2018 Pawleys Island Writers’ Conference

Join us this fall for our annual writers’ conference in beautiful Pawleys Island, South Carolina, October 26-28. Faculty this year includes the following:

Keynote, Therese Anne Fowler

Therese Anne Fowler is the author of the New York Times bestseller Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald and the forthcoming A Well-Behaved Woman (10/9/2018). Her work is available in multiple languages and in more than twenty countries.

Z has been adapted as an original television series for Amazon Studios, starring Christina Ricci. A Well-Behaved Woman is in development with Sony Pictures Television.

Therese earned a BA in sociology/cultural anthropology and an MFA in creative writing, both from NC State University. A proud member of Phi Beta Kappa and PEN America, she lives in Raleigh, NC, with her husband, author John Kessel.

WORKSHOP: Mastering Point of View in Fiction

First, second, or third person: how to decide? Is it simply a matter of what “feels” right to you, how you “hear” your characters? The short answer: no. The longer answer: it had better not be, if you want to get it right. Every story has a best point of view for the effect the author wants that story to convey. The problem lies in how to determine which POV that is, and then how to execute that choice. How you say what you say makes all the difference. We’ll discuss POV in classic and contemporary works, as well as crucial techniques for creating desired effects. Then we’ll flex our own writing muscles with insightful comparative exercises.

Fiction Faculty, David Gates

David Gates is the author of the novels Jernigan (Knopf, 1991) and Preston Falls (Knopf, 1998) and two collections of stories, The Wonders of the Invisible World (Knopf, 2015) and A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me (Knopf, 2015). Gates’s fiction, articles and reviews have been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, Esquire, Rolling Stone, Tin House, Granta, The Oxford American, The Journal of Country Music, and frequently in Newsweek, where he was a longtime writer and editor.

He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, and his books have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award. Gates has taught at Harvard, Columbia, the University of Virginia, Hunter College, Williams College, and The New School. He currently teaches in the MFA programs at the University of Montana and Bennington College.

WORKSHOP: Making a Scene

Making a Scene: What is a scene anyway? (A mini-narrative, with beginning, middle, climax and end, most often an encounter involving two or more people.) Where do you begin a scene? (As close to the end as you can. E.g., after the phone rings, somebody walks over, picks it up and says hello.) Where do you end a scene? (When it’s done what it needs to do. E.g., before they hang up.) What happens in a scene? (Something had better.) How does it move the larger narrative forward? (By letting us know something we don’t already know, either about the story or the people.) What is each person in a scene trying to achieve—overtly and/or secretly? (Something that conflicts with what somebody else is trying to achieve.) But you’re not saying that every encounter in fiction is a form of combat? (I’m not?) But not if the people are friends or lovers, right? (Especially if.)

Bring in a scene from your own work, and be prepared to discuss what’s happening in it, what each of your characters wants, and why the scene is necessary to your larger narrative. We’ll pay particular attention to dialogue: what’s said and how it’s said; what’s not said and what that says. We’ll begin by examining some scenes from published works, which you’ll have an opportunity to read before the session begins.

Fiction Faculty, John Kessel

John Kessel is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space and Corrupting Dr. Nice and in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. Kessel’s stories have twice received the Nebula Award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, in addition to the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, the Locus Poll, the James Tiptree Jr. Award. His play “Faustfeathers’” won the Paul Green Playwright’s Prize, and his story “A Clean Escape””was adapted as an episode of the ABC TV series Masters of Science Fiction. In 2009 his story “Pride and Prometheus” received both the Nebula Award and the Shirley Jackson Award.

With Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short science fiction, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singuarity Anthology.

Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He lives in Raleigh, NC with his wife, author Therese Anne Fowler.

WORKSHOP: Who Are These People, Anyway, and Why Are They Doing These Awful Things?

A conventional view of fiction is that there is a war between plot and character. In this workshop, through discussion, examples, and exercises, we’ll show how the two are intimately connected, and how your characters and story may be deepened by their contradictions. As a bonus, we will look at techniques for creating convincing characters in historical and speculative fiction, where the world of the story often differs drastically from the one we are familiar with.

Nonfiction Faculty, Leigh Stein

Leigh Stein is the author of three books. Her début novel The Fallback Plan made the “highbrow brilliant” quadrant of New York magazine’s “Approval Matrix,” and her poetry collection Dispatch from the Future was selected for Publishers Weekly‘s Best Summer Books of 2012 list, and the Rumpus Poetry Book Club. Land of Enchantment, her memoir about young love, obsession, abuse, and loss, was released in 2016, and was selected by Junior Library Guild as an adult book with teen appeal. She has also written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, AllureELLE, Poets & Writers, BuzzFeed, The Cut, Salon, and Slate.

WORKSHOP: Writing Your Obsession

Dear writers, what’s haunting you? Maybe it’s a strange story from your family history you’re not sure you should tell, a past relationship that left you wounded, or a landscape you keep revisiting in memory. Steve Almond has said, “write about what you can’t get rid of by other means,” and this class will focus on using obsession as an engine to drive whatever it is you’re working on—whether that’s a memoir, a collection of poems, or a novel. We’ll look at techniques for approaching perspective and distance, how to create a narrative persona, and strategies for finding the big question that can anchor a book-length project.

Poetry Faculty, Gary Jackson

Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of both a Cave Canem and Bread Loaf fellowship, and an associate poetry editor at Crazyhorse. He currently teaches in the MFA program at the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC.

WORKSHOP: Persona & the Poet’s Voice

Persona poetry sounds like a subgenre within poetry, but we wear a mask every time we write a poem, regardless if we’re taking on the role of a superhero, a villain, a historical figure, or simply ourselves, we’re constantly manipulating and fine-tuning language to portray/witness/render worlds for our readers by using elements of craft such as syntax, line, diction, and connotation. For this workshop, we’ll read a handful of poets who are masters at persona and voice, and we’ll try a few exercises that help us do identify the range of voices we already have, and how to break ourselves open and access that range.


Sunday morning will include additional faculty, including editors, to lead a Slushfest and Panel Discussion on what editors are looking for in submissions.