Writers of all levels and genres can amp up their skills by attending The StoryCatcher Workshop at Chadron State College in Nebraska, June 12 to 14. Among the featured speakers are Poe Ballantine and Alison Stine, whose first Young Adult novel Supervision was released by HarperVoyager on April 9.
Aside from learning techniques from top-notch faculty, both fiction and nonfiction writers meet others passionate about the craft. A friend and I attended last year’s workshop, about a five-hour drive from Fort Collins, and we met attendees of all ages and backgrounds. Registration is only $150.
“What is it that makes stories interesting? What calls to us?” asked author and Colorado State University professor Todd Mitchell, during his session “Techniques and Tips for Developing Plot, Character, and Scenes.” “How do I make it a story that begs to be told?”
Mitchell, author of the novel Backwards (a Colorado Book Award finalist) said he turned to young adult writing to reach a wider audience. Among his other sessions was “Making the Strange Believable: Vital Secrets for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing.”
Dawn Wink, who taught the “Writing the Land” and “Will this Book Ever Be Published?” session, wrote the novel Meadowlark and teaches at Santa Fe Community College. She shared the secret of how she wrote her novel: clustering. This simple yet powerful exercise, detailed in Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, is different than controlled mind-mapping.
“Clustering is wild and free and juicy,” Wink said. She asked session attendees to write the word “turn” in the middle of a piece of paper, circle it, and connect it to other words that came to mind. Once the paper was filled with circled words, the next step was to write about whichever word had the most energy.
Wink started the session on publishing the way she begins all her writing sessions at home: by lighting a candle and filling a cup with water, to remind herself that transformation—like evaporation—is invisible.
Other workshop faculty included mystery author Shannon Baker, who writes the Nora Abbott series and led workshop participants on writing about landscape at Fort Robinson State Park; author, poet, and radio talk show host Rich Kenney, recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts; and Ron Hull, who spoke about writing his first book, Backstage: Stories from My Life in Television.
The workshop’s 2014 Writer in Residence, Dan O’Brien has been described by the New York Times as “a writer with a keen and poetic eye” and is the award-winning author of novels and memoirs, including Buffalo for the Broken Heart about the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo. O’Brien taught an advanced workshop on revising a work-in-progress and shaping your narrative for publication.