the 4th annual

Taos Writers Conference

Friday, July 24 to Sunday, July 26, 2020


FRIDAY - July 12, 2019

Registration for One-Day Intensives, coffee, book sales

10​:00 – 4:00 One-Day Intensives

William deBuys: The Writer’s Toolbox
Andrea Watson: Discover Exciting & Innovative Forms in Poetry
Connie Josefs: Who’s Talking: The Narrator in Memoir
Rob Wilder: How to Write an Honest YA (or Crossover) Novel
Allegra Huston: Telling Your Story With Heart
William Haywood Henderson: Landscape, Emotion and Meaning

3​:30 – 5:00
Registration for weekend workshops

Opening reception for faculty/attendees with wine & cheese at SOMOS

Arthur Sze: Keynote Reading – Harwood Museum, 238 Ledoux Street
Tickets are: $16/SOMOS & Harwood Alliance members; $20 general public. Call the Harwood at 758-9826 for reserve tickets.

SATURDAY - July 13, 2019

Coffee & book sales

Sherwin BitsuiStorm Patterns
Johanna DeBiaseCharacter Development through Archetypal Themes
Iris Keltz: Memoir, History and Our Lives
Veronica Golos: THE VERB – Its uses and its magic!
Jean-Marie Saporito: Hermit Crab Essays

Lunch (on your own), book sales, and roundtable brown bag lunch discussions

Roundtable discussions:
Stephen Schneider: Noon-1pm Using Art to Jump Start Your Writing, or the Ekphrastic Tradition
Allegra Huston: 1pm-2pm The Stuff Nobody Teaches You (How to Perform for an Audience; How to Work With a Writer)

Linda Michel-Cassidy: Experiments in Form for Prose Writers
Sallie Bingham: Writing History
Connie Josefs: The Way They Were – Writing Characters in Memoir
Juan Morales
Poetry of Witness and the Activist Poet
Sean MurphyDimension in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Memoir

Book Sales

Faculty Readings at SOMOS

SUNDAY - July 14, 2019

Coffee and book sales

Steven Schneider: The Prose Poem
David Pérez: The Voice, the Body, the Words – Speaking Your Writing to Life
Lise GoettPerfect Design:  Structuring Your Poetry Manuscript for Journal or Book Publication Competition
Estelle LaureSo You Wrote a Novel. Now What?
Jenny Sue Kostecki-ShawWriting Children’s Books with Author & Illustrator

Book Sales


All programs meet at SOMOS 108 Civic Plaza Drive, Taos, NM 87571 except for Arthur Sze’s Keynote on Friday, July 12, 2019, at 7 PM at the Harwood, 238 Ledoux St.


Choose one from the following six, all-day Intensive classes.
Each class runs 10​:00 – 4:00 on Friday only.

Day 1

July 12, 2019

10​:00 – 4:00

William deBuys

The Writer’s Toolbox
Writing is both an art and a craft. The art may lie beyond the reach of teaching, but the craft does not. This one-day intensive will focus on the tools essential to good writing, be it fiction or non-fiction. We’ll discuss such essentials as tension, character, sense of place, and voice, among others. Time being short, we will only write a little. Participants will also be asked to bring a paragraph of prose that they find particularly inspiring, and we will spend part of our time exploring the elements of craft that make those paragraphs so effective. Come prepared to listen hard, to think, to share your thoughts, and also to laugh. The revelations of good writing can be amusingly paradoxical. To paraphrase the poet Lew Welch: “Everything important in life that I have learned I discovered by myself, and somebody showed it to me first.”

Connie Josefs

Who’s Talking? – The Narrator in Memoir​

“Get the narrator and you’ve got the piece.” —Vivian Gornick

The narrator’s voice is central to the success of any memoir. It releases the story from the raw material of our lives and illuminates shape, forward movement, tone and theme. How do we find the right voice to tell our story? And what is the connection between the one who is speaking and what is being said?

In this workshop, we will explore the concept of narrator as persona, a construct that emphasizes certain parts of ourselves and omits others. We will also explore the assets and liabilities of writing in first person and examine how writers have utilitzed this point of view to maximum effect. Class format includes readings, discussion and writing exercises. Experienced and aspiring writers welcome.

(Note: Participants are welcome to bring a few pages from their memoir to work on in class, though this is not required.)

Allegra Huston

Telling Your Story With Heart
My workshop will focus on memoir, and on infusing story with emotion. I believe that writing only what you know often leads to dull writing; the key is to find what you don’t already know, the aspects of your story that haven’t already taken solid form. The workshop will include at least three timed writing exercises from prompts that I will give, along with group discussion. All work read aloud will be generated in the workshop, so we will not be critiquing one another’s work. We will be looking only for what pops, for nodes of energy in our writing. I guarantee that you will surprise yourself!

William Haywood Henderson

Landscape, Emotion, and Meaning
“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.”—The Solace of Open Spaces, Gretel Ehrlich. The landscape you employ in your writing can be much more than just a backdrop; landscape can embody the emotion of your characters, the mood of your story, and the themes running through your art. In this workshop, we’ll study the works of writers who use landscape expertly, then learn techniques to put the landscape to its deepest, richest use in your own writing.

Andrea Watson

Discover Exciting and Innovative Forms in Poetry: 
Andrea Watson, 3: A Taos Press, Instructor
As a publisher, I always am delighted to see form poems included in a poetry submission. To that end, this workshop will explore imaginative forms in poetry, both ancient and modern: luc bat, ghazal, haibun, glosa, beau présent, paradelle, waltz wave, and others, time permitting. Participants will be offered guidance in each form, numerous samples, and adequate time to write their own forms of choice.

I also am available to offer general comments and overviews on manuscripts during the conference for participants in this class.

Rob Wilder

How to Write an Honest YA (or Crossover) Novel
According to Publisher’s Weekly, 55% of YA books are purchased by adults. Would classics like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill A Mockingbird be considered Young Adult fiction if published today? Does any of this matter if you are trying to write a novel with a teenage protagonist? In this immersive one-day workshop, we will discuss how to approach writing for and about teens and how voice can act as an organizing principle when thinking about expansive forms like the novel. In addition to varied (and fun) writing exercises to further our own work, we will also look at a smattering of YA authors whose fiction appeals to a wide range of readers.


Choose one workshop from each time slot for Day 2 and Day 3.

Day 2

July 13, 2019

9​:00 – 12:00

Sherwin Bitsui

Storm Patterns
In this generative poetry workshop, we will consier how some contemporary Indigenous poets use landscape and thought to give form and pattern to their contemporary work. We will attempt to write poems shaped by our own systems of thought, tensions, and presence.

Johanna DeBiase

Zero to Hero: Archetypes for Character Development
Your story surely has a protagonist, the hero of the story, but does it also have a mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian or shadow? Who would Bilbo be without his mentor, Gandalf? Harry Potter without his shadow, Lord Voldemort? Scout without her ally, Jem? And is your hero pulling their own weight or are they floundering through your tale without agency? In this 3-hour course, we will explore the eight archetypes that American Mythologist, Joseph Campbell, made famous in his academic work on the hero’s journey. Knowing your character’s archetype helps to inform their motivation and goals, so they can interact authentically and purposefully within the narrative. We will look at examples of each archetype in literature and reflect on how we can use archetypes to further develop our own literary characters. This course is for fiction writers of all levels.

Iris Keltz

Memoir, History, and Our Lives
A well told story has the ability to transport us into the heart and mind of another human being. Neuroscientists have concluded that our brains on story are different than when receiving any other kind of information, including facts and data. Stories harvested from life can be more powerful than anything we could imagine. Scrapbook of a Taos Hippie is a collection of stories that grew out being part of the counter-culture in Northern New Mexico. Growing up Jewish in New York gave me a set of beliefs that were upended when I found sanctuary with a Palestinian family during a war. The result of that experience, Unexpected Bride in the Promised Land: Journeys in Palestine and Israel is a historical narrative that carries the weight of history. Our earliest perceptions of the world begin with our family of origin, but all of us have been impacted by world events. Many of us have visceral memories of the day President Kennedy was shot. Or Martin Luther King. Or 9-11. A birth. Or the loss of a loved one. Tension between outside events and our personal cauldron create unique and powerful narratives. Beginning writers and storytellers are welcome in this workshop, as are experienced writers and storytellers. This 3-hour workshop which will include prompts and guided exercises, can be a catalyst for a longer piece.

Jean-Marie Saporito

Hermit Crab Essays
Do you have a personal essay to write but find the content unwieldy? Where to begin, what details to put in or leave out, and how can I make writing this piece fun? This workshop on the Hermit Crab Essay offers solutions to these challenges. The Hermit Crab Essay was a term coined by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola. These essays adopt an existing form (like a letter, a “to-do” list, a recipe, to name a few) to help the writer bypass preconceived notions of what their story is, therefore allowing it to become. We will examine examples of hermit crab essays, discuss some fundamentals of the writing process, and then have our hand at writing one. Please come prepared with some essay ideas.

Veronica Golos

The VERB. Its Uses and its Magic!

want to see the thirst
Inside the syllables
I want to touch the fire
in the sound:
I want to feel the darkness
of the cry. I want
words as rough
as virgin rocks. “-Verb.”
– Pablo Neruda

A 3 hour workshop focusing our use of verbs in our poetry and prose. Bring 3-5 poems or pages of prose. Materials will be sent to all participants in the workshop. We will discuss a host of poems and prose, and then concentrate on looking at the work of participants, suggesting ways to lift the work off the page by — the use of verbs!! For all levels of experience.

Day 2

July 13, 2019

2:00 – 5:00

Linda Michel-Cassidy

Experiments in Form for Prose Writers
In this workshop, we’ll talk about shaking up the forms used in our writing. We’ll investigate the idea that our content is like a hermit crab, willing to move from form to form until it finds the right container. We’ll talk (briefly) about brevity, assembling units of writing together, and how we can liven things up by looking to other genres and mediums for ideas. There will be short written experiments.

Sallie Bingham

Writing History
I will teach a hands-on workshop in writing history: that is, claiming the authority to write the story of a person, place or thing. This could be entirely imaginary, or based on facts. For example, we will start with writing a brief (one paragraph) biography of a spoon, told from the spoon’s point of view; the writer’s first decision is whether to call the spoon she, he or it. We will continue to choosing a subject, preferably not a relative or friend, but a thing or place or person that has always to some degree fascinated and mystified us. Our challenge will be to find the appropriate tone of voice, vocabulary, setting and dialogue. Since this is a short workshop, I will encourage participants to go on writing this story on their own, sending the results to me for comment. My example will be Gertrude Stein’s “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas”. I will bring a short excerpt.

Connie Josefs

The Way They Were – Writing Characters in Memoir
     “I write to discover what I know.” ― Flannery O’Connor
How do we get the people we know onto the page? When writing memoir, it’s all too easy to take our characters for granted because we know them. Complexity develops in characters as we discover them, moment by moment. This workshop will provide tools and writing exercises to help memoir writers reach beyond the familiar and craft characters in vivid and memorable detail. Come ready to write! Experienced and aspiring writers welcome.

Juan Morales

Poetry of Witness and the Activist Poet
In this generative workshop, we will rely on Carolyn Forche’s “Poetry of Witness” to explore how we can use the personal and the political to enter a poem’s “social” space. We will examine diverse voices in contemporary poetry and determine how we can not only bear witness to historical moments, but how we can also write inclusively and discover our own identity as activist poets.

Sean Murphy

Dimension in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, and Memoir
In this course we’ll examine the elements that make up a fully dimensional work of fiction, memoir, or creative nonfiction. Creating strong fiction requires attention not only to primary elements of plot and character, but to aspects such as style and tone, sense of place, sensory detail, thematic ideas, as well as literary devices like imagery and symbolism, metaphor, personification and foreshadowing. We’ll work together in exploring how these elements support one another in a fully realized piece of writing.

Day 3

July 14, 2019

9:00 – 12:00

Steven Schneider

The Prose Poem
This workshop taught by Steven P. Schneider will explore the rich tradition and contemporary practice of The Prose Poem. Walt Whitman, over a century ago, wrote: “In my opinion the time has arrived to essentially break down the barriers of form between prose and poetry.” Today, the Prose Poem is one of the most popular forms of writing because of its hybrid nature, combining the lyrical intensity of poetry in a narrative prose form. Donald L. Soucy, writing in The Prose Poem: An International Journal,” has described it as “a flying trapeze act without a net!”

This workshop will introduce you to the distinguishing features of the Prose Poem as well as the seven major types of prose poems. We will also review anthologies and journals devoted to the Prose Poem with an eye towards publication. If you have an interest in prose or poetry and how the two may work together in a creative hybrid form, this workshop will be for you!

Each participant will bring in at least one previously published Prose Poem for our review as well as one or two of their own Prose Poems for workshop discussion. Previous workshop participants have gone on to publish their own Prose Poems and scholarly presentations! You will receive a bibliography on The Prose Poem to guide further exploration of this topic.

David Pérez

The Voice, the Body, the Words – Speaking Your Writing to Life
What would happen if we read our work as if talking to a therapist, or to a group of children, or by running in place? What’s the role of a whisper, or a pause? What does it mean to embody your words, both in the writing process itself and when we read before an audience?

In this fun and creative workshop, author and actor David Pérez will use improvisation, theater games, and vocal/body exercises to demonstrate how reading our work aloud – which all writers have to do at some point – is one of the best methods to uncover meaning and intent in our writing. Is the emphasis of a particular sentence in the verb? Can a scene written to be sad actually have some joy in it? Besides being the world’s greatest proofreader, hearing our writing out loud is one of the most effective ways to test our writing, to discover what happens when our body, voice and imagination are fully engaged in making the written word come alive. The workshop will also discuss the elements of a good public reading, from preparation to performance. As all writers know, a strong and entertaining reading is vital to getting your work out there. Indeed, it can make all the difference in the world. Bring a short, two-minute piece to read. Handouts will be provided. All genres and levels welcome.

Lisa Goett

Perfect Design: Structuring Your Poetry Manuscript for Journal or Book Publication Competition
You have a poetry manuscript that you’d like to submit to one of the book- publication prizes, or perhaps you just want to submit a winning manuscript to one of the journal competitions, but the odds of winning a competition with 300-2000 entries seem insurmountable. How do you increase your odds of making it to the finals of such competitions? What are strategies of selection and organization that you can apply to increase the odds of winning a publication prize in poetry? What are some classic faux pas? Are you building your manuscript around what Lucie Brock-Broido called your “mother wicked keepers?” Does your manuscript sag in the middle like an old mattress? Ought you to organize your manuscript in sections or one arc? Lise Goett has counseled dozens of poets on how to achieve the best results for reaching that select circle of finalists who are actually read by the final judge. Come participate in this hands-on workshop on strategies for increasing your odds of survival in the heap. Requirements: a ten-poem manuscript. Some light homework before the session may be assigned.

Estelle Laure

So You Wrote a Novel. Now What?
The publishing industry can feel like a huge unknown and there is nothing more miserable than feeling green and intimidated as you attempt to break through. Young adult author, editor, and agency associate at Folio Literary Management, Estelle Laure, will answer all your questions about the process and explore everything from query letters, proper manuscript formatting, and getting an agent, to the acquisitions process and etiquette and expectations once you have gotten in the door. This will be a safe place to boost your confidence through knowledge as you prepare to take your manuscript out into the world.

Jenny Kostecki-Shaw

Writing and Illustrating Children’s Books
In this workshop, we will explore the art of writing children’s picture books. We will generate new ideas and characters and explore timeless themes through in-class writing exercises. We’ll look at concept-books, fiction and non-fiction picture books. Through examples, we’ll hear and see the beauty of mirrored beginnings and endings, as well as the strength of repeated phrases. Together, we will read selected book(s) and map out story arcs that may appear simple and yet are the essential structure that holds a picture book together. We will also analyze picture book(s), a practice that will offer a deeper understanding of what makes a book successful as well as important take-aways for your own writing and story development. I will also walk you through the process of writing and illustrating one of my picture books – from rough manuscript, to submission to an agent or publisher, to the final printed book. In addition, I will share on-line resources I’ve collected for writing, editing and publishing picture books. If time allows, together we will workshop a student’s early idea or draft, as a collective learning experience. Bring a journal and lots of energy!


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.

Day 2

July 13, 2019

12​:00 – 1:00

Steven Schneider

How to Use Art to Jump Start Your Imagination
In this Round Table Poet and Critic Steven Schneider will present strategies and examples of using works of art to jump start your imagination and creative writing. This Round Table will be useful to both poets and prose writers looking for both inspiration and techniques to enrich their work by responding to works of art.

Day 2

July 13, 2019

1:00 – 2:00

Allegra Huston with James Navé

HOW TO WORK WITH A WRITER and HOW TO READ FOR AN AUDIENCE: the stuff nobody teaches you
We’ll discuss techniques for writers to bring their work to its fullest potential, and to present it as strongly as possible to the public.

Open Tues-Fri  10am-4pm; Sat 10am-2pm  575.758.0081  108 Civic Plaza Drive

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 3225, Taos, NM 87571


SOMOS programs are made possible in part by these organizations: New Mexico Arts • Taos Community Foundation • The McCune Foundation • The National Endowment For The Arts • The Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation • The Peter And Madeleine Martin Foundation for the Arts • The Santa Fe Community Foundation • Taos County Lodgers Tax • The Richard B. Siegel Foundation • TaosNetLLC for high speed internet service