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WRITING ON THE DOOR: Fiction Conference

May 1 - May 2

|Recurring Event (See all)

An event every 2 days that begins at 12:00am, repeating until Saturday, May 2, 2020

We regret that this conference has been cancelled due to concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis. Please watch our website for updates on upcoming fiction writing offerings. 

Join us for two days of craft seminars, workshops, conversations, and presentations on the art of writing fiction! Whether you have a manuscript in progress or are just beginning to think about writing short stories or novels, this conference has something for you! World-class faculty includes Nickolas Butler, Lan Samantha Chang, Peter Ho Davies, Peter Geye, C.J. Hribal, Rebecca Makkai, Jennifer Morales, and Diane Zinna.

Held at various locations in downtown Sister Bay, including Sister Bay Village Hall, Northwest Wisconsin Technical College, Peninsula Bookman, and elsewhere. Watch for forthcoming details about one-on-one manuscript critiques and a literary trolley tour based on Rebecca Makkai’s novel The Great Believers, partially set in Door County.


Friday Craft Seminars

Saturday Writer Conversations

2-Day $225; Friday Only $150; Saturday Only $100

Conference Room Rates available at Birchwood Lodge in Sister Bay. Call (866)854-7195


9:30 – 11:30 am select one

Smart Dogs with Sticks: On Vision and (Re)vision (Or: How Everything I Learned About Story-Telling I Learned from Harold and the Purple Crayon) with C.J. Hribal

 This craft seminar will discuss aspects of a writer’s vision, particularly in terms of how it might be sharpened or changed through revision. There’ll be a lot of discussion about process, and how to see a work differently. Students might want to familiarize themselves with two Raymond Carver stories (hint, they’re two versions of the same story, published separately), thought they’re not required: “The Bath” (available in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love) and “A Small, Good Thing” (available in Where I’m Calling From). And, yes, we’ll be talking a lot about Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon.

The Quintessential Scene in Fiction with Peter Geye

Discover the elements that go into making effective scenes in short or long fiction.

Hearing Voices with Jennifer Morales

This is a workshop for writers of character-driven work (fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, performance monologue) who seek ways to depict character voices that are believable, authentic, and distinct. We will explore how to listen like a linguist, observing the way voices reveal the identity of the speaker and convey much more than simple words. Then we will apply this knowledge to the page, taking cues from master writers of character voice. To finish, we will consider the ethical concerns when depicting the voices from language groups different from our own and strategies for ethical depiction.

1:00 – 3:00 pm select one

 Revision: The Last Word? With Peter Ho Davies

Whether we love revision or hate it, it can often seem never-ending. In this session, we’ll re-examine the nature of revision in an effort to clarify what its end point might be.

 Ghost in the Pages with Nickolas Butler

This session is a clear-eyed lecture on the risks and rewards involved when writing fiction inspired by real events and real people. There will be ample time for participants’ questions and conversation.

 Finding Your Way and Lighting the Path with Diane Zinna

It seems all our writing journeys follow broken, twisty roads, and many take much longer than we imagine. How do we find support for our work along the way? In this session, we will share what’s worked for us and what hasn’t, find inspiration in acts of literary citizenship, discuss ways to find mentors and true community, and consider ways to find an agent that doesn’t dehumanize the process of putting our words into the world. Attendees will leave with a list of tips for agent query letters—and a longer list of ways to care for themselves as they do the hard work of putting themselves out there.

 3:30 – 5:30 pm select one

 Interiority Complex with Rebecca Makkai

The great advantage of prose (over theater, film, and life) is that we’re privy to characters’ interior states. But how can a writer get thoughts and emotions across, other than by stating them flat-out or by updating us constantly on breathing and heart rate? We’ll explore ways to use tangent, gesture, backstory, action, association, and more to give characters a rich internal life without resorting to the old cardiopulmonary check-in.

What to Do in the Middle with Lan Samantha Chang

Literary works are often begun in moments of inspiration, and often end with periods of focus and clear-sightedness. But what happens in the middle of a story or novel? And how does a writer get through the middle, often the muddle, of the writing process? In this conversation, we will discuss the special challenges of being in the middle of a project. We’ll explore different methods of working through the middle process. We’ll also turn to examples from great works for elements of a strong, working middle section. Questions are welcome!

7 pm

 Open mic reading optional


Saturday, May 2: The Art of Fiction


9:00 am        
Welcome and Introductions

9:30 – 10:30 am
Conversation with Lan Samantha Chang & C.J. Hribal

11:00 am – noon
Conversation with Peter Geye & Diane Zinna

2:00 – 3:00 pm
Conversation with Nickolas Butler & Jennifer Morales

3:30 – 4:30 pm
Conversation with Peter Ho Davies & Rebecca Makkai


Nickolas Butler is the author of three novels, most recently Little Faith, published in 2019, and one short story collection, Beneath the Bonfire. His work has been translated into over ten languages and two of his books have been optioned by Hollywood. He lives south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Lan Samantha Chang is the author of a collection of short fiction, Hunger, and two novels, Inheritance, and All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. Her work has been translated into nine languages and has been chosen twice for The Best American Short Stories. She has received creative writing fellowships from Stanford University, Princeton University, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Peter Geye is the author of four novels, including Wintering, which won the Minnesota Book Award and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award, and Northernmost, forthcoming in April 2020. He teaches the Novel Writing Project at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. He holds an MFA from the University of New Orleans and a PhD from Western Michigan University. He was born and raised in Minneapolis and continues to live there with his family.

C.J. Hribal is the author of the novel The Company Car, which received the Anne Powers Book Sward, and the novel American Beauty. His short fiction collections include Matty’s Heart and The Clouds in Memphis, which won the AWP Award for Short Fiction. He edited The Boundaries of Twilight: Czecho-Slovak Writing from the New World. His story “Do I Look Sick to You?: Notes on How to Make Love to a Cancer Patient” won the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction for 2017, selected by Ha Jin, and was awarded a Pushcart Prize. He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He is the Louise Edna Goeden Professor of English at Marquette University and is a member of the fiction faculty at the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. He’s completing work on a new novel, Housebreaking, and a story collection, A Guy Walks Into a Bar, A Woman Walks Into the Sea.

Rebecca Makkai’s latest novel, The Great Believers, was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. The novel won the ALA Carnegie Medal, the Stonewall Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and was named one of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of 2018. Her other books are the novels The Borrower and The Hundred-Year House, and the collection Music for Wartime, four stories from which appeared in The Best American Short Stories. Rebecca is on the MFA faculties of Sierra Nevada College and Northwestern University and is Artistic Director of StoryStudio Chicago.

Jennifer Morales is the author of Meet Me Halfway: Milwaukee Stories, a collection of interconnected short stories about life in a hyper-segregated city. The collection was lauded by critics for its powerful representation of a range of the city’s voices. Jennifer is president of the Driftless Writing Center in rural Viroqua, Wisconsin.

Diane Zinna’s debut novel, The All-Night Sun is forthcoming from Random House in August, 2020. She is the executive co-director of AWP, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, which hosts the largest literary conference in North America each year. In 2014, Diane created the Writer to Writer Mentorship Program, which has since served close to six hundred writers and is finishing its twelfth season. She is now developing the #WritersServe project, which spotlights free writing workshops happening in community settings. Diane received her MFA from the University of Florida and taught creative writing for ten years. Her writing often deals with grief, family, and life after loss, and she lives in Fairfax, Virginia, with her husband and daughter. Learn more about Diane at dianezinna.com.



May 1
May 2
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