Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The 3rd Annual Writers’ Weekend: Official Schedule

 Questions? Email Director of Writing Programs Julia Pistell at

This schedule is subject to change. The best way to make sure you see everything is to register for the whole weekend!

Tickets for the whole weekend ($160, including two lunches and all programs):

Tickets for Friday night only:

Tickets for Saturday only (includes daytime workshops, Critics, Playwrights & Literary Death Match):

Tickets for Sunday only:

Tickets for the Critics' Panel:

Tickets for the Playwrights' Panel:

Tickets for Literary Death Match:

Friday, April 25th 

6:00 pm: Welcome Reception

7:00 pm: Keynote Conversation with  Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer's novels include The Interestings; The Uncoupling; The Ten-Year Nap; The Position; and The Wife. She is also the author of a novel for young readers, The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman. Wolitzer's short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and has won a Pushcart Prize. Woltizer has been reviewed with raves in the The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlantic, People, and many more prestigious publications. She is a New York Times bestselling author. She will speak on the subject of her writing life and her works.

8:00 pm: Book Signing with Meg Woltizer

Saturday, April 26th

ALL DAY: Buy the books of your favorite authors and get them signed after each session

10:00 am: Workshops

Tim Parrish: In Tension: Conflict in Fiction and Memoir

Conflict/tension/friction--whatever you want to call it--is the engine of good, dramatic, imaginative writing. Conflict can be writ large or writ small in a single word. We'll talk about the nature and role of conflict, complication, and resolution by first looking at examples of conflict at the start of some published memoirs, novels, and short stories. Then we'll identify and discuss what the conflicts are and how they're created through event, prose style, and characterization. Don't expect much lecturing. We'll be talking.

Susan Campbell: Ferreting Out the Facts

Non-fiction writing doesn't have to be boring. In fact, it shouldn't be, so long as you subscribe to the notion that truth is stranger (and richer) than fiction. In this workshop we’ll discuss how to research and present reality.

Susan Schoenberger: Finding an Agent

What does an agent do for you? Do you even want one in today's ever-changing publishing world? If you decide that you do, how do you go about finding one? We'll explore these issues and leave plenty of time for individual questions about the often mysterious and reliably complicated process of finding an agent. 

11:00 am: Workshops

Bessy Reyna: Poetry as Memoir

According to poet Mark Doty, "The great power of Poetry is the preservative. The ability to take a moment in time and attempt to hold it."  In this workshop divided into 3 short segments, we will examine poems from Richard Blanco, Marilyn Nelson and others, which illustrate how poetry can provide the perfect gateway to our memories to transform them into beautifully constructed short and intense narratives.

Mary Sharnick: Making A Scene: Jump Start Your Novel

Novels are written one scene at a time, each scene linking to the next and echoing the former.  In this hands-on class, participants will draft one scene, conflating a particular context, a specific protagonist, and a singular action.  Doing so will both advance plot and develop character. Materials will be provided by the instructor. 

Wayne English: Writing for the Web

Writing for the web is not like writing for print. On the web brevity is paramount. Here you will learn how to write clearly and succinctly. From the gritty to the sublime, this program ranges from  sentence and paragraph length to the nuances of effective communication. The immense power of the published written word is in your hands. Here you learn how to wield it.

Patrice Fitzgerald: Self-Publishing: The Reality of Doing It Yourself

Join us for a workshop on self-publishing.  We will explore the indie musts:  a good book, an appealing cover, whistle-clean editing, and professional-level formatting.  We will also talk about up-front costs, marketing, and the pros and cons of traditional versus independent publishing.  "Hybrid" and assisted self-publishing will also be discussed.  You'll come away from this session with a clear-eyed view of the possibilities for going it on your own rather than waiting… and waiting... for the perfect query letter to appeal to just the right agent.
12:00 pm:  Critics’ Panel

Three world-class literary and cultural critics will discuss their work as critics, the importance of literary critics today, and our current literary landscape. With John Freeman (former editor of Granta), Carole Goldberg (former Books Editor of the Hartford Courant), and David Bromwich (a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences).
1:00 pm: Lunch break!
Lunch will be provided.

2:00 pm:  Workshops

TJ Jarrett: Poetry

What are the six characteristics of great poems? This workshop addresses the methodologies employed by great poets and the personal desire to enjoy a poem instead of reading every one like an English major. We will compare and contrast methods employed by poets (Eavan Boland, Martha Collins, Ellen Bryant Voigt,and Natasha Trethewey)  who are harnessing experience to achieve truth in creative work.

John Casey: What’s Funny

Since we'll be a the Mark Twain House, I think a session on what's funny. One of the essays in my new book is called What's Funny. There's a lot more to be said, and I hope that the participants will add some humor of their own and/or reflections on how and why some things are funny. This wouldn't be primarily a how-to workshop but an exploration, with some concentration on written humor--how the requirements are different from those of spoken or acted-out humor. I'll forward the essay to you, the one that could be the jumping-off point for discussion.

Mike Morin: Pitching for Publicity

You've written the next Fifty Shades of Grey. Now what? Nobody knows who you are and your publisher is counting on you to create some buzz. As a radio host for over four decades, Mike shares what to say and to whom to get that much-coveted free interview time that will get the public excited about your book. He's also an author, so he knows how to work both sides of this process. He'll show you how to reach tens of thousands of listeners in three hours with radio tours. Buzz words to get a host or producer interested in you as a guest. You'll learn to be an engaging guest. Those who are game can try these ideas out in short mock interviews. He'll cover public speaking and even tell you about celebrities who were trainwreck interviews. Writing the book was easy. Getting publicity is the real work! Even if you don't have a book, you're probably an expert in something as a writer and the better you are at telling the world, the larger audience you'll have.

3:00 pm: Workshops

Vivian Shipley: Revising for Publication

If you have submitted your work for publication and it has been rejected a couple of times, that may be an indication that it is not quite ready for publication. Based on my experience as Editor of Connecticut Review, I’ll give suggestions about what you might do in terms of revision to improve your chances of having your work published. The advice I give will be applicable to any genre of writing. 

Patricia Chaffee: Freelancing for Local Markets

Designed with the emerging writer in mind, (and those seasoned folks who need a jump start) this one- hour workshop will give writers the know-how to get that coveted first byline and those much needed published clips. Learn about generating compelling story ideas, approaching editors, finding your niche market, and more. 

Susan Schoenberger: The Fiction Writer’s Mindset

How does a fiction writer look at the world, and how does that differ from a nonwriter or a nonfiction writer? We'll talk about using your unique set of experiences and your personality to bring your characters to life, to convey your insights about the human experience, and to leave your readers nodding and saying, "Yes, that's exactly how it feels."

Mary-Ann Tirone Smith: The Art of the Memoir:  The Remembered Life

Autobiography skirts the surface of a life without allowing the reader access to the messy, conflicted and unapologetically subjective material of a memoir. Let us speak of that subjective mess and learn how to embellish everything but the truth through the creation of an irresistible and compelling narrative voice.

4:00 pm: Playwriting Panel

For the third year in a row, be dazzled by incredible playwrights in conversation with one another. This year, we welcome Edwin S├ínchez (Barefoot Boy With Shoes On), Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor), and Douglas Carter Beane (Lysistrata Jones; The Little Dog Laughed), in conversation with the Hartford Courant’s Frank Rizzo.

5:30 pm: Dinner break!

Find a great meal out on the town in Hartford.

6:30 pm:  Literary Death Match

Literary Death Match, co-created by Adrian Todd Zuniga, marries the literary and performative aspects of Def Poetry Jam, rapier-witted quips of American Idol’s judging (without any meanness), and the ridiculousness and hilarity of Double Dare.

Each episode of this competitive, humor-centric reading series features a thrilling mix of four famous and emerging authors (all representing a literary publication, press or concern — online, in print or live) who perform their most electric writing in seven minutes or less before a lively audience and a panel of three all-star judges. After each pair of readings, the judges — focused on literary merit, performance and intangibles — take turns spouting hilarious, off-the-wall commentary about each story, then select their favorite to advance to the finals.

The two finalists then compete in the Literary Death Match finale, which trades in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurd and comical climax to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown.

Sunday, April 27th

ALL DAY: Connecticut Authors and Publishers Book Fair & Signing

10:00 am:  Workshops

Steve Courtney: Telling Someone Else’s Story

When your interest in another person -- whether historical or contemporary -- goes over the line into the pursuit of writing biography, a sort of alchemy takes place. Unusual things happen, and you tread unexpected paths. It's the art of developing a friendship of sorts with your subject -- but then again, not quite a friendship, because strict honesty is an important part of the task. Great biographies -- such as the late Justin Kaplan's Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain -- set aside comprehensiveness and extraneous detail in the interest of presenting a rounded portrait of a human being that continues to resonate. We will hear from participants about their own biographical projects if they have them; study New York Times obituaries, which are usually gemlike examples of the biography form; and do a quick written exercise or two in personal portraiture.  

Ravi Shankar: Collaborate to Recreate; or How to use your Friends to Make Yourself a Better Writer

We will trace the history of collaborative writing from the ancient Japanese art of the renga to the Surrealists writing exquisite corpses, from the practice of the Beats like Ginsberg and Kerouac to generating modern day collaborations with computer programs, and we will look at the art of editing and revision as an extension of collaborative thought. Finally we will put the ideas we discuss into practice by generating a collaborative poem together, playing off one another to write something that will both simultaneously surprise us and that we still have some ownership over. If as Marcel Duchamp said, "all art is a game played between people of different periods," then we will have fun with in rewriting the rules of our own writing practice.

Leslie Johnson: Fiction

Do you want inspiration for new story ideas?  Do you need momentum to move forward with ideas you already have brewing?  This interactive writing workshop will supply strategies for both.  Leslie Johnson, short story writer, will share exercises using fictional voice and point of view to help you “find the way in” to your story idea and get it moving on the page.  Participants will actively discuss, write, share, and leave with some specific tips and techniques for energizing the process of writing short fiction.

11:00 am: Workshops

Aisha Sabatini Sloan: The Architecture of the Essay

When drafting an essay, do you know the ending before you’ve begun? Or are you watching it unfold like a film? Following the life story of an ancient poet or charting the migration of a bird? Are you solving an epistemological mystery? The techniques used in film, photography, architecture, and other artistic traditions can help illuminate unforseen pathways for the essay to follow. During this workshop, we will explore some of the ways that an idea can be expanded in the drafting process— using maps, blueprints, collage, museum curation and other structural models—in order to facilitate the most elegant (and hopefully, surprising) final draft. 

David Handler: Mystery

How does an author of whodunits actually figure out whodunit? Find out this and many other secrets of the trade from one of Connecticut's deftest practitioners of the gentle art of murder. We’ll discuss crafting a mystery and answer all of your most pressing detective fiction questions.

Christine Beck: What Writers Need to Know about the Law

The workshop will give an overview of three legal topics that affect writers:

  1. Protecting your work against unauthorized use or theft.
  2. Avoiding claims of defamation by people you have written about either by name or in a way that makes them recognizable.
  3. Avoiding claims that you have used a trade name or product name without permission.

Vladimir Alexandrov: Researching and Writing a Forgotten Black American's Amazing Life

The Black Russian is Alexandrov’s recent biography of Frederick Bruce Thomas (1872-1928), the remarkable son of Mississippi slaves who became a millionaire entrepreneur in tsarist Moscow and the "Sultan of Jazz" in Constantinople. Alexandrov will use the example of my book to discuss how to do biographical research on people in the U. S., and on Americans who went abroad, by using domestic and foreign archives, as well as libraries, online data sources, and site visits.  He’ll also describe the kinds of surprise twists, turns, and discoveries that often accompany research of this kind and that can make it into a highly enjoyable detective-like quest.  Other topics will include dealing with holes in your subject's life and how to write and structure a biography for a trade press.

12:00 pm: Lunch break

A light lunch will be provided.

1:00 pm:  Workshops

Matthew Dicks: A Sneak Peak Into the Publishing Industry

The publishing industry is oftentimes a mysterious and impenetrable realm. The road that a book follows from the writer's mind to the shelves of a bookstore can be confusing, nebulous and uncertain. In this workshop, author Matthew Dicks will discuss the path that a book travels from the first words written on the page to its first appearance in a bookshop. Including in the workshop will be the sale of the book, the author-editor relationship, the complexities of publicity and marketing, the finances of publishing and much more.  

John Stanizzi: Synesthetic Poetry

A poetry writing workshop that attempts to abandon sense and theme and fact, and instead engages the imagination and intuition and association.  No stress, and surprisingly fun!

Qais Akbar Omar: Case Study of a Memoir

The acclaimed author of “A Fort of Nine Towers” will tell the story of fleeing warfare in Afghanistan, and then discuss the writing of his memoir. Learn how one story became a publishing phenomenon and how the act of writing transformed a horrifying experience into a work of art.

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Closing program: Syllable Series!

The acclaimed Hartford reading series, Syllable, brings the opportunity for workshop registrants to read 5 minutes of their work at a time to close out the program. Submit up to 2 pages of work by lunchtime on this day and close out the program with presenting your latest (or most polished) work to a crowd of peers. Readings will be curated by Julia Pistell, Director of Writing at the Mark Twain House, in order to showcase as wide a variety of writers as possible.

The mission of Syllable: A Reading Series is to provide a space for Connecticut writers of all levels to showcase their work, and to expose the public to a variety of writing styles. Syllable aims to be another brick in the strong arts community in the Greater Hartford area.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Writers' Weekend at the Mark Twain House

Looking for a detailed schedule? We'll be releasing the full schedule next week. To make sure you don't miss it, follow this blog and you'll get an email notification as soon as we post it.

In the meantime, please enjoy our announcement (below) and feel free to contact us at

3rd Annual Writers' Weekend!
Friday, April 25, through April 27, 2014
Join us for year three of a paradise for writers!
This can't-miss-it event is the best small writers' conference in Connecticut. Our first and second years were smash successes, and we can't wait to offer even more writers, workshops, genres, and opportunities for everyone.
From Keynote Speaker Meg Wolitzer, author of the current bestseller The Interestings, all the way through a Literary Death Match that will pit Director of Writing Julia Pistell against the most fun, famous and talented writers you know, this weekend will be a thrilling and inspiring exploration of literary creativity and craft.
In the shadow of Mark Twain’s breathtaking home, writers of all levels of experience are invited to spend a weekend writing, learning, exchanging ideas, and getting books signed by the authors you’ve been dying to meet. The roster includes: a panel on Criticism with former Granta Editor-in-Chief John Freeman; workshops and discussions on aspects of the writing craft including jump-starting a novel, poetry as memoir, researching for nonfiction essays, and much more; lectures on aspects of publishing including finding an agent, pitching to publicity outlets, and editing for publication; and an all-day marathon of authors selling and signing books.
Sunday morning will feature an expo and book signing of the members of the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. Writers range from recurring favorites Bessy Reyna, Susan Campbell, and Mary Sharnick to first-time presenters Matthew Dicks, Vivian Shipley, and Qais Akbar Omar. Also presenting will be Tim Parrish, Susan Schoenberger, Wayne English, TJ Jarrett, John Casey, Mike Morin, Patricia Chaffee, Steve Courtney, Leslie Johnson, John Stanizzi—and more, because we’re adding others every day.
The cost of the weekend is $150 for early birds (price will go up to $160 on April 1st). Costs include an opening and closing reception, coffee, and a small lunch on Saturday. The weekend will kick off at 6:00 pm with a reception preceding Meg Wolitzer’s Keynote Conversation at 7 pm and continue with programs from 9 am – 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday before concluding with a Literary Death Match on Sunday afternoon.
Tickets are $150 FOR EARLY BIRDS and on sale now (will go up to $160 in April!):
Online tickets available at Or Call The Mark Twain House & Museum at (860) 280-3130.
$150 until April 1st; $160 thereafter. Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.

Playwriting, Writing for Young Adults, & Writing in Twain's Library: Spring Workshops at the Mark Twain House & Museum

Playwriting: A Workshop with Sarah Moon
Saturday, March 22, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
In this workshop, we'll dive into dramatic writing with a handful of fresh writing exercises and short readings from the world's great dramatists. We'll discuss writing habits, keys to great dialogue, vivid characters and effective revision. We'll also cover some of the practical aspects of playwriting like submitting to contests and producing your own work. Why write drama? As Oscar Wilde said, "I regard theatre as...the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." Come share!
Sarah Moon's plays have been produced and workshopped in Washington D.C., Indianapolis, Boston and New York City. Her play with music,Tauris, an adaptation of Euripides' Iphegenia at Tauris, premiered in the 2013 Planet Connections Festivity in NYC, receiving the Planet Connections Award for Best Book of a New Musical or Play with Music. Other recent New York credits include End of the Dog Days in the 2013 Summer Play Festival at the Players Theatre and Turtles in the April edition of Fresh Produce'd at the Drama Bookshop. In 2004, she received an MFA in Playwriting from Brandeis University where her play Losing the Game won the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Award for Best Original Play. Sarah is currently working toward her PhD in English Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Connecticut.
Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.
Writing in Mark Twain's Library
Sunday, March 23, 9:00 am to 11:30 am
"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph." – Mark Twain
Sometimes, what we need to write our great novel, or even just a good page, is just a little peace and quiet. Throw in some inspiration from Hartford’s favorite author and we’d call that a successful morning. That’s why we’re introducing a new series called “Writing in Mark Twain's Library.” Sign up for a Sunday morning writing session in the Clemens family home: you and a maximum of fifteen other people will have the house to yourselves. Feel inspired by the beautiful sounds of the fountain in the family conservatory; rest your eyes upon Twain’s bookshelves as you ponder your next word. You’ll spend three hours of quiet in the historic library of our very own Sam Clemens. No doubt you'll begin your own masterpiece.
$50 for two and a half quiet hours in Twain's library. RESERVATIONS REQUIRED. (860) 280-3130, or click here for tickets.
Writing from the First Person for Young Adults: A Writing Workshop with Dayna Lorentz
Saturday, April 12, 1:00 pm - 4:00 pm
I dance, I scream, I cry: Writing in the First-Person Present for Young Adults
Lift the cover of any Young Adult novel lining the shelves of your local bookseller or library, and you’ll likely find that it’s told from the first person point of view, and in the present tense. Bestsellers The Hunger Games, Thirteen Reasons Why, Divergent, and Speak: all first-person, present tense narratives. In this workshop, we’ll discuss the appeal of this point of view for writing YA in particular, and also the kinds of problems it presents and limitations it entails. We’ll look at popular examples of the form, and also write and workshop short pieces of our own.
Dayna Lorentz is the author of the No Safety in Numbers trilogy (Dial/Kathy Dawson Books). The first book in the series, No Safety in Numbers, was selected by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) as a 2013 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and the second, No Easy Way Out, was a Barnes&Noble Bookseller’s Pick for Teens. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College. A former attorney, Dayna is now a full-time writer and lives with her husband, two kids, and dogs in Vermont. If you ask nicely, she will show you the proper way to eat a cupcake. Visit her at and
$40. Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.

Announcing Spring Classes!

Good Tales and How to Tell Them: A Storytelling Writing Course with Tom Lee
Wednesday, March 19, through April 23, 2014, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Six Wednesday evenings, March 19th - April 23
The Mark Twain House's Storyteller-in-Residence, Tom Lee will lead a class exploring the nature of traditional stories - sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands of years old.
We will look at stories from a variety of world traditions and discover how telling stories opens up a dialogue with the teller and the listener.
Tom Lee has told stories professionally for twenty years. His interest in traditional stories began while he was working as a cook in a tiny fishing village in Scotland. Tom's first storytelling performances were tales from Grimm, told in the the London pub theater called, appropriately, "The Man in the Moon." In the United States, Tom has worked in classrooms with children of all ages. "When it comes to stories," he says, "children have taught me everything I know." A roster artist with the Connecticut Commission on Culture and a frequent guest artist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Yale Center for British Art. Tom is a fellow with the Connecticut Writing Project at the University of Connecticut. Tom Lee lives in Chester, Connecticut, where he gardens overambitiously. This class is appropriate for anyone interested in telling a good story. Educators, writers, and artists may find it particularly useful in developing their crafts.
$265. Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.
Memoir Writing Course with Mary-Ann Tirone Smith
Wednesday, March 19, through April 23, 2014; 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Six Wednesday evenings.
With pen or keys, we will revisit episodes in our lives that will not let us go, and we will think on those episodes wearing the analytical hat of the mathematician. We will write and re-write those episodes until we find the key to unlock what we are trying to understand, to grasp, to make sense of. We will not depend on the serenity of “once upon a time,” but instead learn to create the sense that what happened to us then is happening to us now, without the security of probable escape, no promise that everything will turn out just dandy. We will learn what is required to put our memories into an irresistible, provocative and coherent story, for that is what a good memoir is (as opposed to an autobiography and we’ll see the difference). Thankfully, we will be helped along by examining excellent memoirs already published.
Mary-Ann Tirone Smith was born and raised in Hartford, and has lived in Connecticut all her life except for the two years she served as a Peace Corps volunteer on Mt. Cameroon, an active volcano rising 14,000 feet above the West African equatorial sea. She has published eight novels, and collaborated on a ninth with her son, Jere Smith. Her memoir, Girls of Tender Age, was selected as a community read by several cities and towns, and is an ongoing favorite of book discussion groups. Her work has been reprinted in seven foreign languages, and in paperback, audio and ebook editions. Her short stories and essays have been included in several collections. She was awarded the Diana Bennet Writing Fellowship at the Black Mountain Institute, UNLV, where she worked on a Civil War novel just completed: The Honoured Guest: Anne Alger Craven, Witness to Sumter, in Her Words.
$265. Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.
Fiction Writing Course with Nancy Antle
Wednesday, March 19, through April 23rd, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Six Wednesday evenings, March 19th - April 23
Study the fine art of writing fiction under the experience and tutelage of Nancy Antle.
Nancy Antle has been writing and teaching for over thirty years. She is a 2013 MFA in fiction graduate from Southern CT State University and is currently a writing mentor/volunteer with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project online which “provides a platform for Afghan women to develop their voices and discover their power in the world.” She has taught beginning fiction writing at Southern CT State University, novel writing for Bulldog Tutors in New Haven and children’s book writing for both Gotham Writer’s Workshop and the Institute of Children’s Literature. She has published short stories, books and poems for adults, young adults and children. She lives with her husband in New Haven.
$265. Call: (860) 280-3130 for more information & ticketing. Or, click here for tickets.