​Summer Writers Institute now even more convenient for working professionals

​The 18th annual Summer Writers Institute will be held in July at Washington University in St. Louis, giving writers of varying experience levels the opportunity to join a diverse and energetic writing community.

Working in one of four literary genres, institute participants will produce and refine their own work in small workshops, enjoy readings and craft talks, and receive personalized guidance and feedback from professional, published writers.
Last year, the Summer Writers Institute changed its format from intensive daytime sessions to an evening and weekend schedule. The format has been tweaked again this year to make it even more convenient for working professionals.

The changes were made because participants asked for a “little more breathing room” in the schedule, said Pat Matthews, associate dean of University College in Arts & Sciences and director of Summer School.

Evening sessions this year will meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday instead of Monday through Friday. Also, the weekend sessions will be afternoons only instead of daylong seminars. The institute begins July 12 and runs through July 26.

“I had not been able to participate in the institute until last year, when the evening and weekend format better fit my schedule,” said Colleen Corbett, programs manager in Student Technology Services. “What is especially valuable about the institute is that by the end of the program, most of us writers had at least one polished piece that held high potential for publication.”

Corbett took the creative nonfiction workshop last year, which is offered again this year along with poetry, fiction and flash fiction.

“I had a wonderful experience and have recommended the institute to friends and colleagues,” said Nancy Berg, PhD, professor of modern Hebrew language and literature and of comparative literature, both in Arts & Sciences. “I continue to benefit from the workshop in both my writing and teaching.”

The focused format sparks an intense creative experience for the participants.

“One thing I like about this condensed two-week format is the pressure it applies to the experience,” said David Schuman, one of the institute’s instructors. “Pressure isn’t always considered such a great motivator, but in this case you’ve got a group of people, all hungry for experience, with a feast in front of them — readings, lectures, panels and workshops. There’s a sense of urgency that often influences rapid growth. I’ve seen students take leaps I wouldn’t have expected. Synapses are rapid-firing, pens are flying, words are filling the air. Everything a growing writer needs.

“What excites me about the institute is the close-knit group of writers that blooms during the short span of the session,” said Schuman, a lecturer in the Department of English, in Arts & Sciences. “It’s almost like watching a photograph develop — things are fuzzy at first, you’re interested in what’s going to happen, and then at the end an image has crystallized.”

The four genres:

Fiction, taught by Colin Bassett, lecturer in the Department of English. This workshop discusses the writing process and ways to make a story detailed and vivid while also keeping it moving forward. Close attention will be paid to the rhythm and texture of language. Bassett’s story “This Is So We Don’t Start Fighting” was listed as a distinguished story in The Best American Short Stories. His writing has been awarded the Carrie S. Galt Prize in Fiction and received an honorable mention from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Intro Journals Project.

Flash Fiction, taught by Schuman. Borrowing strategies from the novel, short stories, prose poems, haiku and other short forms (fables, folktales, pop songs), students boil stories down to their essence. Schuman won a Pushcart Prize in 2007, and his story “Stay” was listed as one of 100 distinguished stories in The Best American Short Stories.

Creative Nonfiction: Personal Narrative, taught by Kathleen Finneran, writer in residence in the Department of English and author of the memoir The Tender Land: A Family Love Story. This workshop focuses on creating works of literature using personal life as subject matter. Finneran is the recipient of a Whiting Writers Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Poetry, taught by Kent Shaw, assistant professor of English at West Virginia State University. Writers will focus on each other’s poetry to refine the voice and imagery. Shaw’s first book, Calenture, was published in 2008. His poems have appeared in The Believer, Boston Review and many other publications.

All courses are offered through University College. Tuition is $1,830. Each workshop is worth 3 units; no application is required.

For more information and to register, visit here.