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Creative Writing Workshops

Our motto is “Write Your Truth.”

Creative writing workshops at the Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference are designed to help you discover the stories that matter to you. What is your truth? What is the voice you will use to tell it?


Workshop Descriptions for 2023 are forthcoming! Faculty include Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello (Mary Wood Fellow, poetry); Jason Fagone (journalism); and Cara Blue Adams (fiction). Check back for more information soon!

Previous workshop descriptions and leaders are below for informational purposes.


Shara Lessley

Shara Lessley: Real Places & Imagined Spaces: A Poetry Workshop

Because “poetry works where maps are useless,” in this workshop we’ll let writing transport us to places real and imagined as we consider how geography serves as subject, metaphor, and strategy. Testing a variety of poetic forms, we’ll revisit places that have shaped our sense of self and imagination. We’ll also reflect on how place informs the way we understand beauty, history, class, love, joy, religion, race. How do poets engage with fields and oceans, the territories of sensuality, or far reaches of the Internet? How can we best write about places whose surface meanings don’t necessarily reflect the complexities of what’s happened in the past? In this class, we’ll push our creativity via experiments designed to help sharpen and recharge our writing. In order to learn more about how poets use image, repetition, and syntax to create tension, we’ll look to work featuring kitchenette buildings, confessional booths, school dances, war memorials, science labs, candy shops, dark tunnels of the underworld—even outer space!—as models and points of departure. Most importantly, we’ll look to poetry itself as a place where anything can happen, a place located at the intersection of intention and possibility.     



Hasinthika Sirisena

Hasanthika Sirisena: Creating New Worlds

This speculative fiction workshop will focus on fiction that creates new worlds, builds off fables and fairytales, or reshapes reality in interesting ways. We’ll focus on convincing world building and using the speculative tool box—twisted fairytales, fantasy and sci-fi premises, and your imagination—while also focusing on some of the basics like character development, setting, and plot.  




INLaura Maylene Walter: Crossing Genre Boundaries

Magic abounds in fiction, and not just in the expected realms of fantasy and science fiction. Contemporary writers of literary fiction often blur genre boundaries to explore the weird, the wild, the surreal, or the uncanny. In this workshop, we’ll use reading and writing exercises to enter the imaginative wilds and explore new worldbuilding and storytelling possibilities. Beyond focusing on craft elements like character development, structure, pacing, and scene creation, we’ll also let loose on the page and welcome a bit of magic into our writing.



Writing Nonfiction Profiles

It’s not easy to write in-depth about real people in a way that’s both factual and vivid. But this is often what makes narrative journalism so powerful and memorable: a sense of a specific person who leaps to life on the page. Through exercises and examples, we’re going to explore elements of "personality profiles" in stories and books and how they're crafted using the tools of narrative journalism. Starting with the basics, like physical description, we’ll talk about how to take the raw ingredients of nonfiction (quotes, interviews, observations, documents, historical research) and use them to create accurate, respectful, and revealing portrayals of actual humans.