Writing Workshops

All workshops take place in the Old Alabama Town Loeb Center at 301 S. Columbus Street.

Fill out the form below to register for workshops, and be sure to click the Submit Form button at the bottom of the page. Each workshop is limited to 40 participants and space is reserved on a first come, first served basis.

POETRY with Neil Shepard (9:00-9:55 a.m.)

Join the author of Selected Poems (2018) and Hominid Up (2015), among many other works, for the book festival’s first-ever poetry workshop. The discussion will look at several poems by well-known contemporary poets to understand the variety of narrative strategies available to a poet, from a straightforward chronological delivery of information to a mash-up of multiple competing story lines. The hour will also pay close attention to imagery and metaphor that undergird the creation of these narratives. And finally, aspiring poets will get to try an exercise or two that might start them on the way to a narrative poem. As the founder and director for eight years of the Writing Program at the Vermont Studio Center, Neil is a seasoned teacher who knows how to inspire great writing. He founded the literary magazine Green Mountains Review and was the Senior Editor for a quarter-century and currently teaches poetry workshops at Poets House.


NOVEL WRITING with P. F. Kluge (10:00-10:55 a.m.)

Have you always wanted to write a novel but were afraid you didn’t know how to complete it? Join master teacher P. F. Kluge, the author of Eddie and the Cruisers, The Williamson Turn, and several other novels, for a workshop on specific tips and techniques to ensure you can get from point A to Z without getting lost somewhere around M and N. Trained as a journalist—his 1972 article on a New York bank robbery inspired the film classic Dog Day Afternoon (1975)—he’ll talk about the importance of observation and detail as well as outlining and revision.


CREATING COMPLEX CHARACTERS with Lilliam Rivera (11:00-11:55 a.m.)

Especially in a genre like young-adult fiction, writers often struggle to depict characters who are recognizable and yet still unique. How many times have you read a work of fiction in which narrators, friends, and family all seem to come straight out of central casting? How do you create people who are both shockingly new and yet shockingly familiar? During this workshop, the author of The Education of Margot Sanchez (2017) and the forthcoming Dealing with Dreams (2019) will examine how to populate your writing with rounded, complex people. Lilliam Rivera will also explore how to avoid stereotypes, especially ethnic and gender stereotypes, so your writing will appeal to the broadest, most diverse audience.

PLOTTING FICTION with Lamar Giles (12:00-12:55 p.m.)

One of the biggest challenges to writing stories and novels is plotting. How do you create a sense of action and pace? What’s a good twist? What’s not a good twist? As the author of the young-adult novels Fake ID (2014), Endangered (2015), and Overturned (2017), Lamar Giles has extensive experience with mapping out a storyline and making it exciting and yet realistic. Lamar will also offer story prompts for how to generate ideas during the brainstorming process.


PODCASTING with Hanna Raskin (1:00-1:55 p.m.)

Thanks to the popularity of Serial, S-Town, Dirty John, and numerous topic-oriented broadcasts on everything from politics to sports and entertainment, podcasting has become the most dynamic form of narrative in recent memory. Many listeners wonder: “How could I possibly do a podcast? I can’t figure out my iPhone half of the time!” As the Charleston Courier and Post’s food critic, Hanna Raskin will demonstrate, however, creating a podcast is relatively easy. Since 2016 Hanna and fellow food writer Robert Moss (who appeared at last year’s book festival) have produced The Winnow, a fun and filling discussion of Southern cuisine that covers new restaurants, boiled peanut season, and the latest flavor trends. They’ve also sampled various local dishes on-air, learning to chew quietly. For this workshop Hanna will detail what equipment and software is need to produce one’s own podcast, as well as offer tips on how to shape a script, edit, and upload the final product online.


RESEARCH, INTERVIEWING, and WRITING ABOUT THE ARTS with Warren Zanes (2:00-2:55 p.m.)

As the writer that Tom Petty personally asked to do his biography—not his autobiography, mind you, but his biography—Warren Zanes has extensive experience in researching, interviewing, and writing not only about popular music but about people: about their family history, the relationships with the art and their collaborators, and with their demons. This workshop will not only appeal to aspiring journalists looking to write about all forms of popular culture but to genealogists and family researchers, too. Warren will offer tips on how to approach interview subjects, how to peel layers to get the story without alienating sources, how to look into family backgrounds and regional history, and how to integrate it all into a compelling, intriguing storyline. This is also a workshop for writers who might be interested in documentaries as well as print nonfiction. Warren has worked at different stages for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, for “Little” Steven van Zandt’s Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, and for the guitarist and Sopranos actor’s popular Underground Garage syndicated radio channel on Sirius XM. He’s also contributed research to documentaries you’ve no doubt watched, including Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Twenty Feet from Stardom (about the great rock ‘n’ roll backup singers), and the recent PBS series Soundbreaking.


SELF-PUBLISHING and MAKING AUDIO BOOKS with Suzanne Hudson and Joe Formichella (3:00-3:55 p.m.)

Stop the Insanity! Break Free of the Mad Middle Men! This workshop offers a smart, independent, and prosperous approach to self-publishing and audio book production. It’s not as expensive or difficult to get started as you might think! Discover tips for designing and marketing your work, both in print, e-books, and in the expanding world of audio. This session is led by authors Joe Formichella and Suzanne Hudson, who argue authors are much better off working for themselves than for publishers large or small, corporate or indie.

Writing Workshop Sign-Up Form

Please fill out the form to reserve your space at the writing workshops and don't forget to hit SUBMIT below!

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Check the workshops you'd like to register for.

    Poetry with Neil Shepard


    Novel Writing with P.F. Kluge

    Creating Complex Characters with Lilliam Rivera

    Plotting Fiction with Lamar Giles

    Podcasting with Hanna Raskin

    Research, Interviewing and Writing about the Arts with Warren Zanes

    Self-publishing and Making Audio Books with Suzanne Hudson and Joe Formichella

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