the 7th annual
Taos Writers Conference
Sponsored by SOMOS, Taos, NM
All registration closes on Thursday, 7/6/23, at 5pm
All live events are at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Dr., Taos, NM, with the exception of the keynote reading on Friday, 7/7/23
Key to workshops: P=Poetry; M=Memoir; PR=Prose-fiction/nonfiction; H=Hybrid
FRIDAY - July 7, 2023
Opening reception for Friday attendees (coffee/tea/juice. pastries) Friday, 9-10am
Friday 10-4 one-day intensives:
Connie Josefs – Life Letters: The Epistolary Memoir (online) (M)
Veronica Golos – Walking the Wild; Writing the Wild II (at Wild Rivers/Questa) (P)
Valerie Martinez – Five-Hour Generative Craft Skills Intensive (P)
Leeanna Torres – Spiritual Writing (PR)
Jamie Figueroa – Make It New, Make It Strange (online) (PR)
Sean Murphy – Secrets of Powerful Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Memoir (PR)
Tommy Orange – keynote speaker 5:30 pm, location to be announced
SATURDAY - July 8, 2023
Opening reception for Weekend workshops (coffee/tea/juice, pastries) 8-9am
Aaron Abeyta – The Wound is the Well. The Ghost is the Bucket (P)
EJ Levy – Imagining History (in Fiction & Nonfiction) (PR)
Linda Michel-Cassidy – Developing Fully Formed Characters (PR)
Brenda Beardsley – The In-Between: hybrid & social justice (online) (H)
Sat, 12:15-1 Linda Michel-Cassidy – “Submitting to Literary Journals”
Sat 1:15 – 2 Natalie Kimber – “Writing the Query Letter”
Sat 2-5 pm
Amy Beeder – Birds Memorize Their Parent’s Songs in Sleep (P)
Sharon Oard Warner – Why Make a Scene (online) )PR)
Lauren Camp – How to Make Luck: Writing in Praise of the Ordinary (P)
Ariel Gore – Experimental Memoir and Story Structure (PR)
Sat 7-9 pm Faculty readings/book signings & sales
Wine and cheese reception
SUNDAY - July 9, 2023
Susan Mihalic – From the Mind to the Page (PR)
Sawnie Morris – How to Write Great Opening LInes for Your Poem (online) (P)
Natalie Kimber – Writing a Creative Manifesto (PR)
Allegra Huston – The Art of Memoir (M)
INTENSIVES ($175 Early Bird/ $199 Late Registration)
Choose one from the following six, all-day Intensive classes.
Weekend Workshops AND Friday Intensive: $499/$549
July 7, 2023
10:00 – 4:00
Life Letters: The Epistolary Memoir (online only)
The epistolary form dates back to the ancient Greeks, though there’s been a resurgence in
memoir in recent years: Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Kiese Laymon’s
Heavy, Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries, to name a few. We’re always writing to someone,
whether we’re aware of it or not. We may be writing to ourselves, to a person we know, a
mythical or historical figure, an imaginary or abstract being, a parent, child, lover or ghost. By
focusing on who we are addressing, the epistolary memoir brings clarity of voice and greater
urgency to our writing.
In this day-long intensive, writers will explore how life stories can be told effectively as letters.
We will consider the ways the epistolary form creates intimacy with the reader and sharpens
detail, dialogue and scene. Class format includes advance reading, writing exercises,
discussion and supportive feedback.
Five-hour Generative Craft Skills Intensive (live)
My last two books of poetry have been book-length projects – one about femicide (Each and
Her) and the other about climate change/disruption (Count). During this intensive, poets will
consider and explore a book-length poetry project by engaging in brainstorming for potential
topics, a mapping exercise (writing, drawing), reading from book-length works, and bursts of
free writing. The intensive will also address the particular challenges of writing a book-length
poem and its particular pleasures, including research, sustaining a large project,
composition/arrangement, and revision. Poets will leave the intensive with the beginnings of
their own book-length poem.
Spiritual Writing; An intensive/generative writing workshop (live)
Inviting writers of all genres to imagine the word “spiritual” as a broad and welcoming tool to use when
creating your own stories or narrative. In what ways does the Holy, or Divine, manifest in your own daily
life, and how does this translate into our writing? What instances or images have remained with you, and
how do they speak in ways un-explored? This generative workshop will include in-person/class readings
from selected essays, along with prompt’s and writing exercises. Writers from all backgrounds and faiths
are welcome. This will be an open space of exploration, invitation, and reflection time for your own
narrative of what the holy might mean through writing.
Make It New, Make It Strange: How to crack open universal experiences by wielding surreal and supernatural elements to get at original and surprising writing (online only)
In this five-hour fiction workshop, we will discuss short stories by Aimee Bender, Ramona Ausubel, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez among others. In our discussion we’ll consider how each story diverts from reality to get closer to the felt experience. How a giant hole in the stomach one can see through (“Marzipan,” by Aimee Bender) gives us grief and loss better than rendering scenes of predictable responses to grief and loss; how growing extra limbs shows how we’ve been transformed by love (“Tributaries,” by Ramona Ausubel) beyond what anyone could express in the literal world. Our felt experience is mythic, universal and incredibly specific. Translating the depth of emotion through detail is one of our top priorities as fiction writers.
We’ll engage exercises that will help us generate new takes on old writing to enliven our work. Reading work will be welcomed as will supportive, respectful feedback. While not everyone will leave this workshop a convert of the form, everyone will leave with tools to help see and feel their fiction anew.
All levels of fiction writers are welcome.
Secrets of Powerful Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Memoir (live)
In this class for writers of all levels, we’ll examine the elements of the writer’s craft that make up a fully realized narrative work – that is, a work of fiction or nonfiction that tells a story. Writers often engage craft techniques intuitively, without consciously realizing it. This is fine as long as our creative intuition is flowing. But when we encounter a problem — the sense that our writing is ‘flat’ or the story is not coming alive — we may struggle to identify what is wrong and how to fix it. In this class we’ll examine structural elements of strong fiction and narrative nonfiction, using hands-on exercises to explore these in our own writing. This approach is helpful for anyone who has ever had trouble finding a natural style or voice, gotten stuck in repetitive structures, struggled with point of view, timeline, or plot, or has trouble getting started at all! Or for anyone who just wants to explore more of the writer’s craft. Suitable for reinvigorating ongoing projects or starting new ones. Open to beginners as well as experienced writers.
WORKSHOPS ($325 Early Bird/ $379 Late Registration)
Choose one workshop from each time slot for Day 2 and Day 3.
Weekend Workshops AND Friday Intensives: $499/$549
July 8, 2023
9:00 – 12:00
The Wound is the Well. The Ghost is the Bucket (live)
The old saying, what’s in the well comes up in the bucket, is intended to speak of a person’s character, resolve, and ambitions. This can hold true in terms of poetry as well, but we will focus on the particular “ghosts” of the poet’s past, both ancestral and those haunting; the themes, images, ideas, and recurring subjects a particular poet (you) tend to explore over and over – the well-source of what makes each of us write.
Our workshop will focus on techniques and concepts which will make us better readers, able to identify in others’ work what we are searching for in our own; writers will be offered a wide range of tools, effective in all genres, for incorporating what they have learned into their own poems and writing.
At the heart of the workshop is the notion that we, writers, are here to heal, repair and make whole, not just for our own sake but for our readers. One of my favorite quotes is from Wallace Stevens’ “Large Red Man Reading;” it encapsulates, for me anyway, the magic of a poem, the power of a poem to make the reader feel and be healed, even when, perhaps, they were unaware of what they sought yet were healed, nonetheless, but what they found therein,
Which in those ears and in those thin, those spended hearts,
Took on color, took on shape and the size of things as they are
and spoke the feeling for them, which is what they had lacked.
Imagining History (in Fiction & Nonfiction) (live)
History can seem an abstract concept, an idea more than a meaty matter, but effective stories—whether fiction or nonfiction—often depend on vividly recreating the past. But how do writers bring the past alive?
This 3-hour workshop will focus on how to most effectively bring history to life, in our fiction and nonfiction. We will consider how character serves as conduit for the past. What’s the role of the physical body? What’s the place of voice, speculation? Examining passages from great practitioners of historical fiction and memoir—among them Hilary Mantel, Leslie Silko, Nathan Harris, Marguerite Yourcenar, Herman Diaz, Maxine Hong Kingston, George Saunders—this workshop will ask students to read several brief essays and excerpts before our workshop and to complete a single-page written assignment (inspired by the works we’ll read) to discuss in class. Our goal is to achieve new understanding and create seeds for vivid works.
Developing Fully-formed Characters (live)
In this workshop, we will work on strategies to write robust, unique, and three-dimensional characters. We’ll investigate how voice, narration style, and the ways our characters view and react to their surroundings work as evidence of who they are. Knowing our characters’ backstories, the objects they cherish, the things they fear—among much more—add up to multi- layered, complex, and captivating characters. We’ll also work on how to enliven our secondary characters (who are so often left as “types” or tropes), and how to make the reader sympathetic to or care for otherwise unlikeable characters.
We’ll do some quick prompted writing geared towards discovering just who it is we’re writing about, and how they behave in the world of the story. This workshop is appropriate for both fiction and nonfiction writers in all stages of their writing practice.
Interstices:: The In-Between (online only)
hybrid & social justice
Merriam-Webster defines interstices as “a space that intervenes between things.” In hybrid, this geography—between word, form, and page, necessitates the auscultation of myriad valleys, to exhume what has been plumed in text, poetry, photography, graph, and illustration.
How do these interstices— what migrates from one page to another, inform issues of social justice? What, interstitially, is the artist conveying in the in-between?
In this generative writing workshop, we read texts that engage with social justice. We will write into this in-between, where issues of social justice can be parsed, situated. If possible, bring a found source to the workshop relating to a topic of social justice that you would like to use in your writing.
July 8, 2023
2:00 – 5:00
Faculty Readings Book signings/sales (live)
7PM – 9PM
Birds Memorize Their Parent’s Songs in Sleep: A Generative Workshop in Poetry (live)
Our purpose in this class is to generate work by tackling fresh poetic techniques and new subjects. We’ll start with lively discussion: reading as poets, we’ll inspect the craft elements of a few pieces you’ll get beforehand. How is each poem made? How does image work here? What about sound, diction, syntax, pacing, line length, point of view? What can I learn and attempt? What can I consciously imitate?
From there we’ll move to generating new work through in-class exercises. Emphasis will be on using poetic elements in new ways, but I’d also like to do some work on subject matter. Remember that a poem can start practically anywhere: from something overheard, a splinter of regret you’ve carried for years, a menu, a strange or archaic word, that fact that one teaspoon of a neutron star weighs three tons―you get the idea. I hope to see you there!
Sharon Oard Warner
Creating a public display of emotion is one way of describing what it means to “make a scene.” Public spectacles are usually spontaneous but creating scenes on paper requires considerable planning and forethought.
Scenes are the building blocks of narrative. Anyone who writes short stories, novellas, novels, memoirs or plays (stage or screen) must be proficient at creating compelling scenes. If the moment is significant in the life of the story, chances are you will develop it through scene. Whatever’s less important ends up being summarized.
During our time together, you can anticipate a variety of activities: a little lecture, more discussion, and as much writing as we can squeeze into our time. We will analyze your favorite scenes to discover their secrets, revise a scene you’ve brought from home, and draft a new one to practice your skills.
All are welcome-unrepentant scene-makers and newcomers just finding their voices.
How to Make Luck: Writing in Praise of the Ordinary (live)
With so many things to worry over in these turbulent times, we need to keep finding joy and valuing gratitude. This generative workshop will focus you to write in praise of small beauties, large events or anything in between. We’ll revel in the process of writing, becoming immersed in close readings of exemplary poems, and following unconventional prompts. We’ll build listening skills, word banks and approaches, always searching to understand and capture emotion, and finding alternatives to traditional ways of phrasing. Learn how to move beyond the obvious like and love into the deeper and more magnificent why. Expect to map at least two wonderfully normal elements of your life, lifting the subjects up and enriching them with craft and celebratory attention.
Experimental Memoir and Story Structure (live)
For the Western story of overcoming, they teach Freytag’s pyramid and the Hero’s Journey. Ariel Gore teaches biomimicry, noir as the anti-American-dream, and “Gore’s Grotto,” alternative narrative structures that tap into myths and fairy tales, marginalized experiences, and hidden places.
The focus here isn’t on heroes, rising action, and conquer, but on deepening, discerning, community-building, and surviving with a version of ourselves that can relax.
We go inside and we discover the inner resources we need.
In this workshop, we’ll explore how story can imitate patterns in the natural world, how we can center communities and unlikely narrators instead of singular “heroes,” and we’ll cover the 13-beats of Gore’s Grotto, an adaptable story structure that centers the experience of transformation itself:
2. Societal Options
3. Casting the Spell
4. Breaking the Old Spells
5. Deepening Action
6. Eating / Strengthening
7. Potential Space
8. Moving Through Resistance
9. Ancestor Nod
10. Remembering When We Defied Gravity
11. Accelerating Through Toxicity
12. Releasing Expectations / Accepting Failure
13. Psychic Freedom
These experimental story structure are adaptable for writers of fiction, memoir, and hybrid genres alike. All are welcome.
July 9, 2023
9:00 – 12:00
From the Mind to the Page: A Generative Writing Workshop (live)
Time is of the essence in this productive writing workshop, suitable for writers at any level working in any type of writing, be it fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or journaling. You’ll write in response to a variety of prompts, all with the goal of getting to know your characters and your story. Exercises are timed, so you’ll have no opportunity to second-guess yourself. This process leads you to approach to your work from a place of deeper knowledge, emotion, and experience.
“I believe the information that reveals itself in these writing exercises comes from our subconscious minds,” says workshop instructor Susan Mihalic. “Writers who use these techniques discover their characters, settings, and plots more deeply. It’s a powerful, almost magical process.”
Materials: notebook and your favorite pen(s).
How To Write Great Opening Lines for Your Poem (online only)
In the beginning was the Word declares an ancient text –– but which word, or words? What speech or image or rhythm will spring the lock on a reader’s mind, liberating the imagination? And why are those words capable of doing so? To begin the process of answering these questions for ourselves, we’ll consider a range of exciting poems and opening lines from across the starry field of poetic styles and voices. We’ll note how and why those openings fit the standard requirements for compelling beginnings –– and, we’ll give our attention to great poems whose opening lines alter the ordinary, poems that slip into our psyche by less obvious means. Then, we’ll experiment with a process or two for discovering the opening lines of our own poems. Bring a poem or two in flux, along with paper and pen/ or laptop.
Writing a Creative Manifesto (live)
The benefits of clearly defining and declaring creative goals, inspiration, guidelines/boundaries, and personal/cultural history through a creative manifesto cannot be understated. We will explore some historical manifestos across creative and professional disciplines, and learn the aspects of preparing our own, and how to use them in our writing practice.
Creative manifestos are also excellent tools for establishing character and plot development, and we’ll learn how to go about writing them with specific projects in mind. This workshop will include generative writing prompts geared toward our first manifesto draft and a discussion of how manifestos influence the literary process and wider cultural zeitgeist.
Memoir: Write What You Don’t Know (live)
Are you thinking of writing a memoir, but you don’t know where to start? Maybe you’ve started, but the words aren’t coming out on the page the way they sound in your head. Could the problem be that you’re writing what you know?
When you write only what you know, it’s a slog. The result often feels stale and secondhand. Your inner critic sinks its teeth in. And writer’s block lurks on every blank page.
But when you write what you don’t know, you surprise yourself. Writer’s block disappears, and you retrain your inner critic to become your inner coach. Your voice is lively and authentic. Your words sparkle and sizzle. And you may just discover that your story is not what you thought it was.
“It’s not what you think.” It’s what you imagine, and play around with. It’s what you discover. It’s what you’ve never thought of before. That’s how to make your memoir vivid, personal, and powerful.
The Taos Writers Conference offers lunchtime Roundtables on Saturday, Day 2 only.
These value-added lunch events are informative and free to attend. Bring your brown-bag lunch to the group discussions with local experts on topics of interest in the literary world.
Saturday 12-2 Author Book sales
July 8, 2023
Linda Michel-Cassidy: Submitting to Literary Journals
July 8, 2023
Natalie Kimber: Querying Agents: DOs and DON’Ts
Agent Nat Kimber of The Rights Factory will discuss the structural elements of the best queries, how to make your query stand out, and what common pitfalls to avoid in the process.
Early Bird Registration ends 6/2/23. All registration closes on 7/6/23.
PLEASE NOTE OUR CANCELLATION POLICY: 100% refund minus a $35 administrative fee for cancellations dated 6/2/23 or earlier; 50% refund minus a $35 administrative fee for cancellations received between 6/3/23 – 7/1/23 No refunds given for cancellations received after 7/2/23.
Open Tues-Sat 12pm-4pm 575.758.0081 108 Civic Plaza Drive
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 3225, Taos, NM 87571
THANK YOU TO OUR FUNDERS
SOMOS programs are made possible in part by these organizations: New Mexico Arts, a Division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and by the National Endowment for the Arts • Taos Community Foundation • The McCune Foundation • The National Endowment For The Arts • The Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation • Taos County Lodgers Tax • TaosNetLLC for high speed internet service • LANL (Los Alamos National Labs) • New Mexico Humanities Council • Frost Foundation • Witter Bynner Foundation • Amazon Literary Partnership • Literary Emergency Fund