The deadline to apply for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference is coming up fast, gang. April 15! And it’s FREE to apply, so you should definitely put in for it.
I’ve written a lot here on the blog about falling in love with the family I found at Sewanee last summer:
- My anticipation for Sewanee
- The books I bought at Sewanee
- The things I learned at Sewanee
- The memories I made at Sewanee
But as this year’s application deadline approaches, I thought it would be cool to ask some of my workshop colleagues what they thought of our experience. So here are just a few of the amazing writers I got to work with and what they had to say about their Sewanee.
Shane Collins is a writer in Vermont; you can find him and his work online at shanercollinsauthor.wordpress.com.
Caleb Ludwick is a writer living in the mountains outside of Chattanooga, TN. He is the author of the novel The First Time She Fell.
Stacey Swann is currently working on a novel, an excerpt of which you can read here at A Strange Object.
What did you think of our workshop experience?
I had a fantastic time. Allen Wier and Adrianne Harun were great mentors with teaching styles that complimented each other. Both were personable, approachable, and generous with their time. The same could be said for all of the Sewanee professors. I also really liked our workshop cohort. There was a huge range of stories/excerpts and probably the only commonality was the quality. It was so beneficial — if not a little humbling — to get feedback on my work from so many wonderful writers.
It was only my second workshop and it cut deep, in all the best ways. I came to Sewanee with a novel 75% finished and realized through reading everyone’s work, and having everyone else read mine, that not only was it nowhere near finished, it wasn’t even a novel. Allen’s close reading and willingness to talk through what I’d written lit a fire for the next 6 months of chopping and reconfiguring, pushing me to write better than I have before, without question.
It had been quite a while since I was a student in a workshop, and I loved the feeling of entering each day knowing I would leave with new things to chew over that I hadn’t considered before. Having two workshop leaders was a new experience too, and one that I can’t say enough positive things about. I loved the way Allen Wier and Adrianne Harun came at the stories from different angles and taught in different ways.
What was your favorite reading? Your favorite craft lecture?
My favorite reading was definitely Tim O’Brien’s. I’m biased because O’Brien has been one of my most influential writing heroes but it was so surreal to hear him read one of my favorite stories. I think my favorite craft lecture was Jill McCorkle’s. She had this wonderful extended metaphor comparing a short story to a haunted house that has stuck with me.
Reading was Tim O’Brien’s, simply because he read the very line that I read in junior high, and realized that it was possible to create worlds with words in a more powerful way than I had thought before: “Curt Lemon steps from the shade into bright sunlight, his face brown and shining, and then he soars into a tree.”
Craft lecture was Alice McDermott’s. So many insights, shaped into something whole and holy.
My favorites were the Fellows readings — always a one, two, three punch of amazing. My favorite craft lecture? Alice McDermott’s.
What was your favorite memory from Sewanee?
Obviously my favorite memory would be the time I spent stalking Tim O’Brien. But another great memory was having Jesse Goolsby as a fellow in our class. I began reading his novel before I knew he would be in my workshop, before I even knew he’d be at Sewanee. It was just a pleasant surprise.
Long walk alone from the interstate back toward campus, deciding to hitchhike instead and getting picked up by an ex-Sewanee security guard with amazing stories. Having him drop me at the reservoir, jumping in to cool off. Back in time for readings. Perfect.
What would you tell someone thinking of applying this year?
No matter how you get into Sewanee, whether as an auditor, contributor, scholar, or fellow, I guarantee you will have a positive and worthwhile experience. Workshop was wonderful but I also learned so much by attending panels, readings, and craft lectures, not to mention the connections I made at the numerous social events.
Bring work that you know isn’t perfect, but aren’t sure why. Also, some advice Rebecca Makkai gave me — make friends. You’ll keep them.
The rumors of the amazing Sewanee community are not overstated. I was blown away by the kindness, intelligence, and talent of everyone I met — attendee, faculty, and staff alike.
I also heard from Sewanee Writers’ Conference faculty (and my mentor last year), Allen Wier!
I thought our workshop experience was inspiriting. Not only did the group include a rich variety of literary approaches, talented and inquisitive writers, but, also, we had a lovely sense of community almost immediately. I would certainly encourage any writer seeking an intense two weeks with like minded readers and writers to apply.
You have one week, folks. Get your applications in ASAP! If you get in, it will change your life.