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.)
Full Program TUITION:
$40 application fee
$1100 for registration.
- 8:00 am – 9:00 am
- 9:00 am – 9:50 am
- 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
- 12:30 pm – 1:30 pm
- 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
- 8:00 pm
- 9:00 pm
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 2013 seminar/reading schedule. The 2014 schedule will be posted in late May.
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 15th
Structure Yourself, with Dana Spiotta
Do you have to invent a form for a novel? How do you avoid making the novel too schematic? By examining various novel structures and closely looking at their organizing principles, I hope to show how important it is to violate or complicate the structural rules you invent. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Agent Game,
A panel with Claudia Ballard, Meredith Kaffel, Ayesha Pandre, 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
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Agents, with Matthew Dickman
Our world famous poetry editor will be discussing his own history as a poet, as well as leading a conversation on how to negotiate the business and practical side of your own poetic career. Chapel
Tuesday, July 16th
The Running Beatbox: Appreciating the Flow of the Long Sentence, with Karen Russell
Our syntactic patterns can feel so ingrained, like tics sometimes, that I often wonder, especially when I am in a rut, if I can recharge my creative drive by altering my syntax. As someone who has been married to the short sentence for most of my writing life, I marvel at those who can scaffold meaning inside a longer sentence. By examining a few of the best practitioners (MC’s) of the paragraph-length sentence, I hope to explore how much suspense can be generated clause to clause, how all those micro-turns of tone and emotion, those rhythmic elaborations of a central image or idea can help establish the sentence as a microcosm of the larger work. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Metamorphosis of the Dead & Documentary Poetry, with Brandon Shimoda
In The Life of Poetry, Muriel Rukeyser writes about “the buried, the wasted, and the lost”—the exiles of history—and the “submerged continent of song” that rises to take their place in memory. What is the life (and/or afterlife) of the stories and experiences of the living and dead (including us), and what, for this, is the task of poetry? This will be a conversation about the making, consciousness, and possibilities of research-based, documentary poetry, with a mind toward the metamorphosis and revelation of fact, experience, and memory, incl. glances into such ideas as Werner Herzog’s ecstatic truth, Susan Howe’s factual telepathy, Black Sabbath’s massive empathy, and Wallace Stevens’ interdependence of imagination & reality. Chapel
The Research Seed: Growing Fiction from Facts
A panel with Lan Samantha Chang, Karen Shepard, and Pauls Toutonghi, moderated by Meg Storey
Research is often intoxicatingly fruitful and fun, but it can also be paralyzing. As information piles up, you’re forced to answer the question: what facts do I really need? And how do I integrate them within my story without them becoming cumbersome, tedious? Our panelists will discuss how they’ve sifted through research in order to craft a world and characters that feel seamless and alive. Vollum Lecture Hall
Wednesday, July 17th
Get Me to The World On Time, with Luis Alberto Urrea
You don’t come from a place, you come from a story. Every place you know, every place you try to create, means something because there is a story attached, even if you haven’t recognized that yet. Many fiction writers seem to have trouble now evoking the character of place. Place isn’t a setting. Place is an elder in the family. We are not describing landscapes: we are writing biographies. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Metaphysical I, with Dorothea Lasky
This lecture will explore the idea of the Metaphysical I, a concept that an I in a poem can be a shapeshifter, have no center, with no definite purpose or form, and can emerge from an interaction between the speaker and its environment. It will look closely at poems by Horace, Catullus, Plath, Myles, Mayer, Notorious B.I.G., Ovid, Tate, Nicki Minaj, and Sexton, among others, to give guidance to poets to open up spaces for their personas to use unexpected language and images, be inconsistent, frightening, funny, wild, and most importantly, beyond the idea of a singular self. Chapel
Doing Time, with Jess Walter
It might be the most important element in fiction, yet if writers think of time at all, it’s as an afterthought, a simple device or a frame. A host of narrative problems can be solved through a sharper understanding of time—pacing and orienting, flashing forward and back, telescoping and truncating. But time is more than a device in a story. Time IS the story: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia would recall that distant day when his father first took him to discover ice.” Vollum Lecture Hall
Genre To Be Named Later: A Conversation with Maggie Nelson
Maggie Nelson, a writer whose virtuosic body of work is splendidly difficult to categorize, will be joined by writer Leni Zumas to discuss genre borders and how to cross them. Chapel
Thursday, July 18th
In the Beginning, God Created Opening Paragraphs, with Steve Almond
Let’s face it: great stories and novels almost inevitably signal their greatness from word one. But how? In this fast-paced lecture, we’ll examine some of the most kickass openings in all of literature in an effort to establish the exact nature of their kickassitude. Warning: this lecture will include a brief exercise that may blow your mind. Vollum Lecture Hall
Thinking Inside the Poem, with Major Jackson
Putting taste aside, the poems that most impact us, that lodge themselves in our bodies are those whose formal dimensions along with the sheer authenticity of their utterances work in tandem to present some unique vision about human feeling, suffering, joy, or oblivion. However, this talk concerns itself with how “thinking” serves as both engine and source of pleasure. In poetry, the movement of thought can be its own reward. We will look at a handful of poems with hopes of discovering some of the kinds of thinking poets employ in the effort towards rhetorical distinction. Chapel
Why Am I Reading This?: Making Your Material Matter to the Reader
A panel with Charles D’Ambrosio, Karen Karbo, Elissa Schappell, moderated by Michelle Wildgen
Say you’ve been dogged by an event and its ripples for years. You’re driven to ponder it, question it, and finally write it down, but then you receive the most dreaded response of all: “I can see why you needed to write this, but not why I need to read it.”What does this nebulous evaluation really mean? Are readers looking for broad, societal themes or rich detail and specificity of experience? Or is it simply a question of prose being good enough to justify its own existence? Our panelists will discuss their approaches to making their own story matter to others. We’ll talk about specific ways to evaluate your own nonfiction and autobiographical fiction for relevance and broader urgency, red flags that tell you it may be missing, and ways to fix it. Vollum Lecture Hall
Friday, July 19th
On Failure, with Anthony Doerr
Sometimes things cave in, fall apart, wilt. Sometimes we can’t manage to pull it all together. Language, after all, the medium we’ve chosen to work in, is a system of semblances and symbols; we’re using little black marks on a white page to articulate the inarticulable, capture the ineffable, impose order on that most disorderly of things: human life. You can never get language to say everything you want it to say. Here’s an attempt—one that will probably fail—to address the role of failing in making pieces of writing. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Controlling Image in the Poems of Larry Levis, with Dorianne Laux
Larry Levis was born in Fresno, California in 1946 and died, too early, at the age of 49. His father was a grape grower, and in his youth Levis drove a tractor, pruned vines, and picked grapes in Selma, California. He was one of Phil Levine’s students, and became like a son to him. Levis is famous for his long, rangy, free verse narrative poems that take us quickly and effortlessly through time and space. It is said that no one writes quite like Levis, but one thing we can learn from him is how he utilizes structure in his poems, something I call “the controlling image”, wherein he constellates a discursive narrative around a recurring image as a way to give the reader something to hold on to while he takes her for a ride. Psychology 105: Auditorium
The Indelible Image: Moments Make Movies, Moments Make Stories, with Benjamin Percy
The shower scene in Psycho, the train station shoot-out in The Untouchables, the escape from the booby-trapped cave in Raiders. These set-pieces are what audiences gaspingly recall three hours, three months, three years after they leave the theater. We will discuss their timing and arrangement with regards to fiction and nonfiction, so that you might include similar crescendos that will transform your stories from merely memorable to iconic. Chapel
Saturday, July 20th
And Nothing Was Ever the Same Again: The Art of Revelation, with Cheryl Strayed
It’s been said that the implied, invisible last line of every story—whether fiction or nonfiction—should be “and nothing was ever the same again” and I think that’s about right. I want to feel that something is at stake in the stories I read and write, that the main character in fiction or author in memoir has, in the course of the narrative, come to understand something new about the self, others, the world, or all three. This sense of transformation is achieved through the well-crafted and considered art of revelation, which I consider the emotional plot of a story or memoir, a cascade of truths that allow writers to narrate not just what happened but what it meant. In this lecture I’ll discuss how we create meaningful and credible revelations in prose forms both fictional and nonfictional. Vollum Lecture Hall
The Lights Are On in the House, But No One Lets Us In: Junot Diaz’s “Edison, New Jersey,” with Jim Shepard
A consideration of the challenges and opportunities involved in writing about that immense and rapidly growing category of those on the short end of the stick, when it comes to class, through a close reading of Junot Diaz’s “Edison, New Jersey” as an exemplary text. Vollum Lecture Hall
To be held in Cerf Amphitheater ($5 for the public)
Reading and signing with Steve Almond, Dorothea Lasky, Benjamin Percy
Reading and signing with Charles D’Ambrosio, Karen Karbo, Karen Shepard
Reading and signing with Karen Russell, Matthew Dickman, Luis Alberto Urrea
Reading and signing with Cheryl Strayed, Major Jackson, Jim Shepard
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
$750.00 for manuscripts under 250 pages
$1000.00 for manuscripts over 250 pages