Fall Creative Writing Conference


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.

Things are different this year, but even a pandemic can't stop us from writing! 

Conference Program

2020 Fall Creative Writing Conference: Going Virtual!

Saturday, October 17-Sunday, October 18

Join us in the cloud (via Zoom!) for master classes in a wide variety of genres and topics. Since this year's conference is virtual, you can choose to sign up for one or two sessions, five sessions, or the entire conference of 12 sessions! 


Saturday, October 17


9-10 am "Finding an Agent" Hank Early 

Finding an agent is one of the most daunting challenges an author can face. Not only are the odds stacked against you, it can often make even the most determined writers throw up their hands in despair. Join crime writer Hank Early as he demystifies the process, sharing his own journey from uninitiated and aspiring novelist to landing a dream agent. From there he’ll discuss the agent author relationship and all of the necessary steps to go from idea to published manuscript.

10am-noon "Macro and Micro Similes and Metaphors in Fiction" Linda Busby Parker* 

We will begin with a discussion of similes and metaphors—what they are and what they accomplish for the writer. From there, we will move to specific examples. I will use two short stories as samples of “macro metaphors” in fiction. Those are: “The Secret Goldfish” by David Means (originally published in The New Yorker, May 31, 2004) and “The Ceiling” by Kevin Brockmeier (originally published in McSweeney’s, 7/2001). While it is not necessary to have read these two stories, the workshop experience will be enhanced by reading the stories. Means story can be found in his story collection by the same title The Secret Goldfish; a kindle download for the entire story collection is $3.99. Used copies of this collection sell for as little as $2.00. “The Ceiling” can be found in Brockmeier’s collection Things that Fall from the Sky. Used copies sell for as little as $2.00. These collections can also be found in various libraries and possibly online. For micro metaphors, I will use primarily The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. There is no requirement to have read this book because these examples are short and can easily be covered in session. This workshop provides an opportunity for participation in the process of developing metaphors or improving existing metaphors. We will also discuss “thinking in metaphors.”

noon-1 "Getting the Feel of Things: The Craft of Bringing Pop Culture into Poems" Christian Anton Gerard 

 This workshop will focus on bringing "the feels" to poems by using pop culture references and influences that might not feel related to pop culture. We will read poems utilizing popular culture to help us see and practice how poems can open up to larger places in the imaginations of readers and writers if we forget about what a poem "is about" and worry more about what a poem can feel.

1-2 pm "Poems Addressing Love and/or Death"  Marcus Jackson*

The great poet Li-Young Lee once said that most poems, regardless of their intended or secondary subjects, are really either about love, about death or about both. During our session, we'll read and discuss a selection of poems about love and death, written by different poets, and we'll pursue a finer understanding of their approaches to these timeless, crucial subjects.

2-3:30 "Say what? Dialogue in Nonfiction"  Michael Taylor

As in fiction, dialogue in narrative nonfiction can engage readers while advancing the story and revealing character. Conversely, poorly written dialogue can quickly kill an otherwise good scene. Learn some of the pitfalls to avoid and tips to improve your use of dialogue in creating highly readable--yet still factually accurate--scenes for nonfiction articles and books.

3:30-4:30 "Flash Fiction: The Very Short Story" John Minichillo

There have always been very short stories, but with the explosion of online literary magazines, and the normalization of the term “flash fiction,” there are a lot more venues celebrating the form. While the only thing that really defines flash is word count, we’ll look at representative styles and discuss common techniques. Short pieces are not any easier to write, but they can sometimes be easier to publish, and they can help fill out a short story collection in progress. It seems flash fiction is here to stay and emerging writers can use it to help establish themselves in an overcrowded field.

Sunday, October 18


10-11 am "Writing Compelling Characters for the Stage" Jessica Folk

Characters do not have to be likable to carry a narrative. In fact, some of the most compelling characters are enormously flawed, even "bad" people. This session will explore what it means to write a "good" character. Participants will have a chance to craft the beginnings of a character bio and an opening scene for an original character.

11am-12:30 pm "Establish and Sustain a Writing Practice for the Long Haul" Charlotte Rains Dixon* 

“When the passion goes away, it’s the practice that sustains us.” Jeff Goins. When you are a writer, you are not truly happy unless you are writing.This is why establishing and sustaining a regular writing practice is vital. You don't have to be writing brilliant words on your potential bestseller of a novel regularly (though it is awesome if you can). You can write in a journal, or just free-write on prompts, or scrawl a one-stanza poem every day, or write a Haiku. In my humble experience, writing, no matter what kind, leads to more writing. Though we hate to think about it, there will come a time when the passion may desert us, when our creative well runs dry and we despair. This is when you will be grateful you’ve carefully established a regular practice of writing, because it will lead you back to that passion.

11am-1 pm. “'Motherland, drip on me': Voice, Ancestors, and the Histories We Carry"   Alex Terrell

In this workshop, we will explore what it means to write voice-driven fiction and connect with those ancestors (however we define that) which we hail from. This can be literary or familial ancestors. It might also be places that we feel a deep connection to or places that we’ve visited that have remained with us. We will focus on exploring the stories we carry from our past by writing voice-driven fiction, haunting histories, and folkloric fables. We will write to our ancestors, think of our ancestral homes, and make space in fiction to leave a lineage behind. Our workshop will be largely generative. All genres and levels of experience welcome.

1-3 "A Chorus of Selves" Constantine Jones 

We often think of a chorus as the part of a song we can’t get out of our head. It’s no coincidence that the ancient Greek root of the word implies a collective singing and dancing of poetry. In ancient Greek drama, the Chorus was a persona both one and many—a group of voices speaking and moving together that would periodically interact with the characters on stage as part of the plot while also providing contextual information for the audience directly. The Chorus was both inside and outside the action at once. In this session, we will draw on our composite lived experience, allowing many different versions of ourselves to speak at once—past, present, and potentially future—in essence creating a Chorus of selves, a unique landscape in which we’re both the actors and spectators of our own lives, both the speakers and audiences of our own poems.

1-3 "Hollywood Story Structure: What Can You Learn From This" Anna Weinstein

In this two-hour lecture and discussion, you will learn how to apply cinematic three-act storytelling structure to other narrative forms. We will discuss the major turning points within and across act breaks, how to balance and weave together multiple storylines, when and how to incorporate stakes for the protagonist, strategies for generating and increasing conflict as the story progresses, and how to hold the reader’s attention at key moments in the narrative, particularly at the midpoint, end of the second act, and leading up to the resolution. We will look at both comedic and dramatic examples of three-act structure in commercially successful Hollywood films and will examine how this plays out in single-protagonist, dual-protagonist, and multi-protagonist films. This lecture will include opportunities for Q&As and collaborative discussion!

3-4 "The Why is as Important as the How" Karen Alea Ford *

Description isn’t just a string of adjectives. Authors finesse description to manipulate the feelings of a reader or foreshadow a plot point.Using examples, we’ll look at 3 main reasons to use description. Plus, we’ll delve into some master techniques you can incorporate into your writing. This session is applicable for novelists, memoirists, and, yes, even poets.

 Pricing and Details

Since the sessions are all virtual this year, participants will sign up for individual sessions. Participants will receive the private Zoom invitation to each session for which they register, all materials provided by the instructor, and a link to the recorded session to keep.  Registration is priced as follows:

          single session: $20

          five sessions: $60

          entire conference (12 sessions) $80




Program enquiries to mtsuwrite@mtsu.edu

Questions or Comments

Please send an email to mtsuwrite@mtsu.edu.