Fall Creative Writing Conference: "Write to Heal"

Each Fall, MTSU Write celebrates its mission by hosting the Creative Writing Conference on the MTSU campus.  The Conference brings together students, mentors, alumni, and members of the community for learning, networking, and recognizing program graduates.

Below is the information for our 2021 conference. Details on the 2022 conference will be available in summer of 2022!

Conference Theme

This year’s conference theme is “Write to Heal'' and will feature workshops and presentations exploring what it means to heal--ourselves, our relationship to the environment and others, as well as our own writing practices--after (and during) the pandemic.

Keynote Speaker

We are excited to share that our Fall 2021 Keynote Speaker will be acclaimed poet (and MTSU Write alum) Tiana Clark!

Tiana ClarkTiana Clark is the author of the poetry collection, I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018), winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and Equilibrium (Bull City Press, 2016), selected by Afaa Michael Weaver for the 2016 Frost Place Chapbook Competition. Clark is a winner for the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award (Claremont Graduate University), a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow, and the 2015 Rattle Poetry Prize. She is a recipient of the 2021-2022 Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship and 2019 Pushcart Prize. Clark is a graduate of Vanderbilt University (M.F.A) and Tennessee State University (B.A.) where she studied Africana and Women's studies. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Virginia Quarterly Review, Tin House Online, Kenyon Review, BuzzFeed News, American Poetry Review, Oxford American, Best New Poets 2015, and elsewhere. She is the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College.

Conference Schedule

The 2021 Fall Conference will have both virtual and in-person components! Save the dates: October 22 (virtual) and 23 (on campus). Here's what we have lined up so far (follow us on social media for all the updates!)

Friday, October 22: Virtual Programming (all times in CST): 


Facebook Live reading featuring MTSU Write mentors & alumni (line-up TBD). Free & open to the public. 

1:00-3:00 pm:

For our virtual programming, you will be able to choose from among the three following sessions:

Saying Yes: the Healing Art of Collaboration with Carol Guess and Rochelle Hurt

Collaboration can teach us how to heal through writing that responds to the world more openly, more playfully, and in solidarity with others. As collaborators sharing the pleasures and burdens of book-making, we found healing in our heroine’s misadventures and our shared joy in imaginative risk-taking. In this session, we'll show you techniques and prompts for collaboration designed to open your writing up to the possibilities inherent in saying yes.

Carol GuessCarol Guess is the author of twenty books of poetry and prose, including Doll Studies: Forensics and Tinderbox Lawn. A frequent collaborator, she writes across genres and illuminates historically marginalized material. In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She teaches at Western Washington University and lives in Seattle. 


Rochelle HurtRochelle Hurt is the author of three poetry collections, including The J Girls: A Reality Show, winner of the Blue Light Books Prize (Indiana University Press, 2022); In Which I Play the Runaway, winner of the Barrow Street Prize (Barrow Street, 2016); and The Rusted City: A Novel in Poems (White Pine, 2014). She lives in Orlando and teaches in the MFA program at the University of Central Florida. 

Writing Into the Gap: Using Imagination to Move In & Out of (Gaps in) Memory with Jung Hae Chae

Mining from memory is a powerful storytelling tool and often the most accessible tool at our disposal. But is it always reliable? What do we do with gaps in our memory? What if we don’t like what we remember (read: trauma)? Can we change, speculate, imagine, rewrite into those spaces? Do so in ways we might reclaim or (re)awaken the forgotten parts of our selves and others, of history? We will start by looking at examples in both poetry and prose that have treated this idea artfully, ethically, and imaginatively. We will then try tapping into those negative spaces to generate ideas for our own work. Hopefully, you will come away with new material that surprises, and that inspires fresh meaning.

Jung Hae ChaeJung Hae Chae is a writer from New Jersey. Her work has appeared or will soon in AGNI, Crazyhorse, Guernica, Ploughshares, and other journals. She is winner of the 2019 Pushcart Prize, the 2019 Emerging Writers Contest in Nonfiction from Ploughshares, as well as the 2021 Crazyhorse Prize in Nonfiction. She has received scholarships and fellowships from the Idyllwild Arts Foundation, Sewanee Writers Conference, Squaw Valley Writers Conference, Grub Street, and the Gell House at Writers and Books. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Writing into Darkness: Building Worlds with Shards, Fragments, and Fractures with Brendan Basham

We often hide away painful moments, stuff them into little pockets in our consciousness, fragmenting our trauma and hence any deeper understanding of it. In order to access these fragments we must understand that time and memory do not work as they normally should, that healing is more than recognition. When attempting to write into these dark areas it is likely they show themselves as fragments and textures too, not making any sense on their own but as these textures stack they become more dimensional. We discover living artifacts from those recesses of memory, benefiting how we look at and thus write about the connections between consciousness and body. In this workshop we will explore examples in literature where “understanding” trauma takes a back seat to first unlocking or uncovering those fractures to create something new in language, weaving together symbol and sound and rhythm so that sentences carry more weight than substance alone, then we will generate our own writing without pressure of expecting our work “to make sense”. Rather, we want to dive deeper into the unknown and learn how to put words to that experience, to balance the ethereal with solid grounding in the corporeal.

Brendan BashamBrendan Basham's debut novel Swim Home to the Vanished is forthcoming from Harper Books in 2023. His fiction and poetry have appeared in the Santa Fe Literary Review, Red Ink, Yellow Medicine Review, Juked, and Sheepshead Review. He was a recipient of the inaugural James Welch Poetry Prize, two Writing By Writers Fellowships, the Truman Capote Trust Fellowship, and was a nominee for a 2016 PEN / Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and a 2018 Pushcart Prize. He received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He lives in Baltimore.

Saturday, October 23: In-person Programming: 

Below you will find descriptions of the workshops available in-person on Saturday, October 23. More details and times to come, including sessions led by Joshua Moore, Meg Wade, and more!

Festina Lente: Writing Brief Evocative Prose with Fred Arroyo

In this session we’ll explore brief prose forms: prose poems, lyrical essays, flash fictions, and hybrid creative works. The attendant elements of scale, image, compression, structure, elision, fragmentation, subtext and juxtaposition as well. In composing a new creative work, we’ll have a chance to imagine and capture the festina lente—hurry slowly—at the center of writing brief evocative prose. Writing that is attentive to small, fragmentary experiences has the power to create, call forth, and share a world that is compelling and moving—a world that’s sound and alive beyond the words on the page.

Fred ArroyoFred Arroyo is the author of Sown in Earth: Essays of Memory and Belonging (University of Arizona Press, 2020), as well as the collection Western Avenue and Other Fictions and the novel The Region of Lost Names. His writing has been included in the anthologies Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing and The Colors of Nature: Essays on Culture, Identity and the Natural World. A recipient of an Individual Artist Program Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, Arroyo’s fiction is a part of the Library of Congress series “Spotlight on U.S. Hispanic Writers.” 

Writing the More-than-Human: Mindfulness and Creative Healing in Nature with Melissa Jean

Human writers exist in a richly populated, interdependent world of other-than-human beings. Some writers, especially nature writers, engage head-on with this interdependence by writing directly about nature, but even in writing that appears fully committed to unraveling human dramas, the other-than-human may appear as a setting or a metaphor, a sunset or a housecat. But the embodied experience of writing in and about nature transcends all human genres; spending time connecting with the more-than-human world can be a source of deep beauty and personal creative healing. In this session, we will engage with other-than-human beings, learn mindfulness practices that can deepen our sensory and intuitive experiences of the natural world, and practice writing about the more-than-human in creative and affectionate ways.

Melissa JeanMelissa Jean is an Assistant Professor in the Mindfulness Studies masters’ program at Lesley University. She teaches courses in academic writing, creative writing, research methods, and mindfulness and the environment. She received an MFA in Fiction Writing from Lesley, and a PhD in Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management from Utah State University. Her writing has appeared in The Colorado Review and a variety of online journals.

When Life Becomes “Otherwise”: Writing through Grief with Donovan McAbee

In Jane Kenyon's “Otherwise,” we read of a life lived in the shadow of impending grief. Using this poem as a jumping off place, this generative workshop will consider what it means to write through grief, recognizing the path is winding and offers no shortcuts. As we write, we’ll consider the value of putting pen to paper when life’s “otherwise” moments occur.

Donovan McAbeeDonovan McAbee is a poet and essayist, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Hudson Review, The Sun (US), Poetry Review (UK), and a variety of other places. His chapbook, Sightings, was recently released as part of the Floodgate Poetry Series, Vol 7. His academic monograph Charles Simic and the Poetics of Uncertainty was published in 2020. He holds a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and a PhD in Contemporary Poetry from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Donovan lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and their two children. 


Joshua MooreA Wound the Length of a Kiss with Joshua Moore

In this session we'll look at the work of poets who grapple with warp of relational trauma — the hurts we suffer and inflict as family. And how confronting those hurts on the page can help construct a road may toward broader healing.

Joshua Moore is a Nashville poet and MFA graduate from Vanderbilt University. He is the Host/Producer of Nashville Public Radio’s Versify podcast. His work on Versify was nominated for a 2020 Webby Award in Arts and Culture. He was the Lead Writer and Producer of Seizing Freedom Season 1. He was a '20-'21 Art Wire Fellow. He formerly served as the 2019-2020 Curb Center Fellow in Creating Writing. He is the former Co-Poetry editor and Comics editor of the Nashville Review. He is the winner of a 2018 Academy of American Poets University Prize, a scholarship recipient from The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and The Virginia Quarterly Review Writers’ Conference.

Moments Matter: How to Use Lessons from the Pandemic to Pace Our Stories with Katie A. Nelson

Some moments of the pandemic felt endless: stuck at home with hours to fill and only a sourdough starter and Netflix queue for company. Other moments--moments of devastating illness and loss--reminded us of just how short this life can be. Moving forward, we can use our new perspective on time to create more compelling stories. In this session, we will use generative writing to identify and explore the key scenes in our manuscripts as well as look at techniques to control the pacing of a narrative.

Katie A NelsonKatie A. Nelson is the author of the young adult novel, The Duke of Bannerman Prep, and also writes middle grade novels as well as picture books. She holds a BA in English from Brigham Young University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from California, Katie lives outside of Nashville with her husband, four kids, and two very spoiled dogs.


Decolonizing Grief Through Theopoetics: Healing Our Spiritual Selves with Meg Wade
"You will forgive me if I carry the tone of a preacher. / Surely, you understand, a man in the midst of dying / Must have a point" — Jericho Brown

Program enquiries to mtsuwrite@mtsu.edu

Questions or Comments

Please send an email to mtsuwrite@mtsu.edu.