• Program Details

    For each writer, the Summer Writers Colony consists of a writing workshop, three literary salons, and a variety of optional supplemental activities. The schedule of organized activities is Monday through Thursday.

    • 12:30-2:00 p.m. Supplemental Session (craft seminars, panels, and readings)
    • 2:30-5:00 p.m. Workshop
    • 6:00-7:50 p.m. Literary Salon

    2015 Writing Workshops

    The writing workshop is the core of the Writers Colony program. Workshop classes are limited to 12 students. An experienced writer-teacher focuses on student manuscripts, guiding you in the creative acts of self-editing and revision through class exercises and private conferences.

    You register for the Summer Writers Colony by selecting a workshop. After you've registered, choose one literary salon (see below) per week and email your salon choices to

    Writing Workshop Choices

    • Poetry (NWRW3590 Section A)
      Kathleen Ossip
    • Nonfiction (NWRW3590 Section B)
      Madge McKeithen
    • Fiction (NWRW3590 Section C)
      Sharon Mesmer

    Previous Literary Salons

    Week One


    Zadie Smith, NW

    Instructor: Andrew Zornoza
    Class Meetings June 2 and 3, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance June 4, 2014 at 6 p.m.

    "Nowadays I know the true reason I read is to feel less alone, to make a connection with a consciousness other than my own." So says the writer Zadie Smith. The desire for connection and the loneliness of consciousness are vividly brought to life in NW, Smith's fourth and latest novel. Shortlisted for the National Book Critics award, NW heartrendingly dives into the chasm between these two territories – of what we aspire to and who we are – all while painting one of the 21st centuries most realistic portraits of life in a global city for first and second generation immigrants. NW is not for the meek; experimentalism and the harsh realities of urban living flow together here in quick currents and eddies, much as they did for Joyce in the Dublin of Ulysses. In this salon we will explore the language and architecture of one of the English language's finest writers: to better understand the craft of narrative, to examine how detail and feeling can bring to life a universe.

    Note: Please read NW before the first day of the salon.


    Alysia Abbott, Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father

    Instructor: Madge McKeithen
    Class Meetings: June 2 and 3, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance: June 5, 2014 at 6 p.m.

    In Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father (Norton, 2013), Alysia Abbott tells the story of her life with her father, Steve Abbott, bisexual writer and activist, in the charged cultural scene and early post-Stonewall Inn, gay liberation days of San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. Born to openly gay parents and motherless following her mother Barbara's death in a car accident when Alysia was two, the author weaves an irresistibly compelling tale from her experiences and memories and her father's letters, journals, poems, and drawings. Written two decades after her father's death from AIDS, Fairyland portrays a childhood of wonder, an adolescence of yearning and at-times profound isolation, a young woman's moves to New York and Paris, and her return to Haight-Ashbury for her father's dying months. Alysia Abbott's memoir is many stories: father-daughter, motherless daughter, American culture at the end of bohemianism and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, introspective and contextually aware coming-of-age, writer-born-of-writer, and abiding, imperfect, lifelong love between two people. Fairyland offers especially rich material for a community of writers to read, study and discuss with the author, as we will in June 2014 during the Summer Writers Colony.

    Note: Please read Fairyland before the first day of the salon.

    Week Two


    Roger Bonair-Agard, Bury My Clothes

    Instructor: Laura Cronk
    Class Meetings: June 9 and 10, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance: June 11, 2014 at 6 p.m.

    Bury My Clothes is a meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. Art—specifically in oppressed communities—is about survival, Roger Bonair-Agard asserts, and establishing personhood in a world that says you have none. Through poetry, we transform both the world of art and the world itself.Roger Bonair-Agard is a native of Trinidad and Tobago, a Cave Canem fellow, founder of NYC's louderARTS Project, and author of three collections of poems: Tarnish and Masquerade (Cypher Books, 2006), I (Cypher Books/Peepal Tree Press 2010) and I (Haymarket Books, 2013), which has been longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award.

    Note: Please read Bury My Clothes before the start of the salon.


    Lynne Tillman, What Would Lynne Tillman Do

    Instructor: Sharon Mesmer
    Class Meetings June 9 and 10, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance: June 12 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    Lynne Tillman's prose comes to us from a luminous intersection: an uncertain present filled with possibility that meets a glorious past blessed with opportunity. Each ineffable state produces surprisingly tangible states of desire, dread, and doubt, which she masterfully describes in novels such as No Lease on Life, Cast in Doubt, Motion Sickness, and American Genius: A Comedy and in her short story collections Absence Makes the Heart, The Madame Realism Complex, Someday This Will Be Funny, and This Is Not It, written in response to the work of 22 contemporary artists. As Tillman's character Madame Realism observes, "Stories do not occur outside thought. Stories, in fact, are contained within thought." In Tillman's work, thought is writing and writing is thought; her mind acts as a discerning curator. To read her work is to stand firmly, attentively, in the stream of liminal experience. In this class, structured like a salon, we'll read Tillman's newest collection of essays, What Would Lynne Tillman Do? Tillman will join us in class to discuss the intersections of her essays and her fiction as well as her relationship to traditional and experimental writing. We'll also talk to her about the New York literary scene of the 1990s, how it has changed and how it has remained the same, and the role of the writer in an environment of rapidly evolving publishing concerns and distribution channels for literary work.

    Note: Please read What Would Lynne Tillman Do before the start of the salon.

    Week Three


    Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

    Instructor: Karen McKinnon
    Class Meetings: June 16 and 17, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance: June 18, 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    In A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan's novel of interconnected lives on the margins of the music industry, life's wear and tear is rendered with bravado and tenderness. Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the novel deploys first, second and third person to span time and cross the globe in ways that are inventive and moving. This salon will explore the author's astute storytelling and exhilarating play with time, character, and structure. Jennifer Egan has published stories in The New Yorker, Harpers, Granta and McSweeney's. She is also a journalist who has written award-winning cover stories for the New York Times Magazine.

    Note: Please read A Visit from the Goon Squad before the first day of the salon.


    CA Conrad, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon

    Instructor: Kathleen Ossip
    Class Meetings: June 16 and 17, 2014 at 6 p.m.
    Author Appearance: June 19 2014 at 12:30 p.m.

    Since their 2005 inception, CAConrad's (Soma)tic exercises have been summoning the whole spectrum of human experience in the name of poetry. A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon collects 27 exercises and their emerging poems, incorporating unorthodox steps in the writing process from the tangible everyday to the cosmos of the imagination, from the body to the consciousness, heart, and spirit. Together the poems in this collection manifest as an urgent call for a connective, concentrated, and unfettered creativity, with the goal of a Whitman-esque radical inclusion of everyone and everything, expanding and enlarging the utterly free space of poetry. CA Conrad is the author of six books of poetry, a 2014 Lannan Fellow and a 2011 Pew Fellow. He conducts workshops on (Soma)tic poetry and Ecopoetics.

    Note: Please read A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon before the first day of the salon.