SpaldingCon 2021

SpaldingCon: Post-graduate Writers’ Conference


November 17-19, 2021

SpaldingCon is a post-graduate writers’ conference held during the School’s fall residency. The conference begins at 11:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, November 17, and ends at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, November 19. Because we are planning an in-person residency, SpaldingCon attendees can build their experience around an in-person workshop and sessions on campus. For those who cannot travel to Louisville, attendees can participate in SpaldingCon virtually with a Zoom workshop and other virtual sessions. Either way, plenty of activities are included.

Highlights include:

  • A two-hour generative seminar with Lynnell Edwards, “Hybrid A-Go-Go!”

Haibun, parable, visual poetry, proem?  Interest in the dynamic and fluid shapes of short-form writing has recently surged. There is, however, a long tradition of hybrid expression, even as contemporary writers reinvent the possible. This generative jam session will explore the history and contemporary landscape of short-form writing and will give participants opportunities to write and share their work.

  • Faculty lectures in various areas of concentration
  • A faculty reading
  • Distinguished Featured Author session (title announced by August 28)
  • A reception celebrating the 20th anniversary of the MFA program with co-founders Sena Jeter Naslund and Karen Mann, School of Writing staff, other MFAers, and Spalding dignitaries
  • Dine-around meals with other alums (Dine-arounds are Dutch-treat group meals that participants sign up for in advance.)
  • Trivia game night
  • A generative workshop: Six hours of workshop over three days, led by a School of Writing faculty member in person or virtually
    • In-person workshops: Silas House, Erin Keane, Nancy McCabe, and Charlie Schulman
    • Virtual workshops: Roy Hoffman, Robin Lippincott, Lesléa Newman, and Jeanie Thompson


Early-bird registration with reduced cost of $475: deadline Wednesday, September 1. Regular registration pricing of $525 by the September 8 deadline.

To register, fill out this form We’ll confirm your place in the workshop by September 30. Payment is due by October 15.

Rooms may be available at the Brown Hotel for $145 per night (includes tax) and can be requested through the registration form above (first come, first served). Notification of room availability will be sent by September 30. If the reservation is confirmed, that payment is also due by October 15.

SpaldingCon In-person Workshops

(offered on the Spalding campus or the Brown Hotel)

While workshops focus on writing in distinct focal areas, all workshops at SpaldingCon are open to post-graduate students from any area of concentration. Each workshop has a minimum of 5 people and a maximum of 8. Spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis. If there are more than 8 applicants, we’ll begin a waiting list. Workshop places will be confirmed by September 30.  

Foundations: Voice, Character, and Place
led by Silas House

Focal Area: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Writing for Children/YA
Pre-reading: A PDF of reading will be emailed to participants in October.
Worksheet: None
Delivery: In-person

Three of the true foundations of good writing are Voice, Character, and Place. They are three things that agents, editors, and readers look for the most. In this generative workshop we will look at ways to elevate creating a memorable voice, building characters that breathe, and writing a sense of place that allows the reader to step into the writing and move around. Throughout our time together we will look at some short pieces of published work that exemplify the best of writing voice, character, and place. We’ll talk together about why these three foundations are so important, you will be given prompts to lead you to write more deeply in all three of these areas, and we’ll share our work together as a community. The exercises will often ask writers to start in CNF and then use that to feed fiction.


Memorable Bookends: How to Open and Close Your Story with Purpose and Flair
led by Erin Keane

Focal Area: Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Professional Writing
Pre-assignment: None
Worksheet: None
Delivery: In-person

Beginnings and endings set a story’s tone and deliver on its promise. How much information should a first sentence have? How do you want your reader to feel when they read the last sentence of your story? In this generative workshop focused on fiction, CNF, and professional writing, we’ll discuss different techniques for crafting opening and closing sentences, break down effective examples in a variety of fiction and nonfiction styles, generate new openings and endings for stories both unwritten and in-progress, and workshop our results. (If you have nothing to revise, fear not! The generative exercises will keep you busy creating new material.)


The Healing Power of Artful Writing
led by Nancy McCabe

Focal Area: All areas
Pre-assignment: None
Worksheet: None
Delivery: In-person

Studies of expressive arts therapy show that the act of writing can be profoundly therapeutic. They also show many intersections between the artistic techniques that define an aesthetically successful piece of work in any genre and writing techniques that can aid in coping and healing, lowering blood pressure, and strengthening the immune system. Drawing from Natalie Goldberg’s use of writing as a kind of Zen meditation, James Pennebaker’s studies of expressive art, and Louise DeSalvo’s examination of writing as a means of healing, among others, this workshop will examine the way that creating images and scenes and shaping our stories, transforming experience into art, can also transform us.

Furthering Your Script through Improvisation
led by Charlie Schulman

Focal Area: Playwriting, Screenwriting, TV writing
Pre-assignment: Come to workshop with four lines of dialogue per the description below.
Worksheet: None
Delivery: In-person

This workshop is specifically for playwrights, screenwriters, and writers for television who are struggling with writing specific scenes in their plays, screenplays, or TV pilots. (But ALL genres are welcome.) Each student will have an opportunity to have their fellow workshop participants help them by improvising their unwritten scene(s). The instructor will help each writer set up the scene with specific instructions: What is at stake? What are the obstacles? What is the protagonist willing to do to get what they want? What happens in the previous scene? What happens in the following scene? And four lines of previously written dialogue and/or visual description to set up the scene. i.e. Objective + Obstacle = Conflict.

Each student will “guide” their scene and try it several ways. We will swap improvisors in and out of scenes. Through playful collaboration, each improv will aim at getting to the heart of the scene, characters, and the dramatic work in its entirety. After each scene has been improvised, students will be asked to write a “revision” of the improv and read that in class. No acting or improv experience required. Just an open heart and willingness to help your fellow workshop participant.

SpaldingCon Virtual Workshops

(virtual workshops are offered on Zoom so may be joined from any location)

While workshops focus on writing in announced focal areas, all workshops at SpaldingCon are open to post-graduate students from any area of concentration. Each workshop has a minimum of 5 people and a maximum of 8. Spaces will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and if there are more than 8 applicants, we’ll begin a waiting list. Workshop places will be confirmed by September 30.

Flash Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Generative Workshop
led by Robin Lippincott

Focal Area: Fiction, CNF
Worksheet: None
Delivery: Virtual via Zoom

Writing short encourages the writer of fiction/CNF to pay closer attention to language and the poetic techniques of lyrical compression, as well as to formal experimentation. A workshop uniquely adapted to the virtual format, we’ll focus on generating new pieces of sudden work, as well as on sharing and discussing that work.

Radical Empathy: Writing in Persona
led by Jeanie Thompson

Focal Area: Poetry
Pre-reading: A PDF of reading will be emails to participants in October.
Worksheet: None
Delivery: Virtual via Zoom

The term “radical empathy” has been used to indicate the need for urgency in seeing the world from someone else’s point of view. The persona poem, or writing in persona, is widely practiced in contemporary poetry but dates to Greek tragedy, so humans have been working on this for a while. Robert Browning catapulted the dramatic monologue toward the 20th century, and the persona poem evolved with the Modernists. Today, poets find the mode of writing “in persona” useful to enter a character who impels us to think about ourselves and our community. The purpose of this workshop is to guide participants who want to know more about writing in persona—the do’s and don’ts of evoking a speaker’s voice, how to indicate an auditor, how to make use of scene and incorporate reactions from other speakers. After discussing sample poems, we will brainstorm targeting a subject and thinking through individual poems that continue to build the persona. We will also discuss planning a sequence in persona. Brainstorming and drafting poems in persona, based on sample poems, as well as idea-clustering poems for a specific persona, will be the majority of the six hours. The goal is to introduce basic aspects of writing in another person’s voice (i.e., in persona); explore how to empathize deeply, even radically, with the speaker; and listen for the voice that emerges in one’s poems.

In six hours a student should be able to compose five to six poems, revise at least two, and have a game plan for a persona sequence, if that is desired. The peer-to-peer aspect of this workshop, I hope, will be dynamic and will amplify empathy in our Spalding community. A reading list of modern and contemporary books in persona will be provided for post-workshop reading reference.


Elegant Opinion: The Short Personal Essay with a Point of View
led by Roy Hoffman

Focal Area: Creative Nonfiction
Pre-assignment: There may be some pre-reading. If so, it will be emailed out in October.
Worksheet: None
Delivery: Virtual via Zoom

What’s your opinion on vaccinations, teaching via Zoom, screens in cars, learning poetry by heart, handwritten thank-you notes, wedding styles, marijuana, voting access, guns, the sorrows or beauty of aging? How can you bring a personal story—and eloquent prose—to a point of view on one or two of a thousand matters in an essay that’s succinct, intimate, and widely accessible? In “Elegant Opinion” we’ll turn our workshop into a lively newsroom, every writer, each day, taking an idea from inception to first draft, then, by the workshop’s final day, polishing final drafts. We’ll progress in this way in the course of a two-hour session: You’ll tell us what’s on your mind, focus it with group conversation, write a draft of 750 to 800 words—a standard length in viewpoint sections of newspapers and magazines—share it with the group, and get input. We’ll encourage not only clarity of opinion—with a personal connection—but also eloquence of language. We want to understand your opinion through your eyes, experience it as we walk in your shoes. Literature, politics, art, food, fashion, societal norms, sports, you name it— we’ll be interactive, conversational, generative, and productive. Our goal? For you to have two elegant opinions to submit on your own for publication, with a list provided to you of general contact information for a wide range of viewpoint sections.

Read It Again: The Art of Writing Picture Books
led by Lesléa Newman

Focal Area: Writing for Children/YA
Pre-assignment: Each student should bring a beloved picture book either from the present or from childhood and be prepared to discuss what makes it a stand-out favorite.
Worksheet: None
Delivery: Virtual via Zoom

The most successful picture books inspire a child to cry out, “Read it again!” over and over. What makes a picture book so beloved? In this workshop, we will explore all types of picture books: books written in rhymed verse, books written in prose, funny picture books, serious picture books, historical picture books, picture book biographies, picture books that explore social issues, etc. The workshop will consist of discussions of various picture books brought in by the instructor and generative writing exercises. Students are also asked to bring in their favorite childhood picture book and be prepared to discuss what made it so memorable. The only prerequisite for writing picture books is having the experience of having been a child. The goal of this workshop is to have students fall in love with the picture book form and be inspired to try their hand at writing them.


Payment and Cancellation for SpaldingCon
Full payment is due by October 15
75% of fee will be refunded through October 31.
50% of fee will be refunded November 1 through November 9
No refund after November 9

Cancellation policy for rooms at the Brown
Full refund through November 9. After that, full refund minus any charges made by the Brown Hotel.

Questions? Email Karen Mann at