• 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

    Literary Salons

    Week One

  • Nonfiction

    Brando Skyhorse, The Empathy Exams

    Instructor: Karen McKinnon
    Class Meetings: June 1-3 at 6:00 p.m.

    From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth. When he was three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa was abandoned by his Mexican father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live his life as a Mexican just because he started out as one. The life of Brando Skyhorse, the American Indian son of an incarcerated political activist, was about to begin.Through a series of letters to Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a stranger in prison for armed robbery, Maria reinvents herself and her young son as American Indians in the colorful Mexican-American neighborhood of Echo Park, California. There Brando and his mother live with his acerbic grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be over thirty years before Brando begins to untangle the truth of his own past, when a surprise discovery online leads him to his biological father at last.


    Nathan Englander

    Instructor: Andrew Zornoza
    Class Meetings: June 1, 2 and 4 at 6:00 p.m.

    These eight new stories from the celebrated novelist and short-story writer Nathan Englander display a gifted young author grappling with the great questions of modern life, with a command of language and the imagination that place Englander at the very forefront of contemporary American fiction. The title story, inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, is a provocative portrait of two marriages in which the Holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game. In the outlandishly dark Camp Sundown vigilante justice is undertaken by a group of geriatric campers in a bucolic summer enclave. Free Fruit for Young Widows is a small, sharp study in evil, lovingly told by a father to a son. Sister Hills chronicles the history of Israel’s settlements from the eve of the Yom Kippur War through the present, a political fable constructed around the tale of two mothers who strike a terrible bargain to save a child. Marking a return to two of Englander’s classic themes, Peep Show and How We Avenged the Blums wrestle with sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity and peril. And Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side is suffused with an intimacy and tenderness that break new ground for a writer who seems constantly to be expanding the parameters of what he can achieve in the short form.

  • Week Two

  • Nonfiction

    Leslie Jamison, Take This Man

    Instructor: Madge McKeithen
    Class Meetings: June 8-10 6:00 p.m.

    From personal loss to phantom diseases this bold collection of essays is the winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and a New York Times Bestseller. Beginning with her experience as a medical actor, paid to act out symptoms for medical students to diagnose, Leslie Jamison’s visceral and revealing essays ask essential questions about our basic understanding of others: How should we care about one another? How can we feel another’s pain, especially when pain can be assumed, distorted, or performed? Is empathy a tool by which to test or even grade each other? By confronting pain - real and imagined, her own and others’ - Jamison uncovers a personal and cultural urgency to feel. She draws from her own experiences of illness and bodily injury to engage in an exploration that extends far beyond her life, spanning wide-ranging territory - from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration - in its search for a kind of sight shaped by humility and grace. The Empathy Exams is a brilliant and forceful book by one of this country’s vital young writers.


    Jericho Brown, The New Testament

    Instructor: Kathleen Ossip
    Class Meetings: June 8, 9 and 11 at 6:00 p.m.

    Race, sex, broken families, religious faith: These are the subjects of The New Testament’s astringent lyric poems. In his second book, Jericho Brown confronts the brutally flawed world with anger, a sly light touch, and, always, remarkable sureness of how language creates a place of beauty. He honors his identity as an African American man while insisting on an enlarged and explosive voice and a rightful place for it. Jericho Brown is the recipient of the Whiting Writers’Award and fellowships from the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poems have appeared in The Nation, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Best American Poetry, and Nikki Giovanni’s 100 Best African American Poets. Brown’s first book, Please, won the American Book Award. He is a professor in the creative writing program at Emory University in Atlanta.

    Note: Please read The New Testament before the first day of the salon.

  • Week Three

  • Poetry

    Dorothea Lasky, Rome

    Instructor: Justin Sherwood
    Class Meetings: June 15-17 at 6:00 p.m.

    Dorothea Lasky's Rome makes a major intervention in what has historically been called "confessional poetry": "I hated most of all when they talked about feelings", Lasky writes, " It was a long time if they felt me, if ever / So I took the I as bloody as it came / And put it on the platter for them to eat". Lasky's fourth book of poems makes a meal of the poet's heart, staging a sequence of post-love poems as public and unpadded as Rome's Colosseum. Lasky repeatedly steps off the stage of the page to implicate the reader and challenge our passivity. In this salon we study how Lasky achieves this effect, and we consider her work alongside her stated influences, Catullus and Anne Sexton, Nicki Minaj and Drake. We carefully dissect these seemingly straightforward poems to discover the historical and syntactical depth and breadth on display. Dorothea Lasky's previous poetry collections include Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all from Wave Books; she was awarded a Bagley Wright fellowship in 2013 and is currently an assistant professor of poetry at Columbia University.


    Justin Torres, We The Animals

    Instructor: Jenny Zhang
    Class Meetings: June 15-16 at 6:00 p.m. and June 17 at 12:30 p.m.

    We The Animals, Justin Torres’ sparse debut novel, is brimming with delicate stories of family, of growing up, of facing reality, and of delaying it. Narrated by the youngest son of a Puerto Rican father and white mother from Brooklyn raising their three young sons in upstate New York, the novel is comprised of vignettes detailing moments spent in the eye of the ferocious bubble of home. Torres paints a large picture through diminutive strokes, evoking envy for the couple’s passion and fear for just how easily that passion turns to rage. The brothers wrestle, fight, cry, and laugh as their family is torn and repaired over and over again. Torres’s prose is fierce, grabbing hold of the reader and allowing him inside the wrenching, whirlwind of a life lived intensely.