A stimulating variety of programs will be available every afternoon, including some events that are open to the public. Scroll down to see what is scheduled for each conference day. You can request a seat at afternoon seminars when you register for the conference. Seats are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure to also sign up at the welcome desk on campus for open mics and pitch panels as spaces are limited!




1:00PM paths to publishing

Our three panelists, memoirist Mary K. Jensen, novelist Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and novelist and podcaster Scott Sigler discuss their individual journeys on three unique paths to publishing—hybrid publishing, traditional publishing, and self-publishing.
This event is open to the public.


2:30pm Unraveling the Mysteries of Plot

Plot is generally considered the dull and ugly step-sister of literature, but is it? This seminar with Shobha Rao will examine the many ways in which plot can be constructed and deconstructed, all with the goal of understanding that most elusive of acts: turning the page. Why do we turn it? What compels us to do so? What is that beautiful and invisible string that pulls us along? And most important of all, how can we use these insights to enrich our own work? Together, we’ll unravel the ways in which plot is complex, exhilarating, and necessary.


2:30pm Poetry: A Generative Mini-Workshop

In this seminar, Victoria Chang will lead a close reading of several poems written in different “modes” such as an Ars Poetica, Aubade, Elegy, etc. After close readings, students will have the opportunity to generate poems in those modes. Whether you’re a casual poet or a poetry pro, you will leave this seminar with new ideas and material. Bring a notebook, pen/pencil, or a laptop and get ready to write.


2:30pm Literary Matchmaking: The Agent Search Demystified

There are so many agents and so many agencies, how can you see through the crowded landscape to the right agent for your work? It takes patience, research, a great query letter, and a little bit of chemistry. Literary agent and ex-editor Sarah Bowlin offers a wide-ranging seminar on the process of finding an agent and offers up insight into how to carve your own path to the right representation. The seminar will be conducted in two parts: first a broad conversation and Q&A, then a mini workshop on drafting a great query. Bring your query letter and an open mind.


4:10pm pitch panel

Pitch your book in two minutes flat to editors Andrew Karre and Philip Marino, agent Rayhané Sanders. They’ll give you frank reactions to the concept of your book, and to the way you made your pitch. There are grand prizes up for grabs: the coveted words “send me your manuscript.”

Private, one-on-one consultations can also be requested when you register for the conference. Consultations are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

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5:30PM: faculty and student Welcome Mixer

Come meet the faculty and your fellow students for a welcome supper and wine tasting at St. Anthony’s Hall in Mendocino. After some participants-only mingling, doors will open to the public at 6:30pm for a faculty reading.




1:00pm: open mic 

Share a two-minute excerpt of your work—or sit back and enjoy a medley of good writing and entertainment.
This event is open to the public.


2:30pm Podcasting 101: Turn your novel into an audiobook

Podcasting can be a great way to reach new audiences and get your writing out into the world. In this seminar, #1 New York Times best-selling author Scott Sigler will shed light on how he grew his fan base by putting his first book online as a serialized podcast. He will explain the technical basics you need to know to start a podcast and will open the floor to discuss your podcasting ideas and questions. 


2:30pm Exploring Constraints and Creativity: Shifting the Narrative

Limitations are everywhere, and they often feel like barriers. This seminar with Charlotte Gullick will dive into the power of embracing limitations as a source of creativity and inspiration for our writing. We will play with divergent and convergent thinking, learn to toggle between them, and see limitations in a new light.


2:30PM ACOUSTICS in Prose

In beautiful prose, the shapes and sounds of words form an experience. And each word, like a good citizen, helps its neighbors. “Porch,” for example, makes a colorless word such as “or” sound extraordinary. But if each sentence is selfish, caring only about its own beauty, then the larger passage risks sounding incoherent instead of incantatory. Memoirist Jeannie Vanasco will discuss the practical tactics of achieving good acoustics in prose, but will also explore when it’s important to let a flat sentence stay flat.


4:10pm: blind critique

Submit your opening lines anonymously and hear them discussed by editors Andrew Karre and Philip Marino, and agent Rayhané Sanders. Gain candid insight into what editors and agents are looking for—what will keep them reading and what will turn them off—and find out secretly the impact your first lines would make.

Private, one-on-one consultations can also be requested when you register for the conference. Consultations are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.


5:30PM: First Friday at Town Hall

Join us for a standing-room-only event: our “First Friday” faculty reading at Fort Bragg’s Town Hall. This popular soirée with wine and nibbles is open to the public. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to enjoy Fort Bragg’s “First Friday”—when all the local galleries will be open!
This event is open to the public.




1:00pm: open mic

Share a two-minute excerpt of your work—or sit back and enjoy a medley of good writing and entertainment.
This event is open to the public.


2:30pm Jump-start your prose with humor

During this afternoon seminar, Myriam Gurba will pair participants with several dance partners: shame, humiliation, and embarrassment. Humor will be the point of this awkward tango and Myriam will explain and demonstrate how to kink and refresh prose by using emotional beat changes and comedic swerves. She will discuss humorists including David Sedaris, Michelle Tea, and Samantha Irby, and participants will master several techniques proven to comedically jump start prose. Myriam will also address humor as a tool for writing through darkness, for as philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin explained, “Laughter demolishes fear and piety before an object… making of it an object of familiar contact.”


2:30pm Fear Not Confusion: Valuing Intrigue Over Information in Novels for All Readers

Following the impulse to give the reader seemingly necessary information right away is among the most common missteps Andrew Karre sees as an editor in novel manuscripts. Most manuscripts begin by being too informative. In this seminar, Andrew will reframe the job of the novelist away from one who informs and toward one who intrigues, and he’ll make a case that the ability to use deliberate confusion is as necessary a tool for engaging readers imaginations as the ability to write clearly. He’ll discuss a variety of examples from children’s and adult literature, pointing to specific techniques that are broadly applicable.



Our bodies think, feel, and remember. Their insights and memories hold trauma and joy. Incorporating these somatic narratives is a powerful tool for accomplishing successful writing. How do we render the experiences and epiphanies of the human body—ecstatic, erotic, and simple alike—faithfully and meaningfully? “Sex is a doorway to something so powerful and mystical,” the director David Lynch has said, “but movies usually depict it in a completely flat way.” On this count, literature can be just as bad as cinema. In this seminar, Lisa Locascio will discuss why writing the body is so difficult, explore common pitfalls and dodges, and offer strategies for writers find their way into their own universes of knowledge and sensation. Bring a pen and paper!

see you at hill house!

Saturday afternoon programming ends at 4:00 p.m. to allow you to relax and refresh before meeting us at The Hill House Inn for a 5:30 p.m. reception and faculty book-signing, followed by our closing dinner and keynote address by Pulitzer Prize winner Sharon Olds.

This year, seats at the closing dinner must be booked and paid for in advance as part of your conference registration. Seats are limited and assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.


Sharon Olds is an American poet. Winner of several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, Olds was born in San Francisco in 1942, and earned a BA at Stanford University and a PhD at Columbia University. Her first book of poetry, Satan Says, received the first San Francisco Poetry Center Award in 1980. Her second book, The Dead and the Living, was both the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1983 and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. She is also the author of The Gold Cell; The Father; The Wellspring; Blood, Tin, Straw; The Unswept Room; Strike Sparks: Selected Poems, 1980- 2002; One Secret Thing; and most recently, Odes. In 2012 her collection Stag’s Leap was awarded the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Pulitzer Prize. From 1998-2000 Olds was the New York State Poet Laureate, and she served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2006 to 2012. Her numerous other honors include a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. Her poetry has been anthologized in more than a hundred collections. She currently teaches poetry workshops in the Graduate Program of Creative Writing at New York University, where she holds the Erich Maria Remarque Professorship, and helped to found the N.Y.U. workshop program for residents of Goldwater Hospital on Roosevelt Island, and for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Her next collection, Arias, which will come out with Knopf in 2019. She lives in New York City.