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 27–July 4


Kristin Kovacic
In the age of Facebook, Instagram, and the selfie, we send and receive hundreds of photographs each day, most instantly forgotten. Yet we still harbor strong attachments to old snapshots and photo albums. Certain images of people and places compel us, make us wonder about the past. This is how we begin to link individual lives with history, and our workshop will use family photographs as launching points for literary essay and memoir. No advance submissions necessary, but students are asked to bring in family photos in any format.
Monday-Friday 1:15-3:15 p.m.


Kristin-KovacicKristin Kovacic is a writer, editor, and teacher in Pittsburgh. Her nonfiction essays are published widely and have won the Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She is the editor of Birth: A Literary Companion and teaches writing at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and in the Carlow University Low-Residency MFA program. 


Week 1, June 27–July 4



Zayd Dohrn
From The Godfather to The Sopranos, from Death of a Salesman to Mad Men, stage and screen stories are built using the same fundamental tools of dramatic storytelling. So what makes a great play/film/TV show? Why is drama essentially about conflict? How do characters use their words as well as their actions to get what they want? We'll discuss the importance of stakes and obstacles, 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.

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


Zayd-DohrnZayd Dohrn received the Chautauqua 2015 New Play Commission. His plays include Outside People (The Vineyard/Naked Angels), Want (Steppenwolf), Sick (Berkshire Theatre Festival), and Reborning (The Public/SPF). He received Lincoln Center’s Lecomte du Nouy Prize, the Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Award, the Sky Cooper American Playwriting Prize, and Theatre Masters Visionary Playwrights Award. Zayd attended Brown University, received his MFA from NYU and was an American Playwriting Fellow at Juilliard. He currently teaches playwriting and screenwriting at Northwestern University.


Week 2, July 4–11


J. David Stevens
This workshop will consider the relationship between the writer’s life and work, not just how personal experience seeps into manuscripts but also how being a writer influences one’s perception of the world.  Our conversation will range across fiction and non-fiction, addressing basic questions.  How do I decide what should be a story or an essay?  How much “fact” must be changed to transform reality into fiction?  Can non-fiction be “fictional” (and are there rules for that)?  Workshop members are welcome to bring 14 copies of one piece of fiction or nonfiction—2,000 word limit, whole or excerpt—to discuss in class as time allows.

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


David-StevensJ. David Stevens is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Richmond. He has published stories and essays in dozens of national magazines, including Harper’sThe Paris Review, and Creative Nonfiction. His story, “The Joke”, appeared in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, and his essay, “For Janet, at 40”, was short-listed for The Best American Essays 2013.  His most recent book is Mexico is Missing, a story collection.


Week 3, July 11–18


Lynne Griffin
You dont need to start your story with a car chase or make a gun go off to draw readers in or keep them reading. Tension in fiction is created in a variety of ways, and through close reading, discussion, and in-class writing assignments, youll learn to craft compelling characters, choose fresh plot lines, manipulate pacing, charge dialogue, and highlight setting in ways that support the conflict of your story. Learn how to move your characters closer to their goals while introducing complications that raise the stakes, putting what your characters want and need at risk, making failure more possible and dangerous. Youll learn to create the kind of intense curiosity that keeps readers turning pages. No advance submissions necessary.

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


Lynne-GriffinLynne Griffin is the author of the family-focused novels, Girl Sent Away, Life Without Summer, and Sea Escape; and the nonfiction title, Negotiation Generation. She teaches family studies at the graduate level at Wheelock College, and fiction writing at Grub Street Writers. Her short stories and essays have appeared in such places as The Drum Literary Magazine; Brain, Child; The Boston Globe, Salon, and Huffington Post.

Week 4, July 18–25


Jay Stetzer
The oral storytelling tradition is as old as language itself. Throughout history, stories primarily existed in the verbal realm long before the advent of print. You might well say that humans are “hard-wired” for narration! In this workshop, participants will explore the essential three-way relationship of the craft: the story, the teller, and the listener. It focuses on the dynamic skills used in effective storytelling. No advance submissions necessary.

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



Jay Stetzer, a professional storyteller since 1978, has given performances in all media. He is a member of Young Audiences and since 1971 has been an artist-in-resident at the Harley School in Rochester, NY. Jay has recorded five award-winning storytelling CDs. He was recently named “Artist of the Year” by the Arts and Cultural Council of Rochester, NY.

Week 5, July 25–August 1


Susan Choi
Placesthe places we know well, the places we only dream of, the places we have lostplay a huge role in the stories we tell.  Places profoundly enable creativity, inspiring us to write about them, or just to write when we are in them.  Places can provide the symbolic scheme of a story, a story's narrative structure, even a story's main character.  In this workshop we'll explore all the ways in which the places that matter to us can help us to produce fiction and non-fiction that matters to others. Just a few of the questions we'll ask are:  does it matter where we write? How well must we know the places we write about? No advance submissions necessary.

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

Susan-Choi-credit-to-Adrian-KinlochSusan Choi is the author of four novels, including The Foreign Student, winner of the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction; American Woman, a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize; and A Person of Interest,  finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. In 2010 she was named the inaugural recipient of the PEN/W.G. Sebald Award. Her most recent novel, My Education, received a 2014 Lammy Award. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Week 6, August 1–8


Nancy Reisman
The present becomes the past; familiar worlds alter or vanish altogether. But fiction can capture experience and create worlds on the page, as a reinvention of lived moments, or as a new, distinctive encounter. In this class, we’ll look at ways various writers effectively create vivid moments and worlds on the page, and the fictional possibilities in memory, imagination, family stories, and investigative research. We’ll consider what approaches and techniques turn the page into a world.  What events, lives, worlds, or experiences – small or larger – might you want to capture on the page?  Using guided brainstorming, photos, and other prompts to key in on source material, we’ll shape new short pieces – flash fiction and prose poems – to capture the ephemeral and the vanishing. No advance submissions necessary but you are welcome to bring 14 copies of a short (up to two pages) sample of fiction or a prose poem to discuss in class as time allows.

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


Nancy Reisman is the author of the two novels, Trompe L’Oeil and The First Desire, and the short story collection House Fires. Her short fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Tin House, Narrative, Five Points, Yale Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Best American Short Stories, and O. Henry Prize Stories. Raised in Western New York, she now lives in Nashville and teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt University.   


Week 7, August 2–15


Ari L. Goldman
The Spiritual Autobiography is a growing literary genre that is as old as the Bible. This workshop will explore how to harness your personal faith journey and turn it into literature. We will look at how to write in a way that will touch others and take them on the journey with you. We will read and discuss the works of such writers as Mary Gordon, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and James McBride. In the process, we will develop a better understanding of both writing and faith. You are welcome to bring 14 copies of up to 6 double-spaced pages of your own writing to discuss in class as time allows. 

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


Ari L. Goldman, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is the author of four books, including the bestseller, The Search for God at Harvard. His most recent book is The Late Starters Orchestra. At Columbia, Goldman has trained a generation of religion writers who have taken his “Covering Religion” seminar. He is also a cellist with the New York Late Starters String Orchestra. He has been a visiting Fulbright professor in Israel and a fellow at Oxford University in the United Kingdom.


Week 8, August 15–22


Lori Jakiela
Using humor in your writing can be serious business. This workshop is designed to help you get in touch with your inner funny. We’ll seek out the odd, luminous and resonant details that are often keys to humor. We’ll learn how humor can deepen and expand true stories, and we’ll map the ways humor and pathos work together when writers write honestly about the world. Together, we’ll discover why funny stuff matters so much. While we’ll be using writing prompts to generate new material, you’re welcome to bring one short – up to 5 double-spaced pages – prose piece or 1-2 narrative poems to discuss in class as time allows.

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


Lori Jakiela is the author of the memoirs Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe; The Bridge to Take When Things Get Serious; and Miss New York Has Everything, as well as the poetry collection, Spot the Terrorist, and several poetry chapbooks. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brevity and more. She’s the recipient of a Golden Quill Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, and received the Outstanding Faculty Award from Pitt-Greensburg, where she is a professor in the Creative and Professional Writing Program. She also teaches in the MFA program at Chatham University and co-directs the annual Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.

Week 9, August 22–30


Joe Kita
Riveting beginnings, nail-biting suspense, unremitting love, inspirational advice,and a six-figure salary. What writer could ask for more? In this series of stand-alone workshops, you’ll learn the secrets to mastering each one. Sign up for single or multiples classes.

Meets daily, 9 to 10:30 a.m.

Joe-KitaJoe Kita has been a professional journalist for more than three decades. He has authored six books, written for numerous national magazines including Men’s Health, taught writing at Lehigh University, launched magazines in such diverse places as Korea and Kazakhstan, and appeared on Oprah, Charlie Rose, and CNN. A specialist in writing about health and wellness, plus confronting life’s challenges head-on, his latest book is Health: The Reader’s Digest Version. He splits his time between the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and teaching memoir writing and yoga on Crystal Cruises.



Monday 8/24
How to Write a Great Beginning – to Anything!
A fun, interactive and practical class in which we’ll analyze the first few paragraphs or pages of an assortment of books, articles, letters, and more to determine whether they’re arresting or awful. You’ll leave with a better understanding of what makes a great beginning and how to apply that to your writing.

Tuesday 8/25
Keep Your Readers in Suspense
No matter what you’re writing, everyone wants to create something readers can’t put down. We’ll examine some of the techniques used by the greatest page-turner authors and then steal their secrets for creating incredibly compelling stories. Can’t you just wait?

Wednesday 8/26
How to Write Your Love Story
Everyone is charmed by a tale of romance and passion. So why not write yours? But here’s the twist: Your love story can involve another person, a pet, a pursuit, a possession or – for you narcissists in the crowd – even yourself! Love is a many splendored thing, and you’ll learn to make all your stories about it sing.

Thursday 8/27
‘What I’ve Learned’
In this inspirational class, you’ll see how to extract the most important lessons and wisdom from your life. Whether you’re 28 or 78, suffering from memoir-writer’s block or just self-doubt, an “ethical will” or “legacy letter” is something everyone should know how to write. Master this ingenious shortcut to finding (and sharing) the truth about you.

Friday 8/29
How to Make 6 Figures as a Freelancer
Impossible, you say? Your instructor is a freelance writer/editor who has been doing just that in the nonfiction market for that last eight years. He’ll divulge his secrets for coming up with killer ideas, finding new markets, pitching editors and, most important, making a comfortable living doing what you love. 


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