Wilkes University

Preconference Workshops

Make the most of PWC – kick start your creativity with our preconference workshops!

Workshops run from July 31 to Aug. 3 and are open to adults of any age. The cost of each four-day workshop is $395, unless otherwise noted, and includes conference registration. Then, join us for our two-day writers conference on Aug. 4 and 5.



Putting Together a Poetry Chapbook

Photo of Ms. AbubakrWith Rashidah Ismaili Abubakr, poet, playwright and author of Autobiography of the Lower East Side.

Participants will discuss and organize poems for a chapbook. Each day will consist of homework assignments, readings of poets, and personal work, as well as guided instruction to increase each participant’s ability to conceive a chapbook.

In addition to developing a chapbook, participants will begin a narrative poem to be completed and read on the final day of class. Through handouts and suggested readings, this workshop will introduce participants to poets who may not be known to them.

Workshop requirements: Each participant is expected to write at least 10 short poems and two longer narratives during the workshop series. Reading and discussions of poetry handouts and participation in workshopping individual poems and critiquing others. Final presentation of work should be in the form of a chapbook that workshop participants will compile throughout the workshop series.

About the instructor: Rashidah Ismaili Abubakr is a poet, playwright and writer of fiction and non-fiction. She has returned from South Africa where she presented a paper at the 40th Anniversary Conference of Africa Literature Association on the South African exile community in New York City. Her latest work, a novel in linked stories; Autobiography of the Lower East Side, has just been published by Northampton Press. 

Keeping Them Up All Night: Crafting the Thriller, Adventure, and Military Action Genres

Photo of Mr. PoyerWith David Poyer, a USA Today bestselling author of the Tiller Galloway and Dan Lenson series.

Action-packed, page-turner, thrill a minute? Call the genre whatever you like, but there’s a steady demand for exciting stories told in an accessible way. Such bestselling authors as Steve Berry, Tami Hoag, Paula Hawkins, Clive Cussler, and W.E.B. Griffin fuse exciting plots with characters we want to root for and villains we feel free to hate. Lesser known but still popular writers such as John Connolly, Philip Kerr, and Alan Furst create spy and detective thrillers that are also powerful literature. Thrillers are fast-paced novels set in contemporary or historical conflict situations, where important issues are at stake and characters are tested to their limits.

During this four-day master class, first we'll discuss the requirements and vocabulary of the genre. Participants will in turn craft an elevator pitch, a scene outline, a short chapter outline, and the opening pages (up to a chapter) of a novel or novella. After workshop readings and critiques, writers will leave with the basic tools to continue work on a full-length project of their own.

About the instructor: David Poyer’s military career included service in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Pacific, Pentagon, Arctic, and Middle East. His forty-plus books include the Tiller Galloway diving adventures, the Dan Lenson novels of the modern Navy and Marine Corps, and sailing adventures such as Ghosting and The Whiteness of the Whale. His work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Italian, and Serbo-Croatian, and rights have been sold for films, audiobooks, etc. Poyer has taught or lectured at University of Pittsburgh, Old Dominion University, Joint Forces Staff College, The New College, The U.S. Naval Academy, and Elizabethtown College, and has appeared on PBS's "Writer to Writer.” He’s currently a fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and publisher at Northampton House Press. Writers he’s mentored have been taken on by major literary agencies, published by Big Five houses, appeared on New York Times Top Ten bestseller lists, and become college teachers of English and Creative Writing. He published two books in 2016, On Politics and War, a Memoir, with Arnold Punaro, Naval Institute Press, November, and Onslaught, St. Martin’s/Macmillan, December.

Screenwriting: 5 Films/4 Days

Photo of Mr. KlavanWith Ross Klavan, writer of the film Tigerland.

A deep reading and lasting look at five films that concentrate on structure to help you put together a film of your own. Composition is key. Often repeated, the quote that screenwriting is about three things, “Structure, structure and structure.” In this workshop, you’ll find out what that means, learn to use it and get to see some terrific films. Many other films and television shows will be referenced if not actually seen.

About the instructor: Ross Klavan is the writer of the film Tigerland (starring Colin Farrell) and the novel Schmuck (Greenpoint Press), as well as other works, Klavan has written screenplays for New Regency, Paramount, Miramax, A and E, TNT and Walden Media, among others. Voice acting heard in over a hundred films, former reporter for WINS Radio, RKO Network (New York) and LBC Radio (London) former member of Four Walls Alternative Art Group. Member: Writers Guild, SAG, AFTRA.

Creative Nonfiction: Types and Techniques

Photo of Mr. LennonWith J. Michael Lennon, author of Norman Mailer: A Double Life and co-founder of the Wilkes Graduate Creative Writing program.

Understand varieties of creative nonfiction while learning about the key elements of craft: imagery, voice/point of view, character, setting, and story. The workshop will also examine the blurred boundary lines of nonfiction. At the end of the four days, each participant will meet with the workshop leader for a private critique.

Workshop requirements: Each participant should bring six copies of a draft nonfiction piece (15 to 20 pages, approximately) for discussion. Examples include essays (personal, formal, travel, literary, biographical); reviews of a book, film or television series, etc.; a chapter from a biography, autobiography, memoir, historical narrative, travel narrative—any type of nonfiction narrative.

About the instructor: J. Michael Lennon is the late Norman Mailer’s archivist and editor and has written/edited several books about him, including the biography, Norman Mailer: A Double Life (2013) and The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing (2003). He has also edited The James Jones Reader (1991), and was co-producer of the 1985 PBS documentary, James Jones: From Reveille to Taps, and the executive producer of the 1991 PBS documentary, The Lincolns of Springfield, Illinois. His work has appeared in Paris Review, New Yorker, New York, TLS, Mailer Review, New England Review, Hippocampus and Creative Nonfiction, among others. The co-founder (with Bonnie Culver) of the Wilkes M.A./M.F.A. Program, he has taught in it since 2005. He was Provost at Wilkes from (1992-2000), and the chair of the Humanities Division (2003-05). From 1972-1992, he was a faculty member and administrator at the University of Illinois-Springfield. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Rhode Island. Currently, he is editing Mailer’s works for the Library of America.

Creating the World of Your Memoir

Photo of Ms. MandelWith Judy Mandel, author of the New York Times Best Seller, Replacement Child: A Memoir.

You have a story to tell. A unique journey that can illuminate a path for others. But how should you tell it? What structure will help you tell your story in a way that resonates with readers?

In this workshop we will discuss and write about these important issues for memoir writers as well as:

  • How to determine your perspective, where the “I” is writing from in your story
  • How to choose your events/scenes to include in your story that reflect your theme
  • When to tell and when to show, and what is the difference
  • How to find your theme
  • What details will make your story resonate with your reader
  • Use of narrative, reflection, commentary in your work
  • Issues of privacy for those mentioned in your book
  • What will your family say? Should you care?

About the instructor: Judy L. Mandel is the author of the New York Times Best Seller, Replacement Child: A Memoir, [Seal Press 2013). She is a writing coach, teacher, freelance editor and senior editor at Kaylie Jones Books. Judy’s essays, articles and short stories have appeared in Kveller.com, 34th Parallel, The Tishman Review, Connecticut LIFE, ASJA Monthly, Complete Wellbeing Magazine, Connecticut Authors and Publishers Magazine, The Southampton Review and other publications.

Wonder, Disbelief and Fantastic Fiction: Writing the New Supernatural, Dark Fantasy, and Fabulist Genres

Photo of Ms. HartWith Lenore Hart, author of Becky and The Raven's Bride.

Slipstream? New Wave? Fabulism? Fairy tale revisionist? Call it what you like. Since the early 2000s, when literary journals began talking about “new wave fabulism” a growing group of innovative writers has been creating stories rooted in science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Authors like Jeff VanDermeer, Karen Russell, and Brad Morrow refuse to believe their work must be confined to a pre-conceived genre gulag. More and more writers are creating deep, powerful stories with supernatural or magical elements, suspending disbelief and evoking wonder and unease, in realistic inhabited by well-crafted characters. Since Kelly Link's fabulist short story collection Get In Trouble won the Pulitzer in 2015, the importance of such work is no longer in question.

But forget the old tropes and cliches seen in hardcore horror and fantasy. Abandon shambling zombies, sparkling vampires, and evil demons with bad manicures, all ye who enter here. Fabulist and slipstream employs "the unreal" in a nuanced, eerie, and subtly unsettling way. Over the four-day workshop, we'll discuss the craft of the new genres. Each participant will create a project pitch, a step sheet, a complete synopsis, and the opening pages to a short story or first chapter while participating in brief readings and critiques. Participants will leave ready to draft a full-length story, novella, or novel on their own.

Workshop requirements: Participants should bring a typed, double-spaced description of up to 250 words of a novel, novella, or story they want to write. They should also have pen and paper for notes and editing.

About the instructor: Lenore Hart is the author of seven novels, including Waterwoman, Ordinary Springs, Becky, The Raven's Bride, and (as Elisabeth Graves) Black River and Devil's Key. She's the editor of the 2017 fiction anthology The Night Bazaar. Several novels have been published in translation; two are optioned for film. Her YA and children's books are The Treasure of Savage Island and T. Rex at Swan Lake. She's also published short stories, memoirs, essays, articles, poetry, and reviews. She’s been a visiting professor or writer in residence at numerous colleges and universities, and has received awards and fellowships from state and national arts organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts. She's a faculty member of the Wilkes University Graduate Creative Writing Program, and at the Ossabaw Island Writers Retreat in Georgia.

People and Place

Photo of Ms. Dennis-BennWith Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here Comes the Sun, a New York Times Notable Book and a NPR Best Book of 2016.

Characters are essential to the story; so is setting. Setting provides a world for the story to take place. But more than that, setting reveals a lot about the characters—who they are; their culture and the social circumstances that shape them and affect the decisions they make. Through reading, writing, and discussion, we will explore methods to use the physical environment as a characterization tool, which will undoubtedly make the story richer and more memorable. During this intensive workshop, each student will workshop twice. Following their in-class critiques, students will meet with the instructor for an individual conference.

Required books:

  • We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodison
  • Krik Krak, Edwidge Danticat
  • Sula, Toni Morrison

About the instructor: Nicole Dennis-Benn is the author of the highly acclaimed debut novel, Here Comes the Sun , a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a NPR Best Books of 2016, an Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Entertainment Weekly, and Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016, a BuzzFeed Best Literary Debuts of 2016, among others. Dennis-Benn was shortlisted for the Texas Library Association 2017 Lariat and has been named a finalist for Lambda Literary Award, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Award , and The New York Public Library Young Lions Award. Her work has appeared in The New York TimesELLE MagazineElectric LiteratureLenny Letter, and others. Dennis-Benn has an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College where she now teaches as a Visiting Faculty in the M.F.A. Fiction program. She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York. More on www.nicoledennisbenn.com

Certificate in Literary Publishing

Photo of Mr. BradyWith Philip Brady, 2015 Ohio Governor's Award and author of To Banquet with the Ethiopians: A Memoir of Life Before the Alphabet.

Cost: This certificate workshop is open to adults of any age and is available for graduate credit. The cost for the noncredit workshop is $675. Students interested in earning graduate credit (which satisfies Act 48) may register at the graduate tuition rate of $1,500. Costs include conference registration.

This university-granted certificate in literary publishing is geared toward students interested in exploring career opportunities in the burgeoning field of literary publishing. The certificate offers an in-depth, intensive immersion into the world of literary publishing. We will take a comprehensive overview of the publishing environment, from large to small presses, including corporate, independent, nonprofit, university, multi-media and self-publishing models. We will discuss editorial policies, book design, distribution, business models, marketing, sales, legal issues, author events, and much more. We will review and critique the history and current situation of literary publishing from cultural, political and aesthetic perspectives; we will address, and seek to change, the literary landscape to encourage inclusion and diversity. We will mentor a new generation of publishers.

Participants will have the unique opportunity to see two literary presses in operation, working with Etruscan Press and Akashic Books. The course will feature visits by professionals working in all areas of the publishing world.

About the instructor: Philip Brady's latest book is To Banquet with the Ethiopians: A Memoir of Life Before the Alphabet (Broadstone, 2015). He has published three previous collections of poems, a memoir, and a book of essays, and has edited a book on James Joyce and an anthology, Poems & Their Making: A Conversation. He has won the Ohio Governor's Award, an Ohioana Award, a ForeWord Magazine Gold Medal, the Snyder Prize from Ashland Poetry Press, five Ohio Arts Council Fellowships, and a Thayer Fellowship. He is a distinguished professor at Youngstown State University and executive director of Etruscan Press. He plays in the New-Celtic band, Brady's Leap. www.philipbrady.com

Certificate in Arts Education

Photo Of Barbara TaylorWith Barbara J. Taylor, author of All Waiting Is Long and Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night.

Cost: This certificate workshop is open to adults of any age and is available for graduate credit. The cost for the noncredit workshop is $475. Students interested in earning graduate credit (which satisfies Act 48) may register at the graduate tuition rate of $1,500. Costs include conference registration.

This university-granted certificate will help you invigorate your classroom and engage your students through creative writing. Learn how to establish a writers’ workshop, or take your workshop model to the next level. Generate ways to manage grading, and walk away at the end of this course with practical lesson plans that can be incorporated into your district’s curriculum. And best of all? Spend some time taking the same writing risks we ask of our students, and become a more confident writing teacher. Writers and non-writers welcome!

About the instructor: Barbara J. Taylor is an English teacher where she has taught for 30 years in the Pocono Mountain School District and a published author with an M.F.A. from Wilkes University. Her most recent novel, All Waiting Is Long, is the sequel to her debut novel, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, named a “Best Book of Summer 2014” by Publishers Weekly.