Antioch Writers’ Workshop: A leader for community, classroom hours/tuition dollars, and faculty accessibility

With summer just around the corner, many writers are starting to plan what workshop(s) they will attend.  And the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (July 9-15, 2011) should definitely be on that list.  

I first heard about Antioch from author and instructor Nancy Pinard  at, appropriately enough, the 826michigan Writers Conference  (another one to add to your list ) . She spoke so enthusiastically about Antioch, I decided to learn more about it, which led to the following interview. Nancy talks about her involvment with Antioch and what it has to offer, as well as other conferences she recommeneds (for Nancy’s bio jump to the end of this post):

How did you get involved with the Antioch Writers’ Workshop? What is your current involvement?

When I moved back to Ohio and away from all my writing friends in New Hampshire, I signed up for a fiction-writing class at the community college in order to find other writers.  The instructor immediately recommended I attend Antioch.  This was a larger conference than I’d ever attended, around 70 people in 1995, but the faculty were as committed as at the private conference of twelve, hand-picked people I’d attended in Maine.  The community that formed among participants was as palpable, too.  I returned the next summer as a participant and the two following years as a work fellow.

I took a hiatus from conferencing while I was working on an MFA, but when I graduated, I became a board member at Antioch and served for four years on the faculty recruitment and scholarship committees.  While I am no longer serving on the board proper, I continue as a faculty recruiter for the conference, and for the last two years, served as convener and fiction instructor for the seminar called Focus on Form.

Does Antioch offer anything specific for short-story writers? For YA writers?

While short story writers are not separated out for particular instruction, the morning fiction class and three of the afternoon workshops are devoted to fiction writers.  If a participant submits a short story to the workshop–and many do–the instruction is directed to that story and the specific demands of the form.  A YA manuscript on the workshop would likewise be addressed according to the specific needs of its target audience.  But there is no longer a special designation for short stories or for YA manuscripts because the craft of writing short stories and for young adults involves understanding the same elements of fiction:  scene, characterization, conflict, setting, pov, voice, tone, and the generation of emotion.

With all the various conferences and workshops out there, why would a writer choose Antioch?

The faculty are selected for their ability to teach and their willingness to congregate with participants in addition to recognition of their work and their prizes.  Participants at Antioch have full access to all the faculty, not just their own instructors, via daily lunches where they may sign up to eat in a small group of 4-6 participants with the faculty member of their choice. The conference is also famous for fostering community among participants, many events designed to get writers together and talking to each other.

 What is the young writers component?

The Young Writers’ Program is for young people entering the tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grades in fall, 2011 (or ages 15-18) and is limited to students living in the Ohio counties of Greene, Montgomery, Miami, Clark, Clinton, Fayette, Madison, and Warren.  Young writers attend all the morning classes with the adult participants, have lunch with their instructor and one different Antioch Workshop faculty member each day, and attend their own afternoon seminar together.

Any other workshops/conferences you would recommend?

Other conferences have different strengths.  Ropewalk is good, for example, if you want retreat time as well as some classroom instruction.  Wesleyan has the highest end participants’ skills of the unjuried conferences I have attended.  Juried conferences (Sewanee, Breadloaf and various juried small conferences such as Keith Hood’s 826 Michigan conference in Ann Arbor) offer the more advanced instruction you might find at an MFA program.  But for community, number of classroom hours/tuition dollar, and faculty accessibility, you can’t beat Antioch.  For this year’s faculty lineup, go to www.antiochwritersworkshop.com.

About Nancy:

A graduate of the MFA program at Queens University, Charlotte, Nancy Pinard is the author of two novels, Shadow Dancing (Disc-Us Books, 2000) and Butterfly Soup (NEXT, 2005).  Her writing carries an Ann Tyler quality (I won’t be surprised if one day readers say a novel has a Nancy Pinard quality).

Nancy’s short stories have appeared in such journals as Beloit Fiction Journal, Thema, Dos Passos Review,  and others.  Most recently she has begun to write historical fiction, completing a novel about Darwin’s family, now being marketed, and at work on another about Einstein’s first marriage.

She has taught fiction writing at Sinclair Community College, University of Dayton’s LLI and writers’ conferences such as Mad Anthony in Hamilton, OH and the Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She is the founder of her own writers’ workshop, The Intentional Muse, which meets, at her discretion, in her living room in Dayton, OH.

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