Sail Boats on the St. Mary's River

Summer Programs


Contact Us Facebook
Jerry Gabriel, Director
Chesapeake Writers’ Conference
Montgomery Hall
St. Mary’s College of Maryland
18952 E. Fisher Road
St. Mary's City, MD 20686



Creative Nonfiction, Ana Maria Spagna

Nonfiction, as a category of literature, has been compared to “non-socks” as a category of clothing. In other words, nonfiction includes a wide range of forms all of which have the same goal: making connections. In this workshop, we’ll explore techniques for making connections in essays, memoirs, narrative nonfiction, and nature and/or travel writing. We’ll examine issues like persona, blending “now” and “then” perspectives, interrogating memory, making scientific information accessible, and honoring real-life characters. Participants will get the chance to submit both drafts and revisions for review, read and discuss short samples of published work, respond to a variety of writing prompts, and offer critique to others. Together we’ll find ways to craft personal experience and research into stories that readers will find compelling.

Fiction, Matt Burgess

This workshop will be descriptive rather than prescriptive. You will not have a group of people telling you how to rewrite your story. Instead, we will describe how your story is working—focusing on basic elements of narrative craft such as plot structures, characterization, and point-of-view—so that you can make your own best decisions on how to revise. We will also conduct short, in-class writing exercises designed to stretch your creative muscles, make you more comfortable with experimentation, and serve as raw material for future stories.

Poetry, Elizabeth Arnold

The workshop will focus on student poems with a steely concentration on the words on the page. Reference to poems of past and present masters will be made as relevant.

Fiction, Patricia Henley

YOUR NOVEL IN YOUR POCKET. In a week's time we will work through the major issues of writing a novel -- instigating event, place & era, characterization, structure, and suspense. You will walk away with a sense of the whole of your novel. Rather than a straight workshop (where you bring stories/chapters you've already written), this will be a class where work is generated (both in and outside of classtime). There will be some workshopping and plenty of sharing of ideas.


The Need for Bum Glue, Patricia Henley

The mystery writer Elizabeth George says that writers most of all need "bum glue," the ability to sit at your desk long past the urge to leave. In this talk, Patricia will lay out some strategies for establishing a consistent writing practice.

Rhythm in Ezra Pound's 'Canto 2', Elizabeth Arnold

Canto 2 is possibly the most accessible of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, and it is one of the most musical. In the early 20th century, Pound sought to “break the back” of what he saw as a depleted iambic pentameter. In this talk, I will trace the history of rhythmic development in Pound’s poetry, spending most of the time on Canto 2, a stunning example of rhythmic power in free verse.

The Big Picture, Ana Maria Spagna

Our characters don’t live in vacuums; they live in the real world—or, in fiction, “a real world”—and they’re affected by it. Many of the best stories, both fiction and nonfiction, include explorations of this wider world, but these can be hard to write since they involve tackling a field in which we’re not experts—history, say, or architecture or molecular biology—and making it accessible to other non-experts. Writing the Big Picture requires blending the skills of the journalist, the scholar, and the storyteller to make the narrative both authoritative and compelling. Let’s look at ways to do so.

Craft Talks

When You're Not There, Ana Maria Spagna

Nonfiction includes, essentially, two kinds of action.  The first is where you’re there as a participant, so you can write the scene in first person. The second kind is when you’re not there at all.  You don’t know for sure what happened.  You may have first-hand accounts from interviews or a general idea from research you’ve done or stories you’ve heard. But you want to use imagination to fill in the gaps. When it is OK to do so? How might you signal to the reader that you’re doing so? What techniques are available? 

Prosody: Iambic Meter, Elizabeth Arnold
We will focus on how rhythm works in poems written in iambic meter. The way a strong wind running against a river’s current causes whitecaps, rhythm driving against the mathematical norm of iambic meter can produce incredible force, just as the meter’s restraint can actually increase the power of what might otherwise be an unwieldy, dissipated rhythm. Getting hold of these very visceral dimensions of iambic poetry will not only unlock for you the vitality of formal poems; it will grant access to a new source of energy in your free verse poems. 

Breaking Away from Chronology in Alice Munro's "The Progress of Love," Patricia Henley

We will look closely at the way the author creates a crazy quilt of events, summaries, and scenes, eschewing the limits of traditional chronology. Please read the story before the craft talk.