to popular culture and use those in response to different prompts, inspired by the poems we read and discuss.

Envelopes of Air - Laura Read

In 2018, Ada Limon and Natalie Diaz wrote letter poems to each other in a project they called “Envelopes of Air.” In this workshop, we'll discuss the long epistolary tradition in poetry, two of the poems from this particular project, and several of Rachel Mennies’ epistolary poems from her 2021 collection, The Naomi Letters. We’ll study the craft moves each of these poets makes as they address their listeners, the effect having an intimate listener has on the poems, and the way the time and place in which the poems/letters are composed add another layer to the poems. Then we’ll write several epistolary poems of our own.

Writing Program Faculty

Photo of Kim  Addonizio

Kim  Addonizio


Kim Addonizio is the author of seven poetry collections, two novels, two story collections, and two books on writing poetry: The Poet’s Companion (with Dorianne Laux) and Ordinary Genius.

Photo of Quenton Baker

Quenton Baker


Quenton Baker is a poet, educator, and Cave Canem fellow. Their current focus is black interiority and the afterlife of slavery. Their work has appeared in The Offing, Jubilat, Vinyl, The Rumpus  and elsewhere.

Photo of Arna Bontemps Hemenway

Arna Bontemps Hemenway


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.

Photo of Elizabeth Colen

Elizabeth Colen


EJ Colen is a PNW-based educator, writer, and editor interested in long-form poetry, the lyric essay, literary and visual collage, and research-based approaches to storytelling and memoir.

Photo of Gary Copeland Lilley

Gary Copeland Lilley

Artistic Curator, Writers Conference

Gary is the author of eight books of poetry, the most recent being The Bushman’s Medicine Show, from Lost Horse Press (2017), and a chapbook, The Hog Killing, from Blue Horse Press (2018). He earned his MFA from the Warren Wilson College Program for Creative Writers. Lilley is a veteran of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear submarine force.…

Photo of Alice Derry

Alice Derry


Alice Derry is the author of five volumes of poetry, most recently Hunger (MoonPath 2018) along with three chapbooks, including translations of poems by Rainer Rilke. 

Photo of Melissa Febos

Melissa Febos


Melissa Febos is the author of the memoir Whip Smart; and three essay collections: Abandon Me, a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist and Publishing Triangle Award finalist; Girlhood, a national bestseller; and Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative.

Photo of CMarie Fuhrman

CMarie Fuhrman


CMarie Fuhrman is the author of Camped Beneath the Dam: Poems (Floodgate 2020) and co-editor of Native Voices: Indigenous Poetry, Craft, and Conversations (Tupelo 2019).

Photo of Tess Gallagher

Tess Gallagher


Tess Gallagher’s eleventh volume of poetry, Is, Is Not, was published May 2019 by Graywolf Press.  Midnight Lantern: New and Selected Poems, also from Graywolf, is the most comprehensive offering of her poems to date.

Photo of Derrick Harriell

Derrick Harriell


Derrick Harriell is the Ottilie Schillig Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.

Photo of Ravi Howard

Ravi Howard


Ravi Howard is the author of two novels, Like, Trees, Walking and Driving the King (HarperCollins). In addition to being selected as a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, Like, Trees, Walking won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

Photo of Jourdan Imani Keith

Jourdan Imani Keith


Jourdan Imani Keith is Seattle’s 2019- 2022 Civic Poet.  Featured in Forbes and on NPR, her Orion Magazine essays, Desegregating Wilderness and At Risk appear in the Best American Science and Nature Writing Anthology, as well as text books.

Photo of Sasha LaPointe

Sasha LaPointe


Sasha LaPointe is from the Upper Skagit and Nooksack Indian Tribe. Native to the Pacific Northwest, she draws inspiration from her coastal heritage as well as her life in the city.

Photo of Sam Ligon

Sam Ligon


Sam Ligon’s most recent novel — Miller Cane: A True & Exact History — was serialized for a year in Spokane’s weekly newspaper, The Inlander, as well as on Spokane Public Radio.

Photo of Sebastian Matthews

Sebastian Matthews


Sebastian Matthews’ latest books are a memoir in essays, Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State (Red Hen Press), and a hybrid collection of poetry and prose, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision (Red Hen Press), an Independent Publisher’s Book Award winner.

Photo of Kristen Millares Young

Kristen Millares Young


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.

Photo of Rena Priest

Rena Priest


Rena Priest is a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She is the incumbent Washington State Poet Laureate and Maxine Cushing Gray Distinguished Writing Fellow. Priest is also the recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award and fellowships from Indigenous Nations Poets and the Vadon Foundation.

Photo of Anna Quinn

Anna Quinn


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.

Photo of Laura Read

Laura Read


Laura Read is the author of But She Is Also Jane, forthcoming from University of Massachusetts Press in 2023, Dresses from the Old Country (BOA, 2018), Instructions for My Mother’s Funeral (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2012), and The Chewbacca on Hollywood Boulevard Reminds Me of You (Floating Bridge Press, 2011).

Photo of Anastacia Reneé

Anastacia Reneé


Anastacia Reneé is an award-winning cross-genre writer, educator, interdisciplinary artist, TEDX speaker and podcaster.

Photo of Shawn Vestal

Shawn Vestal


Shawn Vestal’s debut novel, Daredevils, was published in spring 2016 by Penguin Press. His collection of short stories, Godforsaken Idaho, published by New Harvest in April 2013, was named the winner of the PEN/​Robert W. Bingham Prize.

Centrum has a variety of ways to be able to attend our workshops even if you’re on a budget. If you need financial assistance, Centrum has a robust scholarship program awarded on a first-come, first-served; and as-needed basis.


  • Morning Intensive: $950 ($500 deposit to hold your place, $200 of which is non-refundable)
  • Afternoon Workshops only: $550
  • Online only: $250

Room & Board Options:

  • Room & board: $1,000
  • Room only: $650

Meal Plans:

  • Meals only: $350
  • Your meal ticket is good for three meals per day.

Apply online as you register. Please note that except in rare cases, scholarships are available for tuition only. Centrum requires a $50 deposit of scholarship applicants, which is fully refundable before May 15, 2023 if you are unable to attend. If you are interested in volunteering, or a work trade position, please contact George Marie at gmarie@centrum (dot) org.

Cancellation/Refund Policy
Full payment is due by May 15, 2023, 2023. If your full payment is not made by May 15, 2023, your registration will be canceled; $200 of your deposit is nonrefundable.

If you have purchased a meal plan, meals are served at Fort Worden Commons. The first meal is dinner on Sunday, July 16; the last meal is breakfast on Sunday, July 23.

Writers Conference shuttle schedule:
Arrive – Sunday, July 16, 2023, pick-up at SeaTac, 2:30pm, Pacific Time.
Depart – Sunday, July 23, 2023, depart Centrum at Port Townsend, 9am, Pacific Time.

If we haven’t answered all of the questions you may have, please contact George Marie at 360-385-3102, x131, or gmarie@centrum (dot) org.

Find more answers - Centrum FAQs

Here is how you’ll spend your time, depending upon your desired tuition:

Sunday, July 16
4–5:15pm – Check-in, Centrum office
5:15–7pm – Dinner
7pm – Orientation

Daily Schedule
Morning Intensives for in-person registrants
These workshops occur on campus at Fort Worden State Park and do not have a hybrid or online component.

Afternoon Craft Lectures
Craft lectures occur on campus at Fort Worden State Park and are also broadcast to an online audience. Craft lectures are recorded and maintained for viewing for all participants for up to four weeks post-event, after which the recording is deleted from our archives.

Afternoon Workshops
Afternoon workshops occur on campus at Fort Worden State Park and are also broadcast to an online audience. Afternoon workshops are recorded and maintained for viewing for all participants for up to 4 weeks post the event, after which the recording will be deleted from our archives.

PT Faculty Reading followed by Q&A
All faculty readings at the PTWC are free and open to the public. We encourage all participants to come to the readings and to invite anyone they think might enjoy it. Readings occur on campus at Fort Worden State Park and are also live-streamed on the Centrum website.

If you can’t be here in person, we’ve become accustomed to coming to you online. Or maybe you just want to try us out before you commit to an in-person intensive. For whatever reason, we’re committed to making your online experience at Centrum just as wonderful as if you traveled all the way to Port Townsend.

Tuition covers access to the afternoon craft lectures, afternoon workshops, and faculty readings, all of which are available to view for one month after the conference. After that, they will be deleted from the Centrum archives.

Watch this space for course materials.

Thank you for joining us virtually; we hope to see you in-person someday!

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More Creative Programs

Centrum offers a variety of creative programs for artists of all ages,
experience the creative spirit.

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Public Artist Talk: Courtney Desiree Morris
Oct 12, 2023 5:30pmArt
Viano String Quartet
Oct 29, 2023 2:00pmCentrum 50, Chamber Music, Free, Performance

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