the 4th annual

Taos Writers Conference

Friday, July 24 to Sunday, July 26, 2020



Resource for Workshop Leaders:

A guide to teaching for online workshops by James Nave, “How to Teach a Class Using Zoom” – a very helpful guide to
adapting to online teaching via Zoom.

FRIDAY - July 24, 2020

9:00 – 11:30, 1​:00 – 3:30 One-Day Online Intensives

Connie Josefs: Finding Form: Shaping Your memoir

Bob Arellano:  Jumpstart Your Novel

KT Sparks:  Writing & Publishing Flash Prose – In a Flash!

Veronica Golos & Catherine Strisik: Breaking Out!


Online keynote with Pam Houston, tickets $15.

SATURDAY - July 25, 2020


Registration and coffee


Sallie Bingham:  Notching it up: Using reading and writing to sharpen your writing skills”
Deanne Stillman:  The Power of Place:  The Role of Landscape in Narrative
James Nave:  How to Produce and Teach a Successful Writing Workshop
Allegra Huston:  Telling Your Story with Heart
Ned Dougherty:  Dialogue Bootcamp


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


Iris Keltz: Our Dreams, Our Memories, Our Stories
Johanna DeBiase: The Plot Thickens: The Art of Subplot
Juan Morales: Thanks for the Ode
Jenn Shapland: Life Writing from Autobiography to Autofiction

Book Sales

Faculty Readings and book signing at SOMOS

SUNDAY - July 26, 2020

Coffee and book sales


Jenny  Sue Kostecki-Shaw:  Writing Children’s Books with Author & Illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Elizabeth Jacobson: Eco Poetics:  Environmental Writing and Its Foundations
Sean Murphy: Dimension of Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & Memoir
Jean Marie Saporito: The Craft of Revision

Book Sales


Choose one from the following six, all-day Intensive classes.
Each class runs from 9:00 – 11:30 and 1:00 – 3:30 on Friday only.

Weekend Workshops AND Friday Intensives: $419 

Day 1

July 24, 2020

9:00 – 11:30 and

1:00 – 3:30

Connie Josefs

Finding Form: Shaping Your Memoir

“We often turn to memoir for wisdom rather than form. But sometimes the form is the wisdom.”

                  —Stephanie Burt

You’ve written a draft of your memoir… a few vignettes… a series of personal essays. Now what? How do you revise, organize, put the pieces together?

Structure is more than a container, it’s a dynamic expression of voice, character and theme. In this workshop, we will examine how writers of memoir and memoir-based fiction have shaped their stories. We will analyze elements of the 3-act paradigm as well alternative and hybrid structures, and explore how the shape of a memoir, its organizing principle, comes from inside the work. Writers will utilize the models studied to experiment with forms and structures for their own writing.

Class format includes readings, discussion and writing exercises.

Click the image to watch an interview with Connie Josefs

Bob Arellano

Jumpstart Your Novel

“Shockingly helpful!” — Creative Writing MFA student, Mills College (California).

This daylong intensive is for writers with a one-page character-description for an un-started story or as many as 200 pages of a “stalled” manuscript. Arellano’s method combines approaches from two separate masterclasses, one created with novelists in mind and another that has given birth to award-winning plays. It is separated into four immersive, generative-writing sessions (2 before lunch, 2 after) and a final group evaluation designed to point the way forward for future success. At the end of the day you will leave with 5-to-25 fresh pages on your project and strategies for refining as well as generating more raw material. Whether you’re on the home stretch of your penultimate draft or beginning the first scene with an eye toward a distant horizon, Jumpstart will supercharge your creative process. Just bring a character — and, if you wish, a friend.


Click the image to watch an interview with Bob Arellano

KT Sparks

Writing & Publishing Flash Prose – In a Flash!

Literary journals and magazines, once primarily found only in library stacks and English professors’ offices, have migrated online and multiplied, bringing with them a new generation of wired readers with an insatiable appetite for flash fiction and nonfiction. Part prose poem, part portraiture, part tightly plotted prose, flash pieces are not only fun to write but in great demand. They are the perfect way for the unpublished author to get their first acceptance and the published author to introduce their work to new audiences. By the end of the day, after lots of writing exercises and careful reading of flash pieces, you’ll leave class with solid start—if not a full first draft—of a flash masterpiece. In the month following the workshop, KT will stick with you and your work—she’ll read a final draft of a project you start during class, help you polish it, and offer advice on getting the piece published (an extra critique service included in the price of the workshop).

A recent flash publication by KT Sparks: Charlie Needs Teeth Out (Jellyfish Review)

Click the image to watch an interview with KT Sparks

Dawn Davies

The Power of Emulation – How to Steal Like a Writer – CANCELLED

Picasso is believed to have said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal.” T.S. Eliot’s critical work addresses how artistic theft contributes to the creation of new art. And U2’s Bono said, “Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief.” Any book, essay, story or poem is an invitation to scavenge another writer’s craft for techniques we can apply to our own work.

This workshop will help students learn to look at everything as a potential writing prompt. By learning to practice thoughtful, honest emulation, we will learn to look for the invitations a writer is giving us to borrow from his or her work.

We will explore a few short, powerful pieces and identify compelling techniques that stand out. Then we will apply these elements that individually speak us in writing exercises to create something new. Students will leave with the start of a unique, potentially powerful essay/poem/story of their own.

Click the image to watch an interview with Dawn Davies

Veronica Golos & Catherine Strisik

Breaking Out!

Poets Veronica Golos and Catherine Strisik are at it again now co-teaching through Zoom during the Taos Writer’s Conference.

We will begin as one group then break out into two small groups where your poems will be opened and set free, and celebrated! Yes, this is possible on Zoom because of Breakout Sessions. You will have the opportunity to work with each of us, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon in your small groups. We will gather as one group at the end of the day to continue to break our way out!

Here’s an opening line and window:     I looked like someone else;

Exercises and other prompts will be sent to you prior to the workshop.

We will offer the workshop for a minimum of eight and maximum of twelve.

Click the image to watch an interview with Catherine Strisik and Veronica Golos


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

Weekend Workshops AND Friday Intensives: $419

Day 2

July 25, 2020

9​:00 – 12:00

Sallie Bingham

Notching it up: Using reading and writing to sharpen your writing skills

This can  be applied to any genre although I will be focusing on memoir and short story.

After introductions, we will use the first hour to read aloud and discuss short selections from published work that use words powerfully and in unexpected ways to communicate emotions and create situations and characters.

During the second hour, participants will have an opportunity to write a paragraph that communicates the central scene, character or dilemma they are considering for a longer piece.

During the third hour, we will read aloud and discuss these examples, aiming to encourage the writer and deepen the impact of what she/he has written.

I’m inviting those interested in taking the class to email me up to ten pages of their current project so I can become better informed about their work. I will provide written comments if so desired.

Click the image to watch an interview with Sallie Bingham

Deanne Stillman

The Power of Place:  The Role of Landscape in Narrative

How do landscape and geography influence plot and character? How can they shape the structure and feeling of a story? Whether the landscape of your story is the interior of a car, a mountain range, a kitchen, a big city, or an emotional terrain, it should be portrayed clearly.

This three-hour class with author Deanne Stillman will explore the role of place in narrative in the work of writers like Jon Krakauer, Joyce Carol Oates, and Rick Bass, and how you can apply similar techniques to your own work. Deanne’s own work is place-based (generally the Mojave Desert),and will be discussed as well. The second half will focus on how individuals can apply the range of examples to their own works-in-progress, or perhaps lead to new pieces of writing.

“For me, as I always say, the desert is my beat. A place of wide-open space and endless promise, the great American desert has shaped our dreams and our lives. As Wallace Stegner once said, ‘the American community is an overnight camp.’ 

“Since day one in this country, people have moved West to start over. What happens once they are in the Promised Land is another story. How has the desert shaped their lives? What has it promised? What has it denied? And who are the people – who are we as a nation – who look to wide open space for salvation?

“As I see it, geography determines everything. Those are some of the concepts I’ll be talking about in this workshop.”

Click here to read an interview with Deanne Stillman.

James Navé

How to Produce and Teach a Successful Writing Workshop

Creating a successful writing workshop is possible when you practice basic marketing and teaching strategies like how to generate far-reaching buzz for your workshops or how to facilitate productive question and answer sessions. During this workshop, you’ll address these questions and more. In the first part, you’ll learn how to choose the right venue, create an effective study plan, and craft an effective marketing strategy. In the second part, you’ll explore how to manage introductions, field questions, build a safe space, and create an exceptional narrative flow for your workshop, plus much more. Join us and learn how to produce and teach a successful writing workshop anywhere in the world.

Click the image to watch an interview with James Navé

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!

Click the image to watch an interview with Allegra Huston

Ned Dougherty

Dialogue Bootcamp

In theater, dialogue illuminates what’s going on in the world of a play as well as what characters think, feel and believe. Voice is a critical aspect of this illumination as it reframes the world and what the characters want from that world. Through reading compelling scenes and generative writing prompts, participants will explore how our characters can better speak to the reader or audience about the inner life of a story. This class is designed for writers in all genres to explore how speech exposes the idiosyncrasies of our characters in a story or the speaker of our poems.

Click the image to watch an interview with Ned Dougherty.


Day 2

July 25, 2020

2:00 – 5:00

Kieran Fitzgerald

Choose Your Own Ending:  What we can learn by reimagining the endings of our favorite films – CANCELLED

What is it about the endings of great movies that leaves us astonished, stunned, reoriented to the world? In what ways can otherwise successful films fall flat at the end and disappoint us? We’re going to investigate the magic trick of a brilliant ending by looking at examples from across American and international cinema, including your own favorites. We’ll be working toward a screenwriting exercise in which each of you will rewrite the ending of a movie. The idea here is to put you on a level playing field with the artists and stories you admire, and to hone a set of tools that you can use on your own work. This is a class for working screenwriters, aspiring screenwriters, and writers of all stripes who love movies and want to learn more about the architecture of an impactful ending. Whether you want your audience to wind up laughing, crying, fearful, or illuminated.

Click the image to watch an interview with Kieran Fitzgerald

Iris Keltz

Our Dreams, Our Memories, Our Stories

Neuroscientists affirm that our brains on story are different than when receiving any other kinds of information. Stories harvested from life can be more powerful than anything we could imagine. “The truth of a story doesn’t matter so much as what the story is trying to say,” Tim O’Brien (The Things They Carried.)  Vignettes recorded in Scrapbook grew out of living in the Northern New Mexico counterculture. Unexpected  Bride in the Promised Land is a response to childhood beliefs being upended after finding sanctuary with a Palestinian family during a war that changed the face of the Middle East. The tension between outside events and our personal cauldron create unique and powerful narratives. Perceptions of the world begins with our family of origin, but all of us are impacted by local and world events. Many 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, etc. All levels of writers and storytellers are welcome in this 3-hour interactive workshop that will include guided exercises, and an opportunity to share.

Click the image to watch an interview with Iris Keltz

Johanna DeBiase

The Plot Thickens: The Art of Subplot

Most writers are familiar with the narrative arc, but only advanced writers are intimate with the literary technique of subplot. A subplot is a secondary, subtler storyline that runs parallel to the main narrative and serves to add complexity and depth to writing. The subplot can increase tension, enrich characters, add dimension to settings and enhance themes. We will look at examples in literature, TV and film and do some generative writing exercises to help further our understanding of how to create our own subplots. This class is appropriate for writers of any genre, including fiction, memoir and narrative non-fiction.

Click the image to watch an interview with Johanna DeBiase

Juan Morales

Thanks for the Ode

The ode remains a classic form we use to celebrate our lives. It directly addresses our socks, the lone tree on a busy block, haunting works of art, and even what we fear. In this generative workshop, we will explore the complex layers of the ode, find methods of creating tension, connect it to social justice, and take a closer look at poets, like Pablo Neruda, Ross Gay, and others that champion the form in surprising ways.

Click the image to watch an interview with Juan Morales

Jenn Shapland

Life Writing from Autobiography to Autofiction

Contemporary writer Lydia Davis defines “autofiction” or “self-fiction” as “the narration of one’s own life, lifted almost unchanged from the reality, selected, and judiciously, artfully told.” In the age of social media, personal writing is everywhere: people document their everyday experiences and curate their public personas online. Memoirs hold down a thriving corner of the publishing market. Fictional media—stories and novels as well as film and television—engage unabashedly with the autobiographical, especially to depict the lives of marginalized individuals. At the same time, writing about our own lives can feel fraught, exposing, and even “self-indulgent.” In this workshop, we’ll tackle these hang-ups and experiment with writing from life, using short form examples from Zadie Smith, Jo Ann Beard, David Sedaris, and others.

Click the image to watch an interview with Jenn Shapland


Day 3

July 26, 2020

9:00 – 12:00

Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Writing Children’s Books with Author & Illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

In this workshop, you will gain a new appreciation of children’s picture books through a brief history of children’s picture books and an exploration of some of the best classic and contemporary books.

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. We will discus timeless themes and generate new picture book ideas through in-class writing exercises.

I will also walk you through the process of writing and illustrating one of my picture books – from rough manuscript, to thumbnails, book dummy and editing process, 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!

Click the image to watch an interview with Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Elizabeth Jacobson

Eco Poetics:  Environmental Writing and Its Foundations

For this generative intensive we will focus on Eco Poetics as a subgenre which explores, both in theme and form, the connections between nature, society, language and thought. To begin, we will look at what defines Eco Poetry and why it has its own classification distinct from Romantic Poetry and Nature Poetry. Then we will delve into a survey of contemporary Eco poems using as examples the work of Ada Limon, Sawnie Morris, Sherwin Bitsui, Carl Phillips, Camille Dungy, Dg Nanouk Okpik, Sue Riley, Robert Hass, Jean Toomer, Arthur Sze and others, considering ecology as an archetype for the way in which poems arise and take shape. We will also build momentum with nature walks, discussions about theory and form, free writing exercises and writing from prompts. A portion of this intensive will be devoted to workshopping participants’ poems. Please bring two of your own Eco poems that you would like to share with the group (no more than 30 lines each, in 12pt font, with copies for everyone in the workshop).

Click image to watch an interview with Elizabeth Jacobson

Sean Murphy

Dimension in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction & 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, as well as subplot and secondary characters, but attention to aspects such as style and tone, sense of place, sensory detail, and thematic ideas, as well as literary devices like imagery and symbolism, metaphor, personification and foreshadowing… and more. We’ll work together in exploring how varying and combining such elements provides a varied palette of writerly techniques in creating a fully realized piece of writing.

Click the image to watch an interview with Sean Murphy

Jean Marie Saporito

The Craft of Revision

You have a solid piece of writing, but your work doesn’t read like their work. What to cut, what to add, how does one make their prose better? This workshop will focus on specific techniques to evaluate and elevate your prose. Close reading of published fiction and nonfiction authors, such as Annie Proulx, Leslie Jamison, Michael Ondaatje, and Anne Carson, will be used as a starting point for discussion. Hand-outs will be provided.

Click the image to watch an interview with Jean-Marie Saporito


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 25, 2020

12​:00 – 1:00

Guidelines & Suggestions for Preparing Your Manuscript

by Editor, Helen Rynaski

Day 2

July 25, 2020

1:00 – 2:00

The Art of Blogging

Interested in becoming a blogger or becoming a better blogger? Ellen Brodsky will draw on 16 years of professional blogging to share tips on the elements of a good blog post, along with such basics as how to set up a blog, monetize a blog or write for other blogs.

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