Hey, it’s time to sign up for the 2015 Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference, a three-day institute at the end of July that’s dedicated to the creation and revision of novels, short stories, nonfiction, and poetry. From their web site:
The program is tailored to writers of all genres, backgrounds, and levels of experience, and welcomes anyone seeking a fuller understanding of the craft — and business — of writing.
This conference is held every summer on Northwestern University’s Chicago campus, and this year I’ll be giving a workshop at 9:30 a.m. on the morning it opens: Thursday, July 30, 2015.
My 90-minute workshop is called Getting Your Memoir Off the Ground. I plan on giving a couple in-class exercises and discussing techniques to get past whatever it is that’s stopping writers from getting their work done, whether it be worries about writing as a victim, facing issues that come with writing about friends and family, or arranging writing they’ve already completed into book form. The overall emphasis will be on craft and on overcoming the barriers that keep us from writing and assembling our stories.
Each workshop at the Northwestern Summer Writers’ Conference is limited to 18 participants, and organizers tell me workshops and panels are filling quickly. My friends and fellow published authors Miles Harvey and Audrey Petty are giving workshops at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 30 as well.
I met Miles long ago when both of us wrote for the Daily Illini at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. His first book The Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime was a national and international bestseller, and a session he’ll be giving at the Northwestern conference is called Start Here: Get Your Story Started with a Map:
Writers from Robert Louis Stevenson to Ursula K. Le Guin have begun their books not with an outline of the plot but with a hand-drawn map. In this workshop — open to essayists and fiction writers alike — you’ll learn how to establish setting and ignite action through the creative use of cartography.
Miles will also be leading a workshop called “The Instant Essay” where attendees will learn the basics of essay writing and get started on an essay of their own. And as if that isn’t enough, he’ll be moderating a panel about taking a Book from inception to completion, too.
As for Audrey Petty, I was introduced to her in Urbana, too. Audrey taught creative writing there, and she and I took to each other the minute we met.
Audrey was born and raised in Chicago and moved back here with her husband and their daughter a few years ago. An oral history Audrey put together of stories from residents of Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, Robert Taylor Homes, Stateway Gardens and Cabrini-Green (all publicly-funded buildings here in Chicago that no longer exist) called High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing was published by Voice of Witness, the nonprofit division of McSweeney’s Books. She’s had essays published in Saveur and in a 2006 anthology of Best Food Writing, and her workshop for the Northwestern conference is called Writing about Food. Audrey will give in-class exercises and use texts by Laurie Colwin, John T Edge and Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor as examples so participants can “venture out and begin their own stories and/or essays about food.”
Check out the conference schedule to learn about dozens of other workshops being presented this year — I hope to sit in on many of them myself.