The Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop is a weeklong intensive (July 12-19) of workshops, seminars, panels, and readings led by the editors of Tin House magazine and Tin House Books. and their guests – prominent contemporary American writers of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The program combines morning workshops with afternoon craft seminars and career panels. Evenings are reserved for author readings and revelry.
Workshops meet for six sessions, Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. Each workshop will have no more than twelve students and will treat two to three manuscripts per session.
Tin House editors and guest agents are available to meet individually with students throughout the week. For students who have completed a collection of stories or poems, a memoir, or a novel, one-on-one mentorships are available with select faculty and staff for an additional fee (for further details see MENTORSHIP.)
$40 application fee
$1100 for tuition
$600 for room & board
The Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop is held at Reed College, located on 100 acres of rolling lawns, winding lanes, and magnificent old trees in the southeast area of Portland, Oregon, just minutes from downtown and twelve miles from the airport. Portland offers a vibrant art scene, unique dining, and excellent public transportation. More importantly for writers, Portland is home to Powell’s, the largest independent bookstore in the world.
Summer Writers’ Workshop participants will be housed in the dormitories of Reed College near the center of campus. Most rooms are doubles, but not shared unless requested. The confines are clean, but quite sparse (remember your college days?) and students are encouraged to bring extra blankets, lamps, and fans to help make their stay more comfortable. All classrooms, readings, panel presentations, dining and reception areas are within walking distance from the dormitories.
During the summer, Reed College offers access to its bookstore, library, mail service, art gallery, print shop, and athletic facilities. Computers with modems may be used through the telephone connection in dorm rooms for no charge. Wireless internet is also provided to those participants with airport cards in their laptops. Tin House will also host a cybercafé where students can access the Internet. A limited number of printers are available and students are highly encouraged to print all needed materials before arriving at the conference
Meals are served in the dining area of the college and are catered by Bon Appetit. We work closely with these folks in the hopes that all dietary requirements and restrictions are accounted for and that our participants’ needs are met. Students not staying with us on campus need to pay for meals individually.
Portland is easy to get to by air, train, bus, and car. The Portland International Airport (PDX) is accessible to major cities throughout the country, and is about twenty to thirty minutes from Reed College via public transportation, shuttle services, and cabs. The bus and train stations, located in downtown Portland, are about fifteen minutes from the college campus. Participants can also rent cars at the airport and throughout the city. Click here for directions.
*Please note that the readings are free.
All lectures are open to the public for a fee of $15 per talk (or $20 for both afternoon lectures). Please plan on paying at the door.
Monday, July 13th
Missing the 7th Avenue Stop, with Rob Spillman
I frequently get asked, “What are you looking for?” My somewhat glib answer is, “I want to miss my subway stop because I was so engrossed in your work.” I’ll break down exactly what this means, looking at examples of stories, poems, and essays that grabbed my attention and refused to let me go. What, exactly, do these works have that others do not? We’ll look at their language and authority, the artistry and heart that distinguishes the most arresting writing. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Agent Game
A panel with Claudia Ballard, Bonnie Nadell, Denise Shannon, and Amy Williams. Moderated by Rob Spillman
Finding an agent to represent your work can be a time-consuming and hair-raising endeavor. Ideally, the relationship between agent and author is both professional and personal, providing a writer with much-needed support and encouragement. In this seminar, our panel of agents discuss what writers should know before seeking representation and offer unique insight into their profession. Vollum Lecture Hall
Precision Through Wildness: Building The Emotional Image, with Natalie Diaz
An image is more than what we “show” our readers–it is story, it is history, it is emotion. When we seek the “perfect” image, we filter our writing and cut ourselves off from the possibilities of meaning and emotion–the things that make both the writer and the reader feel. In this craft talk, we will move through a series of readings and exercises that will free us to identify our images and help us break away from what we think we know about those images so we can discover what they really mean to us and what they can mean to our reader. We will leave the idea of “perfection” behind and set our images wild in order to build them more precisely. PSY 105
Fantastic Buoyancy, Emotional Weight: Finding the Human in Slant Worlds
A panel with Julia Elliott, Manuel Gonzales, and Karen Russell. Moderated by Emma Komlos-Hrobsky
The best fabulist writing works a paradoxical trap, taking us closer to our humanity via that which transcends it. This panel will consider the ways in which outsized conjuring can pry open the inner lives of characters. Vollum Lecture Hall
Tuesday, July 14th
Genre Mutants of the New New South, with Julia Elliott
In a barely comprehensible dialect, Julia Elliott will attempt to identify distinctly Southern modes of genre-bending. After rambling on about Southern Gothic ecologies, ancestral lunacy, obscure brain parasites, and half-feral backwoods prophets, she will examine the work of several contemporary fiction writers whose innovative uses of genre explore the complexities of the New New South. Vollum Lecture Hall
Writing From Life: Truth, Lies and the Power of Story, with Dorothy Allison
What are the issues involved in taking lived experience, our own and others, and making art out of the very material most people want to hide or protect? Vollum Lecture Hall
Poetry and the Conceptual, with John Beer
What relationship do poems have with ideas? What does it mean that poems are made out of words? Some points of reference in working my way through these two questions will include writing by Ed Roberson, Wallace Stevens, Bernadette Mayer, Alice Notley, and Gottlob Frege. Chapel (Above the Admissions Office)
Standing Still, with Victor LaValle
Writers are, generally, cerebral and somewhat introverted people. We spend so much of our lives inside our own heads it can be easy to forget we have bodies that move through the world, take up space, do things. But where do those bodies go when we write fiction? This craft class is about paying attention to the “present action” in a story. How to make greater use of “present action” when telling a story. This isn’t about turning your work into an action movie. This is simply about making you more aware of what you aren’t setting down on the page. Vollum Lecture Hall
Wednesday, July 15th
Writing with Urgency: Techniques of Suspense and Momentum, with Ben Percy
Vollum Lecture Hall
Uses of the Elegiac, with Amy Gerstler
How far can inclusive definitions of elegy stretch? Are there limits to what conventional or unconventional elegy can mourn, memorialize, honor, metabolize, question? Are there angry, comic, upbeat and/or love elegies? Stealth elegies? Poems or projects by Terrance Hayes, Li Young Lee, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Lucia Perillo, Edward Hirsh, James Tate, Tom Clark, Tracy K. Smith, Catullus, Wislawa Szymborska, Anne Carson and others will provide examples for consideration of the possibilities of various elegiac incorporations in our own work. Chapel (Above the Admissions Office)
Masterful Revision: From Trimalchio to The Great Gatsby, with Lan Samantha Chang
How does a writer move from a promising draft to a fully realized work? In 1924, F. Scott Fitzgerald submitted an early version of The Great Gatsby to his editor, Maxwell Perkins. After receiving feedback from Perkins, Fitzgerald rewrote the book while it was in galleys, transforming it into the luminous novel we know today. We’ll look at changes made to sentence, scene, and chapter sequence. We’ll talk about the special process of revision and how it works. Vollum Lecture Hall
Life is Short—Art is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity, with David Shields
A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of literary brevity in a hyper-digital, post-religious age. A rally for compression, concision, and velocity. A meditation on the brevity of human existence: We are mortal beings/There is no god/We live in a digital culture/Art is related to the body and to the culture/Art should reflect these things/Brevity rules. Chapel (Above the Admissions Office)
Thursday, July 16th
When the Action is Hot, Write Cool, with Debra Gwartney
It can be tempting to believe you’ll increase the tension of your prose if your characters over-emote: cry, weep, wail, explode with joy. But it’s often more effective to convey emotion with a matter-of-fact tone and highly controlled language. In this craft talk, we’ll discuss the ways to allow the reader to feel for herself, rather than be instructed by the writer.Vollum Lecture Hall
The Third Rails of Writing, with Debra Gwartney, Jenny Offill, Jon Raymond, and Karen Shepard. Moderated by Michelle Wildgen
As readers, we know that often the work that most moves us is audacious; it speaks from the precarious far-reaches of form, voice, and emotional revelation. Join our authors as they discuss the topics they found most daunting to write about or the topics they’ve decided not to write about at all. Vollum Lecture Hall
Getting the World Into the Poem: Information, Layering, and Mosaic, with Tony Hoagland
The issue can be stated thus: if poetry (art) is to represent the world– when there is so goddamn much of it, well, then, how? The more one includes in the picture, the more impossible it seems to maintain dramatic shape. Chapel (Above the Admissions Office)
Narrative Mechanics: Sweating the Small Stuff with Marlon James
She was the last one left alive. Poor girl, her circumstances can’t be very good—worse, her entire state is hinging on a linking verb. Maybe she was too busy was-ing. Sometimes plot isn’t the problem. Or imagery, setting, or even character. Sometimes it’s simply that you’ve dropped a heavyweight phrase on a verb too weak to bear it. An adjective that refuses to do new work. A Germanic word in a sentence begging for Romance. Narrative mechanics is about back-to-the-basics stuff that nonetheless makes the difference between sparkling prose and that slog we pretend to like. In this talk we’ll look at the words that do all the real work in your sentences, and figure out how to make them work even harder. Vollum Lecture Hall
Friday, July 17th
A Supposed Person, with Charles D’Ambrosio
“When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse –it does not mean –me—but a supposed person.” (Emily Dickinson)
As of this sitting, I have no idea what I’ll actually say in my talk about persona and the personal essay. I might talk about Jung. I might talk about Negative Capability. Maybe I’ll draw a distinction between an autobiographical or memoiristic ‘self’ and the persona we encounter in a personal essay. Maybe I’ll argue that authenticity in a personal essay is not the product of a sincere soul. Chances are I’ll talk about irony. And I’ll likely talk about masks too. And if I can screw up the nerve I may even wear a mask while I give this little talk. Vollum Lecture Hall
On Pandering, or, How to Write Like a Man, with Claire Vaye Watkins
Why does the voice in my head have an Adam’s apple? Some thoughts about Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, VIDA, and the audience within. Written on the occasion of one writer’s troubling realization that she has been writing to impress old white men. Open discussion to follow. Chapel
Inside Out: A Short Talk About Rewriting, with Cornelius Eady
For me, drafts are not poems; they are experiments. Using one of my old poems as an example, I will walk through the way it changed from a draft to finished poem. PSY 105
Saturday, July 18th
Having Gravity and Having Weight: On Meaning in Fiction, with Robert Boswell
This lecture will consider meaning in fiction in terms of authorial custody, narrative complication, and dramatic context. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Body in Time, with Maggie Nelson
Nonfiction writing, particularly that of the autobiographical variety, poses a particular performative problem for the writer—that of locating the writing body in time. For no matter what a text’s subject, its reader presumes that a coherent living body wrote the words now in her hands at a particular point in time. But how the writer invokes this living body is always a performance of sorts, in that actual writing takes place over time, in multiple locations, in ever-changing bodies. This talk will address how this variability appears or disappears into the fabric of our work by examining certain limit cases—Herve Guibert and David Wojnarowicz writing while dying of AIDS, Peter Handke writing in the crushing immediacy of his mother’s suicide, Beatriz Preciado writing during a yearlong experiment with testosterone, and so on. My aim here is to express solidarity with what Wayne Koestenbaum has called a “philosophically inclined subset of body-smeared literature” that he hopes is coming back into prominence (as do I). For, as Koestenbaum asks, “What else is there to write but the body?” Vollum Lecture Hall
Narration in the Face of Extremities of Suffering, with Jim Shepard
An examination, partly through a close reading of Jona Oberski’s Childhood, of the usefulness of various narrative strategies—particularly those involving self-imposed limitations—as a means of engaging extremities of suffering.Vollum Lecture Hall
Once accepted and registered into the program, Workshop participants who have completed a book of stories or poems, a novel, or a memoir and want to receive a consultation on ways to improve their manuscripts are invited to apply for a mentorship with select faculty, guests, and editors. To be considered for this program, please fill out the mentorship application included in your acceptance packet. Tin House will then submit a query to your choice of faculty member. If the mentor is available, the student is required to submit his or her book-length manuscript before the Workshop begins.
A mentorship is not an edit, but a manuscript evaluation. Students can expect to meet with their mentors two times throughout the week of the Workshop and receive a comprehensive three-to-five-page manuscript evaluation.
Mentorships are highly competitive. Acceptance into the Workshop does not automatically qualify students for the mentor program.
Under 250 pages: $750.00
251 – 350 Pages: $1000.00
351 and over: TBD