Tin House

Program

The Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop is a weeklong intensive (July 13-20) 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. You may only enroll in one workshop. If you have questions about which faculty member would best suit your work, call our office at 503-219-0622 and we will make every effort to steer you to the most appropriate workshop. Please continue to check the Web site for updates on new faculty or call our office for details.

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.)

Cost:
$40 application fee
$1100 for tuition
$600 for room & board


Apply

  • 8:00 am – 9:00 am
    Breakfast
  • 9:00 am – 9:50 am
    Morning Lecture
  • 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
    Workshops
  • 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
    Lunch
  • 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm
    Panel or Seminar
  • 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
    Panel or Seminar
  • 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm
    Cocktails, Agent Meetings,
    and Student Readings
  • 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm
    Dinner
  • 8:00 pm
    Author Readings
  • 9:00 pm
    Reception

The Tin House Summer Writer’s 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 Writer’s 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.

The following is the 2014 seminar/reading schedule.

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Seminars
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.

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Monday, July 14th
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2:00 pm
The Agent Game
A panel with Sarah Burnes, Meredith Kaffel, Eric Simonoff, Renée Zuckerbrot, 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, New York agents talk about what writers should know before seeking representation and offer unique insight into their profession. Vollum Lecture Hall

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2:00 pm
Shattering the Grecian Urn; Exploring Beyond the Ekphrastic, with Bianca Stone.
How can the arts inspire our writing? Drawing on work from contemporary poets, the lecture will seek to understand how everything from cinema, to comic books, to visual art, and music inform our craft. Giving ourselves permission to use that information in our poems allows for a wider range of voice and style, and ultimately, inspiration. PSY 105
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3:00 pm
Clearing Your Voice, with Mat Johnson
There’s a saying that “It takes a year to learn how to talk, and a lifetime to learn to write like you talk.” Unfortunately, a writer doesn’t have that long, and an author’s own oral voice is an invaluable resource in making prose come alive on the page. In this talk we’ll focus on the oral qualities of voice in established writing, and explore exercises and techniques that can enable a writer to quickly find a rich artistic source in the sounds already coming out of her or his own mouth. Vollum Lecture Hall


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Tuesday, July 15th

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2:00 pm
Wonderfully Funny, with Sarah Shun-lien Bynum
This talk will wrestle with the slippery question of “What makes a piece of fiction funny?” Through a close reading of the brief opening chapter of Penelope Fitzgerald’s “The Blue Flower,” we’ll explore various theories of humor and the literary techniques Fitzgerald uses to create her marvelously light-handed comic effects. Vollum Lecture Hall

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2:00 pm

The Collaborative Heart, with Matthew Dickman
This lecture will be a wondering about collaboration and how it might affect us as poets, artists, and people. We begin our lives as a collaborative act and end our lives as one. This daisy-chain exploration will ask some questions about this event, though it will take more than one person to come up with the answers. PSY 105

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3:00 pm
Emotional Rescue, with Nick Flynn
If you are writing about time, the one word you are forbidden to use is time. I think Borges said that, and it applies, I believe, to emotion as well. One of the pitfalls in writing nonfiction is the rush to announce sentiment. To give meaning before we have established cause. This talk will try to navigate you through the quicksilver of emotional energy in your writing, in ways that maintain mystery and depth, without falling into abstraction or exposition. Vollum Lecture Hall

 

Wednesday, July 16th

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2:00 pm
The Character of Our Characters, with Jonathan Dee, Dana Spiotta, and Joy Williams, moderated by Matthew Specktor
“Character” may be the one indispensable element of fiction. It certainly remains among the most mysterious. A narrative can be almost placeless (hello, Mr. Beckett), and yet without character there is nothing. So who are these people who populate our stories, and how do we build them? Nabokov claimed his characters to be galley slaves, while other writers —many— claim to take dictation on their behalves. Do our characters drive our stories, or do our stories shape our characters? Do we make them out of whole cloth, or do we just draw mustaches and funny hats on people we know? This panel will explore the complex business of creating compelling figures in fiction, how they live both on the page and in our minds. Vollum Lecture Hall

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2:00 pm
How to Write a Hoax Poem, with Kevin Young
Is there such a thing as fake poetry? If so, would you like to learn how to write it? By discussing some of the more notable modern poetry hoaxes, we will glimpse a secret history of the poem as something conceived to tempt or even trick. We may even learn to steal some of the effects of the hoax for our own work, going beyond mask or persona to the poem as a forgery of the first order. By understanding the ways the hoax works, we hope to know better our assumptions, habits, and hurts, and how to subvert them  PSY 105

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3:00 pm
Nighttime Logic: Ghost Stories, Fairy Tales, Dreams, and the Uncanny, with Kelly Link
The writer Howard Waldrop distinguishes between the kinds of stories that rely upon daytime logic and stories that use nighttime logic. What does he mean by this? We’ll examine writers, stories, and techniques that dislocate the reader and make the world strange. Vollum Lecture Hall

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3:00 pm
How To Write A Kick-Ass Essay, with Ann Hood 
Too often, when writers try to write an essay, they stumble on common pitfalls like cramming too much information into too small a space, giving too much back story, or trying to write an essay for a particular column rather than writing an emotionally true one. We all have read memoirs that take our breath away, but how does a writer manage to produce that effect in under 3,000 words?  In this lecture, we’ll discuss how to avoid these obstacles by examining essays by Jonathan Lethem and Junot Diaz. Ann will then offer up ten steps to help you write a kick-ass essay. PSY 105

 

Thursday, July 17th

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2:00 pm
Beyond Sympathy; Writing Past the Clichés of Class, Race, and Subculture, with Vanessa Veselka
When we write about underrepresented communities there is often pressure to gloss over their shadow sides, to extol their beauty while ignoring their failings. Yet as artists, we are here to break our characters from the clichés, both good and bad, that so often define them. Literature has always been a powerful medium for change. It’s where many of us first learned compassion. Dickens, Woolf, Ellison, Baldwin, Hemingway—all have asked, the work or the cause? And we will too. In this seminar we take up social responsibility and look at it through the lens of how it affects our characters and their worlds. Vollum Lecture Hall

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2:00 pm 
The Furniture Appears to be Dreaming, with Matthew Zapruder
In this lecture I will attempt to spectacularly fail, for once and for all, to define poetry. We will discuss metaphor, so-called “poetic” language, and explore the differences between poetry and prose. Other topics that may or may not be discussed in more or less detail include: Aristotle, the Void, Keats, email, chimney sweepers, Dickinson, Whitman, Baudelaire, line breaks, free verse, The Red Wheelbarrow, Occam’s Razor, prose poetry, Sappho, Bishop, psychoanalysis, Symbolism, meaning, and blue antelope. PSY 105

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3:00 pm
The Nattering Moi: A Few Thoughts About the (over)use of the First Person Narrator, with Antonya Nelson
Carol Houck Smith once said that she was very irritated by the “familiar story of the nattering moi.” My own irritation has to do with what I think is sheer carelessness: my students (my friends, other writers — published, unpublished, living, dead, famous, not) settle into the first person narrator as if that were the default mode of story telling. As a writer who rarely writes in the first person, I make it my practice to extol the beauties of the third person narrator, and to insist that my students at least consider it as an option, that they put their story or chapter through one iteration in which the “I” has been given that lovely breathing room of the close third person point of view and thus convert them. This talk will be my effort to do the same with all of you at Tin House. Vollum Lecture Hall

 

3:00 pm
Transfiguration: Making the Personal Universal, with Jo Ann Beard
As Shunryu Suzuki noted, “When you do something, you should burn yourself up completely, like a good bonfire, leaving no trace of yourself.” This lecture will aim to set fire to your nonfiction. PSY 105
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Friday, July 18th

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2:00 pm
Character Aesthetics, with Dinaw Mengestu
This lecture will focus on how the choice of details in a narrative often directly, or indirectly, are reflective of the narrative’s larger, aesthetic concerns. These aesthetic concerns are often most acutely reflected in how characters in a novel or short story “see” or witness the world around them. I’ll draw on texts from Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, as well as from Camus’s essay, “Create Dangerously,” along with the poetry of William Carlos Williams and passages from Marilyn Robinson’s Housekeeping to discuss how the narrative’s perspective(s) shape not only the characters, but the aesthetics of the work. Vollum Lecture Hall



3:00 pm
There Is No Party: A Conversation on the Necessary Sorrows of Destructive Revision, with Wells Tower
When is it finished? When your workshop people say they like it? When a fancy magazine agrees to publish it? But what about that voice in your secret heart that whispers: No matter what anybody says about that thing you wrote, it still kind of sucks? If you have not experienced the thrill of slaughtering entire drafts and starting back from zero, have you never really written? This talk will hear these questions out. Chapel

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3:00 pm
A Brief History of Silence, with D.A. Powell
This talk will attempt to unfold the dark matter of poetry—the white or negative space that a poem (and much prose) is situated in and makes use of through lineation, caesura, and stanza structure. We will also explore how silence, as a central structural element of poetry, illuminates meaning.  PSY 105

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Saturday, July 19th

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2:00 pm
Remarks on Imagination, with Mary Ruefle
A non-instructive lecture of remarks; imagination is just something I have been thinking about and have some thoughts on; the lecture will be entirely made up; could it be anything else? Isn’t all writing “made up” as we go along, even if compiling a grocery list or telling what we did last summer?  Vollum Lecture Hall

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3:00 pm
I Want to Go Home, with Anthony Doerr
I’ve long been susceptible to one (particularly virulent) sub-strain of the disease of longing: wishing to be elsewhere. Possibly this is because I grew up in Cleveland. This talk will look at spatial tension in our writing: the tension of characters wishing they were somewhere else, and the idea that the very acts of story-telling and story-reading invokes a kind of two-placed-ness, as we sit in chairs in Portland, dreaming ourselves—through language—onto a whaling ship in the south seas. Vollum Lecture Hall

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2014 READINGS
To be held in Cerf Amphitheater ($5 for the public)

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Sunday, July 13th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Peter Mountford, Lacy Johnson, Bianca Stone, Vanessa Veselka

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Monday, July 14th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Anthony Doerr, Ann Hood, Dinaw Mengetsu

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Tuesday, July 15th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Elissa Schappell, Kevin Young, Jonathan Dee

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Wednesday, July 16th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, Jo Ann Beard, Mat Johnson

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Thursday, July 17th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Kelly Link, Mary Ruefle, Antonya Nelson

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Friday, July 18th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Dana Spiotta, D.A. Powell, Nick Flynn

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Saturday, July 19th 2014
8pm
Reading and signing with Wells Tower, Matthew Zapruder, Joy Williams

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 to three times throughout the week of the Workshop and receive a comprehensive three-to-five-page manuscript evaluation.

For an updated list of faculty, staff, and guests available as mentors, please email Lance at workshop@tinhouse.com or call the office at 503-219-0622. Mentorships are highly competitive. Acceptance into the Workshop does not automatically qualify students for the mentor program. Please keep in mind, if your manuscript exceeds 250 pages, the cost of the mentor program will increase and we do not accept manuscripts over 350 pages long.

MENTORSHIP:
$750.00 for manuscripts under 250 pages
$1000.00 for manuscripts over 250 pages