Conference Workshops


When registering for the conference, please state the workshop you will take. Space is limited. Register at this link.


Poetry 9AM–12:30pm  —CLASS FULL—

Passionate Syntax with Vijay Seshadri

Instructor: Vijay Seshadri

Take a deep dive into the physical power of words. The phrase passionate syntax was used by William Butler Yeats to describe a central quality of poetry, one that includes all the elements that make up a poem’s physicality. We will look at the syntax of your poems, and the ways in which a poem’s passion is liberated by its movement in language. We will also explore how tensions and co-operations between the line and the sentence create fields of clarified human energy. Bring one poem of your own and all of your imaginative curiosity.

Vijay Seshadri was born in Bangalore, India, in 1954 and came to America at the age of five. Hispoetry collections include 3 Sections (Graywolf Press, 2013), winner of  the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; The Long Meadow (Graywolf Press, 2004), which won the James Laughlin Award; and Wild Kingdom (1996). His poems have appeared widely in such publications as AGNI, Bomb, The Nation, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. Seshadri has received grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2015, he received the Literature Award of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, where he holds the Michele Tolela Myers Chair. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son. Vijay Seshadri at poets-org.



Art Speaks to Life: Writing the 21st Century Narrative

Instructor: Debra Monroe

In this digitally-nonstop century, life is a mass of details and distractions. How can we become vivid witnesses to this onrush of information? Learn how an essay or story selects and arranges details to distill meaning. Writing means leaving out the irrelevant so the reader can focus on the essential. This class will describe what form is, and how to develop it by building blocks of carefully selected, resonant details. We’ll learn to write essays that speak to real tensions and dilemmas surrounding us, drawing the reader in.

Debra Monroe’s first book, The Source of Trouble (1995), won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction. Her memoir On the Outskirts of Normal (2015) was named one of the best books of 2015 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Barnes & Noble and San Antonio Express-News, and her most recent memoir: My Unsentimental Education (2015) received a 4-star review from San Francisco Book Review. She has received numerous awards for her work, including the John Gardner Fellowship, the Quarterly West Novella Competition and The Violet Crown Award, and has been nominated for the National Book Award twice. The Chicago Tribune has describes Monroe’ prose as: “Keenly observed, funny-sad, un-self-conscious. . .  She currently teaches in the MFA program at Texas State University.

Poetry 1:45–5:15pm

Somoza Unveils Somoza's Statue of Somoza: Writing Poetry of Political Satire in the Age of Trump

Instructor: Martín Espada

This is a generative workshop.  Participants will generate new work based on the distribution and discussion of poems by Ernesto Cardenal, Jack Agüeros, Marge Piercy and others.  Workshop participants will write on the spot, then share their work, reading aloud to the group (for thunderous applause only). Together we will write poems of political satire, smuggle subversive ideas in the gift-wrapped box of humor, channel anger into art, and invoke the power of words against the powerful in the tradition of Whitman: O Filthy Presidentiad!

​Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. Recently named the 2018 winner of the Ruth Lilly Prize in Poetry by the Poetry Foundation, the first Latino to receive this distinction, Espada has published almost twenty books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His latest collection of poems from Norton is called Vivas to Those Who Have Failed (2016). Some of his many books of poems include The Trouble Ball (2011), The Republic of Poetry (2006), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Alabanza (2003), A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (2000), and Imagine the Angels of Bread 

(1996). His many honors include the Shelley Memorial Award, the Robert Creeley Award, the National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. A former tenant lawyer in Greater Boston’s Latino community, Espada is a professor of English at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Martin Espada:


Non-Fiction 9am–12:30pm

The Writer as Witness and Healer: An Open Genre Workshop

Instructor: Norma Cantú

Join this workshop and explore the role of the writer in society in unexpected and challenging ways. We will focus primarily on the writer as witness and healer through at least three short generative exercises, which can function for almost any genre: testimonio, poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. We will examine how the self, the community, and the state shape our reality and how as writers we respond and react to each. This intensive workshop will probe the question: What is the role and responsibility of the writer in the face of personal, political or social upheaval? The writing can be done in Spanish, English or Spanglish.

Norma Cantú is is currently the Murchison Professor in the Humanities at Trinity University in San Antonio. An award-winning Chicana writer and educator from Nuevo Laredo, her work has been published in numerous journals and through a number of university presses, such as her fictionalized memoir Canícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera (University of New Mexico Press 1997),  now being re-issued in an updated twentieth anniversary edition. A groundbreaking editor and writer, Cantú has edited anthologies, such as Ente Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art (2016) and collaborated with Marta Sanchez to create Transcendental Trainyards (Wings Press 2015), a collection of colored serigraphs and poems to evoke the role the railroad and carpas (itinerant vaudeville troupes) played in Mexican American culture. Cantú received the UTSA Globalization Award in April 2010 and was named Outstanding Latina of Kansas City by Dos Mundos Newspaper in 2011, among many other accolades..Norma Cantu—Trinity University

Fiction 9am-12:30pm

Distilling Big Ideas into Intimate Narratives

Instructor: Anel Flores

The act of telling a story that has not been widely shared is a political act. In this workshop, we will learn techniques to identify “fiction-worthy” moments based on a diverse range of lived experiences we have packed away. We will explore the way in which a writer attaches emotions, physicality and believability to their narrative, while examining ally authors. Learn how writing from the body, trusting the tactility of experience, and incorporating research into your writing process can allow you to create your most compelling stories. Each author will generate a bank of story starters to enhance a current project or jump-start a new one.

Students are asked to submit their favorite page of writing from one author they view as a literary mentor and to be ready to discuss how this sample connects to their writing.

Anel Flores is a community activist, writer, educator and artist. UTSA’s Women’s StudiesInstitute recently named her 2018 Women’s Advocate of the Year. She is a member of the Macondo Writer’s Workshop and an alumni of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Leadership Institute. Her first book, a collection of interwoven vignettes, was entitled Empanada: A Lesbiana Story en Probaditas (Korima Press 2013),and her work has been published in many anthologies, such as Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art (2016). Her work has been published in national and local literary journals, including San Francisco: Korima Press and SALIR Magazine. Flores has received many awards for her work, including a NALAC Fund For The Arts Award, a Vermont Studio Center Artist Grant, and the 2017 Best of The Current San Antonio for Local Author.

Poetry 9am-12:30pm

Writing the Moment—How do We Do it?

Instructor: Veronica Golos

May you live in interesting times goes the ancient Chinese curse. Well here we are. How do poets answer this moment? We will look at the different ways Native American poets such as Layli Long Soldier, Sherwin Bitsui, and others have done it: the use of historical documents, deciphering language and alphabet, the powers of Surrealism and Persona. Through generative work and readings, we will reveal the how's and why's of socially connected poetry—and, in turn, reveal ourselves and discover newly-energized ways to respond to our present times.

Veronica Golos, a renowned poet and editor, is author of Rootwork (3 Taos Press 2015) andVocabulary of Silence (Red Hen Press), winner of the 2011 New Mexico Book Award. She also is the author of A Bell Buried Deep (Story Line Press), co-winner in 2005 of the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Golos has taught extensively for Poets House, Poets & Writers, and is part of the core faculty of The Tupelo Truchas Poetry Conference. Her work has been widely published and anthologized nationally and internationally. In addition to being co-editor of the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, Golos is Poetry Editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.

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