The week-long Tin House Summer Writers Workshop is wrapping up, and I wanted to file a brief report before heading out on a hiking trip. It’s my fourth year here, each more than well worth it.
At the online discussion board established so students can download each other’s work and introduce themselves, the conference coordinator dubs each workshop leader with a title. I studied this year with Dorothy Allison. Her title, the Shepard, could not have been more fitting. She is tough, but it’s out of love: love for you, for the characters, for story. She’s a keen reader with an eye both for detail and for what I can only call a larger cosmic vision of where writing fits in the larger scheme.
The week juggles morning workshops with afternoon seminars and evening readings–and then all the informal stuff that makes such a conference so valuable. Highlights included, as in past years, Charles D’Ambrosio packing more challenging thoughts into one hour than many teachers might in a whole week (more on this later, sometime); Bret Anthony Johnston introducing writing exercises from his fine book Naming the World; a very good panel on beginnings (“the beginning is a question for which everything that follows is some kind of answer”); a talk by Aimee Bender on “fructification”; and a party marking the magazine’s 10th anniversary (a lifetime in litmag years) where, among other things, Steve Almond treated us to a tour-de-force deconstruction of the Toto song “Africa.”