Colgate Writers' Conference - Faculty Skip Navigation

Colgate Writers' Conference - Faculty

Each year, an array of faculty members contribute their expertise to the Writers' Conference.

Workshop Leaders

Greg Ames
Greg AmesBiography
Greg Ames is the author of Buffalo Lockjaw, a novel that won the Book of the Year Award from the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). Buffalo Lockjaw was voted #1 in The Believer's Reader Survey. His work has appeared in numerous literary journals, magazines and anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading, McSweeney's, Southern Review, The Sun, and Fiction International, among others. He is an assistant professor in the English department at Colgate University.

Short Fiction Workshop Description
This is a supportive and intensive fiction workshop. We read and discuss submitted work and generate new writing in class. After your story is discussed in the workshop, I will meet with you in an hour-long private tutorial to discuss specific elements of your writing. In her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” Flannery O’Connor describes the habit of art as “a certain quality or virtue of the mind,” a form of curiosity about the world and a devotion to seeing and feeling. I’m not saying a summer workshop can provide that, but my hope is that you’ll consider this week an opportunity to take artistic chances that might prove fulfilling. I look forward to meeting you.
Peter Balakian
Peter BalakianBiography
Peter Balakian is the author of seven books of poems, including Ziggurat (2010) and June-tree: New and Selected Poems, 1974-2000 and Ozone Journal (2015), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. His books of prose include Black Dog of Fate (an American son uncovers his Armenian Past), which won the 1998 PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for the Art of the Memoir, and was a best book of the year for the New York Times, the LA Times, and Publisher’s Weekly, and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (HarperCollins, 2004), which won the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and was a New York Times Notable Book and a New York Times Best Seller, and his newly published selected essays Vice and Shadow: Essays on the Lyric Imagination, Poetry, Art, and Culture.

Balakian is the recipient of many awards, prizes, and civic citations, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, The Spendlove Prize for Social Justice, Tolerance, and Diplomacy (recipients include President Carter); and The Emily Clark Balch Prize for poetry from the Virginia Quarterly Review. He has appeared widely on national television and radio (60 Minutes, ABC World News Tonight, PBS, Charlie Rose, CNN, C-SPAN, NPR, Fresh Air, etc), and his work has been translated into a dozen languages and foreign editions, including Armenian, Arabic, Bulgarian, French, Dutch, Greek, German, Hebrew, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, and Turkish. He is the Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of Creative Writing at Colgate University.

Poetry Workshop Description
During the course of our workshop, we’ll explore many aspects of the poetic landscape. First and most important, this is a workshop, a studio class – which means that your work, and your responses to your classmates’ work, will be front and center. Every day, student work will be read and discussed. We'll talk about how to develop your strengths, how to recognize and mine inspiration, how to become more ambitious in your goals for your work, how to open up to new areas of expression, what revision practices work best for you. We’ll also do periodic in-class and out-of-class writing exercises – to encourage spontaneity, experimentation, and general poetic craziness. Finally, part of our time together will be spent exploring some of the most compelling issues informing contemporary poetry: specific aspects of craft and content and a consideration of various outposts and ideas about contemporary practice.

Jennifer Brice
Jennifer BriceBiography
Jennifer Brice has been on the Colgate faculty since 2003. Unlearning to Fly, a memoir in essays, is her latest book. She is also the author of The Last Settlers, a work of literary journalism. Her essays have appeared in such journals as The Gettysburg Review, Under the Sun, and River Teeth.

A graduate of Smith College, Jennifer holds an MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. At Colgate, she teaches courses in creative writing and literature, as well as Living Writers on Colgate X.

Creative Nonfiction Intensive Workshop Description
A nurturing, rigorous workshop open to writers of memoirs, essays, and journalism. Partial or complete book manuscripts welcome. The idea is to meet every manuscript where it's at and help the writer take it to the next level. Ideally, everyone should come to the conference having read everyone's manuscript with care. Detailed written comments aren't necessary; constructive contributions are. Individual conferences will be scheduled in addition to the workshop. Depending on time, we may read outside work and generate new writing.

Brock Clarke
Brock ClarkeBiography
Brock Clarke is the author of six books of fiction, most recently the novels The Happiest People in the World (which was a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice Pick, an Indie Next Pick, and an Amazon Book of the Month choice), Exley (which was a Kirkus Book of the Year, a finalist for the Maine Book Award, and a longlist finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award) and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (which was a national bestseller, and American Library Associate Notable Book of the Year, a #1 Book Sense Pick, a Borders Original Voices in Fiction selection, and a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice pick). His books have been reprinted in a dozen international editions, and have been awarded the Mary McCarthy Prize for Fiction, the Prairie Schooner Book Series Prize, a National Endowment for Arts Fellowship, and an Ohio Council for the Arts Fellowship, among others. Clarke’s individual stories and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Boston Globe, Virginia Quarterly Review, One Story, The Believer, Georgia Review, New England Review, and Southern Review and have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. He lives in Portland, Maine, and teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College.

Novel Intensive Workshop Description
This workshop will focus on writing and revising a novel, with an eye toward pacing, structure, logic, theme, voice, plot, characterization--everything, in other words. Workshop members are asked to submit whatever they've finished, whether it's a full draft or a representative excerpt or something in between, just as long as the submission is substantial enough to enable your readers to give you what you need. Speaking of that: workshop members will be asked to do a good bit of reading in preparation for the conference. I encourage everyone to line-edit brief passages in each other's work, but I will definitely expect everyone to be able to talk, in detail, about each other's fiction during workshop, and also to provide a detailed letter to the writer offering praise, encouragement, gentle (but specific) criticism, and ideas for revision. I will write each of you a long letter, and will line-edit a substantial, representative section of each of your manuscripts. Each participant will get his or her own workshop session, and I will meet with you outside of workshop as well. Finally, I will bring in examples of fiction and non-fiction that will help you with writing and revising your novels.

Naomi Jackson
Naomi JacksonBiography
Naomi Jackson is author of The Star Side of Bird Hill, published by Penguin Press in June 2015. The Star Side of Bird Hill was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and longlisted for the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and the International Dublin Literary Award. Star Side was named an Honor Book for Fiction by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. It was also selected for the American Booksellers Association’s Indies Introduce and Indies Next List programs. The book has been reviewed by The New York Times, The New Yorker, Kirkus Reviews, and Entertainment Weekly, which called Star Side “a gem of a book.” Publishers Weekly named Jackson a Writer to Watch.

Jackson studied fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She traveled to South Africa on a Fulbright scholarship, where she received an M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Cape Town. A graduate of Williams College, her work has appeared in literary journals and magazines in the United States and abroad. She is the recipient of residencies and fellowships from Bread Loaf, MacDowell Colony, the University of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Writers House, Hedgebrook, and the Camargo Foundation.

Jackson has taught at the University of Iowa, University of Pennsylvania, City College of New York, and Oberlin College. She is currently the Visiting Writer at Amherst College. Jackson was born and raised in Brooklyn by West Indian parents.
David Ryan
David RyanBiography
David Ryan is the author of the story collection Animals in Motion (Roundabout Press). Stories of his have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Esquire, Electric Literature, BOMB, Tin House, Fence, No Tokens Journal, Hayden's Ferry Review,, Booth, Denver Quarterly, Alaska Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, Cimarron Review, several Mississippi Review Prize issues, Nerve, Hobart, and Salt Hill, among others. His fiction has been anthologized in WW Norton's Flash Fiction Forward, The Mississippi Review: 30, and Akashic Book's Boston Noir 2: The Classics. His essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Paris Review, The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature, Tin House, BookForum, and elsewhere. A recipient of the Elizabeth Yates McGreal Writer in Residence, a Connecticut state arts grant and a Macdowell fellowship, he currently teaches in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College and in the low residency program at New England College.

Creative Nonfiction Intensive Workshop Description
In this workshop we'll discuss each other's essays, autobiographical fiction, or any blend of the two, with dramatic interest in mind. I want to show how metaphor and memory work together to layer and deepen the truth of self-reflective writing, regardless of genre. Each workshop will include a roundtable discussion, where everyone will have read each other's work and prepared in-depth, thoughtful comments. Line edits aren't necessary, but a deep engagement with other participants' work is. The goal will be to find the center of interest living, but sometimes hiding, in the work—to then draw it out and intensify it. Through prompts and some theory I'd like to talk about how to create surprise, suspense, and empathy in your writing; how to use form and symmetry to shape conscious experience from the chaos of our lives into something artful and imaginative. Ultimately, you'll not only have improved your manuscript, but you'll know a bit more about how your life relates to, and compels, broader human experience.


Readers and Speakers

J. Robert Lennon
J. Robert LennonBiography
J. Robert Lennon is the author of two story collections, Pieces For The Left Hand and See You in Paradise, and seven novels, including Mailman, Castle, and Familiar. He holds an MFA from the University of Montana, and has published short fiction in The New Yorker, Harper's, Playboy, Granta, The Paris Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. He has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and his story "The Rememberer" inspired the detective TV series Unforgettable. Lennon's book reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Guardian, and The London Review of Books, and he lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches writing at Cornell University.