Chautauqua Institution

Each workshop is taught by an experienced, published author in a small group setting. Most classes are limited to just 12 participants. All workshops are held on the second floor of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. (Located on the south end of the grounds on Wythe Ave. across from the Hall of Philosophy.) For specific questions regarding workshops, please contact Clara Silverstein. - See more at:

Each workshop is taught by an experienced, published author (writer-in-residence) in a small group setting. Most classes are limited to just 12 participants. All workshops are held on the second floor of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. (Located on the south end of the grounds on Wythe Ave. across from the Hall of Philosophy.)

For specific questions regarding workshops, please contact Clara Silverstein.

Registration begins in April. Call the ticket ofice at 716.357.6250 to register by phone or register online at You may also register at one of our ticketing windows at our Main Gate Welcome Center.

Weekly prose and poetry workshops have been the core of the Chautauqua Writers' Center for 24 years. Faculty members are selected not only for their national reputations and the quality of their work, but also for their ability to inspire developing writers to grow in their craft.

Week 1, June 25–July 2


Philip Gerard
In a series of five stand-alone workshops, we’ll focus on artistic and practical ways by which a writer can take facts, data, research, history, and experience and create story — that elusive, entertaining, enlightening true narrative that endows such raw material with greater meaning. Sign up for one or more workshops in advance or at the door.
Meets daily, 9 to 10:30 a.m.


Phil-GerardPhilip Gerard is the author of four novels, including The Dark of the Island; and five books of nonfiction, including Creative Nonfiction. His work has appeared in In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction. He has been a commentator for public radio, has appeared numerous times on the History Channel, and had eleven documentary scripts produced for public television. He teaches in the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington and is co-editor with Jill Gerard of Chautauqua. He released his debut album, American Anthem, in 2015. 


Monday 6/27
Declaring Your Story
The more complex the story, the more challenging the ideas, and the more technical the information, the more straightforward must be our approach. And the clearer must be our instructions — implicit or explicit — to the reader.

Tuesday 6/28
Words & Music
Words without music are mere noise. We’ll look at how facts can inspire songs, how the writer can use music in his or her creative process, and how music infuses language.

Wednesday 6/29
Writing Your First Book
The book writer does a number of un-romantic things first: conceives a book, then plans it, and then actually writes it. Call it pre-vision, drafting, and revision. We’ll form a practical plan to get it done.

Thursday 6/30
The Art of Creative Research
Part investigative reporting, part treasure hunt, research is a habit, an attitude of open-minded alertness, a way of being in the world, of being alert for knowledge in any form.

Friday 7/1
The Writer’s Life
This session explores how to create a writing life that complements the other valuable aspects of your life, allowing you to give your writing the time and attention that it deserves.


Week 2, July 2–July 9


Kim T. Griswell
Our greatest writers write from their guts, from their own truths. They dig deep until they reach a vein within themselves that is pure gold. And then they tell the stories that only they can tell, as only they can tell them. This intensive activity- and writing-based workshop has been developed to break you through to your authentic writing voice. Through a series of activities and writing exercises, you will learn how to discover, uncover, and write your own stories. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday 1:15 - 3:15 p.m.



Kim T. Griswell has written about everything from flesh-eating plants to exploding toilets. Her editorial career spans 20 years, including senior positions at Highlights for Children, Boyds Mills Press, and — currently — Portable Press in Ashland, Oregon. She has published hundreds of short stories and articles. Her books include Carnivorous Plants; a retelling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Ludlow Mining Strike. The picture books Rufus Goes to School and Rufus Goes to Sea were both Oregon Book Awards finalists. A third Rufus book — Rufus Blasts Off — is due in fall 2017.


Week 3, July 9–16


Ann Hood
Barbara Kingsolver said that essays re-engage people with their own humanity. In this workshop, we will read personal essays by writers as varied as Junot Diaz, Jo Ann Beard and Amy Poehler and discuss what makes them work. You will do in-class writing as well as write two personal essays on specific themes generated by our in-class reading and discussion. No advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Ann-Hood-photo-credit-Catherine-SebastianAnn Hood is the author of the bestselling novels The Knitting Circle and The Obituary Writer and the memoir Comfort: A Journey Through Grief, which was named one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2008. She has won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, and Best American Spiritual and Best American Travel Writing Awards. Her new novel, The Book That Matters Most, will be published this summer.


Week 4, July 16–23


Emily Fox Gordon
Memoirists are often accused of self-absorption, but memoirs need not only be about the self. They can also be about saving the world — or worlds — that each one of us contains. These constellations of people, places and times are precious in their particularity, and they’re continually endangered by our tendency to forget. We can save them by committing them to the page. We’ll look at examples of lost worlds that have been captured in memoir, and we’ll work on retrieving some of our own. You are welcome to bring 14 copies of up to five double-spaced pages of memoir to discuss in class as time allows.

Monday-Friday 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Emily-Fox-Gordon-photoEmily Fox Gordon is the author of Mockingbird Years: A Life In and Out of Therapy; Are You Happy? A Childhood Remembered; and Book of Days: Personal Essays. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, American Scholar, Boulevard, Salmagundi, and Southwest Review. Her essay “At Sixty Five” was reprinted in Best American Essays 2014. She has taught workshops at Columbia University, Rice University, and The New School. In 2014 she was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.


Week 4, July 16–23


Zayd Dohrn
From Shakespeare to The Sopranos, from Death of a Salesman to ”Mad Men,” all great drama is built using the same fundamental storytelling tools. We'll discuss the importance of goals, conflicts, stakes and obstacles. We'll also discuss classic works of dramatic writing, and practice writing our own scenes for the stage and/or screen. This workshop is a collaboration between the Chautauqua Theater Company and the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. No advance submissions necessary.

MORNING WORKSHOP, Monday-Friday 8:30-10:30 a.m.



Zayd Dohrn’s new play, The Profane, can be seen this summer at Bratton Theater. His other plays are published by Samuel French and have been produced off-Broadway, across the country, and internationally. He is currently developing original TV series at HBO, Showtime, and the Sundance Channel. He earned his MFA from New York University and was an American Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard, where he won Lincoln Center's Lecomte du Nouy Prize. He teaches writing at Northwestern University.


Week 4, July 20


Rachel DeWoskin
In this one-session workshop, we will strategize about ways to create characters who seem complex and alive, and who drive their stories forward so that readers want to follow. We will put our characters into situations that require them to make difficult choices, and read excerpts from works including Lolita, House of Mirth and Autobiography of Red, exploring what makes some of the world's most interesting characters lovable and/or loathsome.

ONE-SESSION WORKSHOP, Wednesday 1:15-3:15 p.m.

Rachel-DeWoskin-photo-credit-Anne-LiRachel DeWoskin is the award-winning author of the novels Blind; Big Girl Small; Repeat After Me and the memoir Foreign Babes in Beijing, which is being developed into a television series at Sundance TV. DeWoskin’s articles and poems have been published widely, in magazines including Vanity Fair, the Sunday Times Magazine of London and Ploughshares. She is on the full-time fiction faculty at the University of Chicago.


Week 5, July 23–30


Tom Noyes
For story writers, dynamic depiction of place can serve as a catalyst for character development, significant action, essential conflict and revelation of theme. In this workshop, participants will explore the narrative power of setting and discover strategies to effectively evoke the personality of place. Writers are welcome to send up to 10 double-spaced pages to Tom Noyes ( or 48 West 34th Street, Erie, PA 16508) in advance, but doing so is not necessary for participation in the workshop.

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Tom-NoyesTom Noyes’ newest book, Come by Here: A Novella and Stories, won the Autumn House Prize in Fiction and the Gold Medal in Short Fiction from the Independent Press Publishers Awards. He is the author of two other story collections, Spooky Action at a Distance and Behold Faith. He teaches in the BFA program at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, where he also serves as Assistant Director of the Humanities and consulting editor for the literary journal Lake Effect. 


Week 6, July 30–August 6


Leslie Daniels
Do you want to start writing but don't know where? Got started, but now you're stuck? Are your scenes flat, boring, blah? The solution may be character development. Using discussion and writing exercises, we will generate fresh, multi-dimensional characters and/or deepen existing characters from your writing (fiction, non-fiction, screenplays or plays). The work will be both individual and group oriented. No advance submissions necessary but you are welcome to bring 14 copies of two to three double-spaced pages of writing to discuss in class as time allows. 

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.

Leslie-DanielsLeslie Daniels’ first novel, Cleaning Nabokov’s House, is under option for film and has been published in translation in four languages. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications including Missouri Review, Ploughshares and New Ohio Review. Her career includes a long stint as a literary agent and five years as the fiction editor of Green Mountains Review. Daniels teaches at the Spalding University MFA program and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference.


Week 7, August 6–13


Linda K. Wertheimer
Faith — finding it, losing it, fighting wars over it, or avoiding it altogether — provides rich fodder for writers. Through rich, layered essays, writers can combat stereotypes about religions. They can explain how we approach loss and how religion intersects with so much in society. But what does it take to craft a successful, non-preachy essay about religion? During the week, we’ll analyze essays on religion and do in-class writing. No experience or advance submissions necessary.

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.

Linda-K.-WertheimerLinda K. Wertheimer is the author of Faith Ed., Teaching About Religion In an Age of Intolerance. A former education editor of The Boston Globe, she previously was a full-time reporter at The Dallas Morning News and other newspapers. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Atlantic online, The Boston Globe Magazine, and Tiferet, a literary spiritual journal. She teaches writing about religion and other courses at Grub Street in Boston.


Week 8, August 13–20


Nancy McCabe

There are as many ways to tell stories as there are stories to tell. Some writers choose straightforward, traditional approaches, while others experiment with alternative structures inspired by recipes, liner notes, instruction manuals, and quizzes.  We’ll look at examples of nonfiction and fiction that borrow from different forms and do exercises and experiments, trying a variety of approaches while discussing what makes a story’s structure effective. You are welcome to bring 14 copies of up to eight double-spaced pages of a story—fiction or nonfiction, experimental or traditional—to discuss in class as time allows.

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Nancy-McCabeNancy McCabe is the author of four nonfiction books, most recently From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood, and her first novel, Following Disasters, is due out next fall. Her essays and stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, received a Pushcart, and been recognized six times on Houghton-Mifflin Best American notable lists.  She directs the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and teaches in the Spalding University low-residency MFA program.


Week 9, August 20–27


Ron MacLean
Establishing conflict in a story is one thing. Escalating that conflict in ways both believable and compelling is another. In this craft workshop, we’ll look at ways to increase both danger and dimensionality, so readers can trace — and feel — the progress of tension. We’ll look at published examples, and practice techniques through in-class exercises. You are welcome to e-mail up to 10 double-spaced pages of fiction to in advance, or bring 14 copies to discuss in class as time allows.

Monday-Friday, 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Ron-MacLean-1Ron MacLean is the author of Headlong, winner of the 2013 Indie Book Award for Best Mystery, and two previous books: Blue Winnetka Skies, and Why the Long Face? His short fiction has appeared in GQ, Narrative, Fiction International, Best Online Fiction 2010, and elsewhere. He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award for Short Fiction and holds a Doctor of Arts from University at Albany, State University of New York. He teaches at Grub Street in Boston.


Registration for all workshops begins in April. Tuition is $110 is open to writers of all stages ($150 for Advanced Poetry Workshop, and requires writing samples to be submitted).

Register online -

Register by phone - Call 716.357.6250. Please have all registration information ready before calling. Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover are all accepted.

Pre-register by mail or fax (716.357.5823) - Complete the registration form printed in the Special Studies Catalog and return it to:

Special Studies
PO Box 28
Chautauqua, New York 14722

Registration forms will be available in the Special Studies Catalog which can be obtained by writing to the address above.

Register in-person - Walk-in registrations will be accepted at the Main Gate and the Colonnade.

Note: A $5 handling fee will be added to all phone, fax and mail registrations.


Clara Silverstein
Program Director

Sherra Babcock
Director of Education