• 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

  • Week One


    Brando Skyhorse, Take This Man

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

    PEN/Hemingway Award winner Brando Skyhorse has written a stunning memoir of his turbulent childhood with a mother determined to give her son everything but the truth. When he is three years old, Brando Kelly Ulloa is abandoned by his Mexican father. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, sees no reason for her son to be Mexican just because he started out that way. 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 Mexican-American neighborhood of Echo Park, California, renaming her son Brando Skyhorse. There Brando and his mother live with his sharp-tongued grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be more than 30 years before Brando begins to untangle the truth of his own past, when a surprise discovery online leads him to his biological father. In this Salon, we will discuss the craft of this memoir to explore-beyond plot-to learn what makes Take This Man so compelling.

    Please read Take This Man before the first day of the salon.


    Nathan Englander, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

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

    "I was in my room dreaming of a writing life, and wondering how one gets permission, or a license to be a writer. Where one goes to get anointed or deputized or something like that, and then I understood, there's nothing to do, and no one to tell you, and nowhere to go. One just has to decide to write. . . ." This advice comes from Nathan Englander, the celebrated author, whose latest collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank has won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and is a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But is it that easy? How do writers create worlds that don't fall apart? In stories that contain fantasy and infinities - from the fictional world of Raymond Carver to the horrors and memory of the holocaust – Nathan Englander is still able to make his world seem small enough that it could live in our own backyard. He is also able to collapse the past into the present in the very linear form of the short-story. No easy feat. In this salon we will explore the language and design 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. To understand better, when we ourselves sit down to write, how we can build stories that endure.

    Please read What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank before the first day of the salon.

  • Week Two

  • Nonfiction

    Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

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

    None of the essays in Leslie Jamison's Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize-Winning and New York Times Best-Selling Empathy Exams stops where it ends. In these ceaselessly self-suspicious and cognitively and lyrically contrapuntal essays, Jamison thinks about and against her own empathy and her own perceptions. With persistence and talent, bravery and bravura, she pushes to the core of experiences that span a wide-ranging territory - from poverty tourism to phantom diseases, street violence to reality television, illness to incarceration. She opens each essay toward "the other" that empathy demands and pushes the work beyond self-absorption, solipsism, and self-indulgence. Jamison writes in her afterword, reprinted from The Guardian, "I started to feel like confession could be the opposite of solipsism. My confessions elicited responses. They coaxed chorus like a brushfire…(To) the people who looked me in the eye…and said: this gave me permission to talk about what hurt. To them, I say: thank you for making my confession larger than itself." This salon will begin with the author's and the judge's afterwords and examine the stylistic and thematic success of the eleven essays and of the book as a whole before welcoming the author for a reading and discussion during the third session.

    Please read The Empathy Exams  before the first day of the salon.


    Jericho Brown, The New Testament

    Instructor: Kathleen Ossip
    Class Meetings: June 8, 9, and 11, 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.

    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.

    Please read ROME before the first day of the salon.


    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.

    Please read We The Animals before the first day of the salon.