SpaldingCon Workshops Go Virtual November 18-20

By Kathleen Driskell, Chair, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

The School of Creative and Professional Writing faculty at Spalding University is delighted to offer more than 20 three-day generative workshops in a virtual format to alumni through SpaldingCon, our post-graduate writers’ conference. Offering the workshops virtually allows our writers to generate new work from home during the Covid-19 crisis.

The workshops offer superb advanced instruction by our master teachers and provides participants with opportunities to begin new projects, refocus on works in progress, or gain new professional development.

Choose from Douglas Manuel’s “Poetry of Witness in the Time of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter,” Fenton Johnson’s “Reading and Writing as Spiritual Practice,” John Pipkin’s “10 Prompts for 10 Stories: A Fast-paced Generative Writing Workshop,” Lesléa Newman’s “Read It Again: The Art of Writing Picture Books,” Jeremy Paden’s “Translation as a Generative Practice Workshop,” or one of the other fabulous offerings you’ll see below.

Each workshop meets remotely for two hours a day in small groups to ensure optimal internet connectivity and meaningful group discussion. SpaldingCon attendees also have the opportunity to attend streamed or recorded lectures, readings, plenary events, and social events in addition to their special-topic workshops. The cost for SpaldingCon is $475.

No workshop calls for submission of a worksheet before meeting, but some ask participants to complete pre-reading assignments before attending. Each description below will offer specific details.

Erin Keane, Editor-in-Chief of Salon.com

Alumni and MFA grads from other institutions may also be interested in a longer professional writing workshop that meets Saturday to Saturday, November 14-22, during residency, and offers opportunities to add skills needed in the professional writing workplace, including content development, grant-writing, document design, social media and press relations. Alternatively, alums and grads from other MFA programs may attend a full-residency (Saturday to Saturday) interactive editing and publishing workshop led by Erin Keane, Editor-in-Chief of Salon.com. Erin’s workshop provides a terrific and unique opportunity to learn about the world of publishing and editing for commercial and literary presses from the inside. Email us for costs and more information about these professional writing workshops at schoolofwriting@spalding.edu.

Read on for special-topic workshop descriptions.

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Beyond the Self in Creative Nonfiction

By Jason Kyle Howard, Creative Nonfiction faculty

Creative nonfiction, like all other forms of creative writing, is a demanding genre. In whichever form the writer may find themselves working—and there are many: personal essay, memoir, lyric essay, meditative essay, literary journalism, immersion, travelogue—the most common thread is the self, the I as the eye, one’s own life and experiences as vehicle for exploration.

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Under the Ocelot Sun: The Making of an Illustrated Book

By Jeremy Paden, Spalding School of Writing Poetry Translation Faculty

The Bestia.
[Illustration by Annelissa Hermosilla]
[The Bestia is the name that migrants have given to the train that runs from southern Mexico
to northern Mexico. It’s known as The Bestia because of how dangerous it is.] 

His name is Carlos Gregorio Hernández Vásquez. Propublica tells us Carlos was just sixteen years old when he died of the flu in a cell at a detention center in Weslaco, Texas in May 2019. He was from the Mayan highlands of Guatemala and the fourth minor to have died while in the custody of the Customs and Border Patrol Agency of the United States in 2019. He had followed his brother north, hoping that a new country would give him opportunities his own could not provide. The other children who have died in custody this year are also Guatemalan: the eight-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the not-yet-three-year-old Wilmer Josué Ramírez Vázquez, and the sixteen-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez. In 2018, two minors died while in custody, both girls: Darlyn Cristabel Cordova-Valle, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran, and Jakelin Caal Maquín, a seven-year-old Guatemalan.

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Being Alone

By Sam Zalutsky, Screenwriting Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

I was recently reading James Baldwin’s short essay, “The Creative Process,” from 1962. And with apologies for the gendered language, it offers wonderful insights about the artist’s role in society. Baldwin writes: “Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone.”

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On Muriel Rukeyser

By Robin Lippincott, Fiction & Creative Nonfiction Faculty, Spalding’s School of Creative & Professional Writing

 The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. -Muriel Rukeyser

Because it’s almost National Poetry Month as I write, and may already be April by the time this post appears, I want to repost a freshened-up version of an earlier blog—a tribute to the late, great poet Muriel Rukeyser.

I was fortunate enough to see Rukeyser and to hear her read, in 1978, less than two years before her death. This was in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Harvard University, in the Woodberry Poetry Room, as I recall, and the place was packed. Stratis Haviaras, director of the Poetry Room and later a teacher of mine, must have introduced her, but I don’t remember that.

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Storytelling Round a Virtual Campfire

By Jessica C. Hume, Ph.D., Spalding MFA Alumni 2007

In the late 1340s, the Black Plague swept through Italy, shutting down entire towns and decimating the population. At the height of the Plague, many people fled highly populated areas to the relative safety of the countryside, hoping to avoid the devastating (and often fatal) illness.

Almost eight hundred years later, Italy is again faced with the ravages of a cruel illness which keeps citizens isolated from one another, but the effects of which have stretched across the planet. Roughly one month ago, my university closed our campus in anticipation of the oncoming wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. As I drove home with my baby son from Louisville to our little homestead in Anderson County, I couldn’t help but think of those fourteenth-century plague refugees. I thought I felt a bit like they must have. I don’t intend here to analogize the 21st century COVID-19 pandemic with the medieval bubonic plague, but I think they must have wondered whether their flight to the country would protect them, what would happen to the friends and loved ones in the midst of the chaos, when they would see them again, what would be left when they returned, and how the world would be irrevocably changed. I felt that way a bit, too.

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Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30

By Elaine Neil Orr, Fiction/Creative Nonfiction Faculty

Since I wrote this short essay about Covid-19 and sliding into depression and finding a way out, I’ve felt depressed again, more than once. I’m seeing a pattern and learning how to pull myself up. But I’m also trying to be patient with myself. Today after my graduate seminar, I told my students I love them. It’s true. I do love them. But I would not say that in “normal times.” I’m saying it now that we are all more aware of how fragile life is. My students’ faces registered real joy when I spoke that sentence: “I love you.”

I hope we can make it permissible to find the good that this period of our lives yields up.

Maybe this blog can yield up some grace in your day.

Living and Writing and Faith: Dispatch from Self-Isolation, Day 30


Elaine Neil Orr is the author of five books, including her memoir, Gods of Noonday: A White Girl’s African Life, and the novel, A Different Sun. Her latest novel, Swimming Between Worlds captures the moral imperatives of integration in the early 1960s and was a finalist for the 2019 Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Book Award in Fiction. She has been honored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the North Carolina Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She serves on the faculty of English at N.C. State University as well as the faculty of the Spalding University School of Creative and Professional Writing.