Announcing Aspen Summer Words

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Aspen Summer Words Writing Retreat

As 2010 comes to a close and we gear up for another year of exciting programming, it is only fitting that we begin to unveil our plans by announcing the stellar faculty we have confirmed for our 2011 Aspen Summer Words Writing Retreat. If you are familiar with Summer Words, feel free to go right to the faculty bios/class descriptions and choose your course, or read on for more information about this one-of-a-kind week.

Aspen Summer Words (ASW) is intimate by design. You won’t find a friendlier staff or a more accessible group of authors. Parties are wonderfully casual; the student-teacher ratio is low; and our backdrop – the Rocky Mountain skyline – is nothing short of inspiring. ASW is a safe haven for words where people come together to connect through the power of stories in one of the nation’s most beautiful and convivial settings. Established in 1976, ASW is a trailblazing festival of words, stories and ideas held each June in Aspen, Colorado. The six-day event celebrates authors in all their glorious guises (novelists, poets, memoirists, journalists, songwriters, filmmakers, comedians, editors, literary agents, and more) during a jam-packed schedule of events designed to spark the imaginations of readers and writers alike.

The flagship program of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation, ASW has been hailed as one of the nation’s “Top Ten Literary Gatherings” (USA Today) and “The Best of Aspen” (5280 Magazine). O Magazine said, “Bringing new meaning to the idea of escaping into literature, Aspen Summer Words [takes] over the Colorado town, giving book lovers the chance to mingle with some of the biggest names in storytelling.” Aspen Summer Words is one part laboratory and one part theater. Its two programs – the Writing Retreat and Literary Festival – approach the written word from different, yet complementary angles. The Retreat is designed for writing students, featuring introductory and intensive workshops with some of the nation’s most notable faculty members; a literature appreciation course; and professional consultations with literary agents and editors. The Writing Retreat supports writers in developing their craft by providing a winning combination of inspiration, skills, community, and opportunity.

The Literary Festival is a book lover’s bliss, where the written word takes center stage. Festival participants may indulge in a showcase of literary events (author readings, artist conversations, craft talks, panel discussions, and book signings); attend parties; participate in open mic events; enjoy live musical performances (from concerts to cabaret); and forage at the on-site bookstore. Since 2005, each edition of the Literary Festival has celebrated the literary heritage of new culture by honoring the stories and storytellers of a particular region. To date, itineraries have including The West, The American South, Ireland, India, and the continent of Africa. In 2011, literature of the Middle East will be the Lit Fest’s focus and will include authors Khaled Hosseini, Firoozeh Dumas, Faday Joudah, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and many more.

For 35 years Aspen Summer Words has hosted more than 300 writers who have read, taught and performed for 20,000+ audience members and students. ASW literati have included an international cast of authors – Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, National Book Awardees and many other notable and bestselling writers – who each year transform Aspen into the Rocky Mountain gateway to the literary world. We invite you to mark your calendars for June 19-24, 2011 and let us do the rest of the planning for you. The only thing we ask is that you expect the unexpected and jump in!

Five-day workshops: June 19 – June 24

Advanced Fiction with Colum McCann:
“Who what where when how and why!”
Getting back to the absolute basics for the advanced fiction writer. In this workshop we will ask the simple questions in order to sift the complicated answers — who tells the story, when is it being told, where is it narrated from, what has happened, how did it unfold, and why is it necessary that the story be told? No requirements except stamina, passion, and a sense of perseverance.

Colum McCann teaches creative writing at Hunter College and is the bestselling author of five novels including Zoli, Dancer, This Side of Brightness, and Songdogs. His two short story collections include the critically acclaimed Everything in This Country Must, which was turned into an Oscar-nominated short film in 2005. His fiction has been published in 30 languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, GQ, and The Paris Review. In 2003, Colum was featured as the “Next Great Novelist” in Esquire magazine’s “America’s Best and Brightest.” His newest novel, Let the Great World Spin, made its official world launch at Aspen Summer Words and was the winner of the 2009 National Book Award.

Advanced Fiction with Ron Rash:
This workshop will use the students’ manuscripts as a segue way to explore aspects of fiction, such as dialogue, pacing, point of view, openings and conclusions, and character development. We will also discuss examples from writers such as Annie Proulx and Daniel Woodrell to emphasize vivid and concise language and the challenges and rewards of using landscape as a character.

Ron Rash is the Parris Distinguished Professor in Appalachian Cultural Studies at Western Carolina University. He is the author of The New York Times bestselling novel and Notable Book of the Year, Serena, which was a 2009 PEN/Faulkner Finalist, in addition to three other prizewinning novels including, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight. His short story collection, Chemistry and Other Stories was a finalist for the 2007 PEN/Faulkner Award and his latest, Burning Bright, was released to critical acclaim. Rash’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals including, Yale Review, Oxford American, and the Southern Review.

Fiction with Elinor Lipman:
Is your prose feeling bloated? We’ll concentrate on cutting the dead wood, picking up the pace, rethinking the descriptions of sky, flora, and fauna, sharpening the dialogue, getting to the story, rendering it without preening, becoming your own stern editor, and yes, killing your darlings. Special attention to the all-important opening and its/your voice. P.S. We’ll have fun.

Elinor Lipman has taught creative writing at Simmons, Smith, and Hampshire colleges, at Aspen Summer Words in 2004 and 2005, and she will hold the Elizabeth Drew Chair in Creative Writing at Smith in 2011-12. She is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels including The Family Man, My Latest Grievance, The Pursuit of Alice Thrift, The Inn at Lake Devine, and Isabel’s Bed. Her novel, Then She Found Me, was adapted for the screen, directed by and starring Helen Hunt. She was the winner of the Poetry Center’s 2007 Paterson Fiction Prize and a fiction judge for the 2008 National Book Award.

Beginning Fiction with Derek Green:
This workshop is intended for beginning fiction writers interested in demystifying the processes of writing dramatic fiction. We will treat the crafting of fiction as a series of manageable steps-a process-that any writer can master. Practical and craft-focused, this approach yields immediate results for writers of all types of fiction – from literary short stories to commercial novels.

Derek Green’s first book, New World Order, is a collection of 11 stories, each set in a different country around the globe. The stories are linked by a Haliburtonesque company that, in one way or another, touches all the main characters in the book. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and selected to appear in anthologies to be released this year and in 2011. A veteran traveler, Green’s work as a professional journalist and consultant has taken him to 22 countries on 6 continents. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a skilled public speaker who regularly delivers presentations and seminars in English and Spanish at home and abroad. He is currently working on a novel.

Poetry with Nikky Finney:
Desire Lines: Poetry and Architecture
A finished poem rarely falls into our laps: title, epigram, stanzas, and commas all perfectly set into place. A poetic thought may arrive, arrest the poet, and shortly thereafter hail the inking of the floor plan of the poem. A poet must pay attention to the desire lines of a poem: What the poem is telling the poet it wants to be and not what the poet is insisting it be.

Nikky Finney is a professor of creative writing at the University of Kentucky and has taught poetry at Smith College, Berea College, and Cave Canem. She is the author of three collections of poetry, including On Wings Made of Gauze, Rice (winner of a PEN America Open Book Award), and The World is Round, and the collection of stories, Heartwood. Finney wrote the script for the PBS documentary “For Posterity’s Sake: The Story of Morgan and Marvin Smith,” the liner notes for folksinger Toshi Reagon’s CD “Kindness,” and the
introduction to photographer Bill Gaskins’ collection, Good and Bad Hair. Her fourth collection of poetry, Head Off & Split, is
forthcoming in the winter of 2011.

Memoir with Erica Jong:
How To Write The Story Of Your Life: A Course In Memoir
How do you bring shape to the chaos of a life? Students will learn how to outline events, test them for their ability to make the reader turn the page, and create suspense. We will talk about how much one can change the facts to make a more exciting story; and what to do about pesky relatives. Last, we’ll explore what is more important: emotional truth or factual truth.

Erica Jong has taught at Ben Gurion University in Israel, Bennington College, Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, and plans to teach graduate writing courses at Columbia University. A self-proclaimed feminist, her groundbreaking novel Fear of Flying has sold over 20 million copies in thirty-seven languages. She has since published twenty books, including eight novels, six volumes of poetry, six books of non-fiction, and numerous articles in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, the Sunday Times of London, Elle, Vogue, and The New York Times Book Review. Her popular mid-life memoir, Fear of Fifty, is also a major international bestseller. She is the recipient of the United Nations Award for Excellence in Literature.

Digital Storytelling with Daniel Weinshenker and Allison Myers: This workshop provides the opportunity to learn how to produce a 3-minute digital story with your writing, your pictures, your video, and your voice. Participants will craft and record first-person narratives, collect still images, video, and music with which to illustrate their pieces, and will be guided through computer tutorials that enable them to edit their own stories. The result is a powerful expression of creativity in this new media genre.

Daniel Weinshenker is the director of the Denver office of The Center for Digital Storytelling, an international non-profit training, project development, and research organization. The center is dedicated to assisting people in using digital media to tell meaningful stories from their lives. Weishenker holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from CU Boulder and has been published in Salon, The Washington Post, and The Pittsburgh Quarterly. He has been artist in residence at Platte Forum, Arts Street, and Downtown Aurora Visual Arts, working with underserved youth to help them tell their stories.

Allison Myers’ background as an artist, graphic designer, educator, community builder, and life-long appreciator of story have all served her well in her work instructing for the Center for Digital
Storytelling. Before joining the staff, Allison taught ESL and Communication courses in the Maricopa Community College System and coordinated study abroad programs in the College’s International Education Department. She was part of a team that developed and facilitated a Colorado-based international leadership and
service-learning program for young leaders from more than thirty countries.

Young Writers Workshop with Randall Kenan:
Lessons In Good (Fun) Writing:
Learning how to write well means learning how to see, and to hear, smell, taste, feel and think. Through writing exercises and readings and discussions we will explore the basics of good story-telling: character, plot, point-of-view, dialogue, structure and more. We will have fun with language. We will make friends with our imaginations and learn how to conjure with it like brilliant magicians. Stories can be adventures and magic.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do ­ begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.

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