Spring 2023 Classes

Please read the following announcements carefully:
-We are offering some classes in-person and some classes via Zoom. Please read all course descriptions carefully before registering.
-To ensure that students receive individual attention from the instructor, enrollment is limited. In some courses, the instructor’s permission is required for admission. See course descriptions where applicable.

5-Week Classes

Lang 371: Writing Out of Necessity

Class Full

Instructor: Tina Barr
Meets online via Zoom.
Please note: begins January 30.
Monday afternoons starting 1/30, 1:00-3:30. 

Last semester, I taught a different version of this poetry workshop, following on Rainer Maria Rilke’s idea that “a piece of art is good if it is born of necessity.” While this is a workshop, we will examine at least one piece of writing during each class, before moving on to participants’ poems. You are also free to turn in a short piece of non-fiction or memoir, in lieu of a poem, although the discussion will be based on poetry. On a daily basis, at this particular time in our society, we are faced with great challenges, both at the personal level and in the larger world. As we contend with illness, loss, climate change, societal disruption, we also celebrate the natural world around us, changes of season, a new fallen snow, the first crocus, the first daffodils, the sight of deer, a friendly neighborhood dog, our grandchildren, a newborn child, a hike, a life partner. Writing is a way to heal as well as a way to process our feelings, both difficult and wonderful. Join us in celebrating the spirit, and in writing out of necessity. While the class will focus on a workshop, we will read poems we did not read during last semester’s class, so both new and continuing writers are most welcome.  There will be optional writing exercises, based on our reading, and the optional “assignments” will be less structured than last semester’s, but writers are welcome to turn in any poems they like, new or revised. Limited to 10 students.

Tina Barr’s most recent book, Green Target, won the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Brockman-Campbell Award.  Previous books include The Gathering Eye, winner of the Tupelo Press Editor’s Award and Kaleidoscope.  She’s received fellowships from the NEA, The Tennessee Arts Commission, and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in The Harvard Review, The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, American Journal of Poetry, Crosswinds, Brilliant Corners, Barrow Street, North American Review, Mudfish, Tar River Poetry, Poetry South, and elsewhere.

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Lang 371: A Three Ring Circus: Expanding and Developing Your Poems

Instructor: Tina Barr
Meets online via Zoom.
Please note: begins March 13.
Monday afternoons starting 3/13, 1:00-3:30. 

Sometimes when we read poems by other writers, we find ourselves astonished at how they make leaps, juxtapositions, refer to a larger political context, use vernacular language to good effect, postulate unusual realities, are imaginatively suggestive, use a gut wrenching central drama, use imagery that layers into new complexity, expand into mention of the universe itself, or situate the speaker’s own drama within the larger context of our nation’s history. We think, “Why can’t I do that?” This class will take participants through these strategies, by examining roughly one contemporary poem per class, work by Shara McCallum. Pattiann Rogers, Nick Norwood, Beth Copeland, Jeanne Walker and Michele Wolf. We are all capable of enlarging the arenas of our poems, rather like the old-fashioned three ring circus. So there isn’t just one activity going on, but several activities or layers to draw the reader’s attention, and surprise, delight, shock and impress them. We will read, generally, one outside poem for each class, with an attached exercise, based on that poem, which will allow participant writers to develop strategies to use in their own poems or prose poems. While the strategies sound complex, the class is open to all writers who want to expand the range of their poems.  As always, the writing exercises are optional, as students are free to turn in one poem or prose piece for each class, based on their own choice. Limited to 10 students.

Tina Barr’s poems have been nominated 12 times for Pushcart Prizes. Her poems are forthcoming in The Gettysburg Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Tar River Poetry, Broad River Review, and elsewhere. Her most recent volume, Green Target, won the Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize and the Brockman Campbell Award. She has published three chapbooks, all winners of national awards and two other volumes of poetry, one of which won the Tupelo Press Editor’s Prize. She was Associate Professor and Charles R. Glover Chair of English Studies at Rhodes College, where she directed the Creative Writing Program for over a decade.

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Lang 371: Memoir Builder

Class Full

Instructor: Tessa Fontaine
Meets online via Zoom.
Monday afternoons starting 3/20, 1:00-3:00. 

In this generative course, you will learn how to translate personal experience and research into effective memoir. We will strive to define and understand the components of an effective memoir by reading a variety of work, and generating our own content each week.

We will use a variety of prompts to invigorate both right and left brain memories and ideas, incorporate research, understand when to use invention, juxtaposition, patterning, and more. Through reading and discussing outside examples, we’ll understand a variety of approaches for both our current memoir projects and future lives as a writer. At the end of the course, each writer will have a lot of new material ready to be shaped into a larger project.

This is a generative course, and as such, the focus will be on discussion and generating new writing, and is appropriate for new memoir writers as well as those who are already experienced writers looking to generate new pages and expand their craft. Be prepared to read and write a lot, and find new ways into the stories you’ve been wanting to tell.

Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, A New York Times Editors’ Choice; A Southern Living Best Book of 2018; An Amazon Editors’ Best Book of 2018; A Refinery29 Best Book of 2018; A New York Post Most Unforgettable Book of 2018. Her writing can be found in Outside, The New York Times, Glamour, The Believer, LitHub, Creative Nonfiction, and more. Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa got her MFA from the University of Alabama. She’s received awards and fellowships from Tin House, The Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, The Taft Nicholson Center, Writing by Writers, and Squaw Valley Community of Writers.  Tessa taught in prisons and jails for five years, and was a professor of creative writing at Warren Wilson College, in addition to guest teaching at dozens of other colleges and universities around the country.  She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she’s at work on her next book, a novel, which will be published by FSG in 2023. 

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Lang 371: Developing a Natural Style: Elizabeth Bishop Generative Poetry Workshop

Instructor: Bruce Spang
Meets online via Zoom.
Tuesday evenings starting 3/21, 6:00-8:30. 

Elizabeth Bishop’s poems are praised for their “natural style,” yet she was a consummate craftsperson. She labored over her poems for years. Many critics have puzzled over what makes her poems seem effortless. 

In this generative workshop, we will be looking carefully at her poems, at how she varies syntax, how she paces the narrative with lyric interludes, how she uses line breaks, and how she incorporates form in her poems. Each week we will look at different poems to uncover the secret of her “natural style.” We will use writing prompts to encourage the use of these techniques. We will then workshop poems, focusing line by line on what makes a poem work. By the end of the class, students will have written and revised a number of poems incorporating Bishop’s stylistic elements. Open to beginning, intermediate, and advanced students.

Bruce Spang, former Poet Laureate of Portland, is the author of two novels: The Deception of the Thrush and Those Close Beside Me. His most recent collection of poems, All You’ll Derive: A Caregiver’s Journey, was published in 2020. He’s also published four other books of poems, including To the Promised Land Grocery and Boy at the Screen Door (Moon Pie Press) along with several anthologies and several chapbooks. He is the poetry and fiction editor of the Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine. His poems have been published in Gay and Lesbian Literary Review, Connecticut River Review, Red Rover Magazine, Great Smokies Review, Caesura, Los Angeles Review, Kalopsia Literary Journal and other journals across the United States. He lives in Candler, NC with his husband Myles Rightmire and their five dogs, five fish, and thirty birds.

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Lang 371: Social Media for Authors

Instructor: Alli Marshall
Meets online via Zoom. 

Wednesday evenings starting 3/22, 6:00-8:30. 

In this five-week workshop we’ll cover how to use social media platforms for book launch campaigns and to build your brand as an author. Topics include how to pick the right social media platform for you, how to create social media posts from the writing you’re already generating, how to plan a monthly social media calendar, and how to manage your social media platforms without burnout!

Although social media can feel like one more thing to add to your already busy life, it’s a necessary part of promotion. Authors are small business owners — solopreneurs, if you will. That’s why it’s important to use social media platforms to market your product and your brand. But authors are also creatives, and there are so many ways to use social media to engage your creative side (and that of your followers).

This workshop is for all levels with a focus on those fairly new to social media. You should have basic computer skills and feel comfortable navigating the internet. You do not need to have a social media account set up in order to take part in this class, but for those who do, we can answer specific questions about your account(s). We will discuss Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and we will use the free version of Canva to create graphics.

After five weeks, you will be able to create a sustainable social media strategy and monthly content calendar for at least one social media platform.

Alli Marshall is a poet, fiction writer, and spoken word artist based in Asheville. She’s the author of the 2015 novel How to Talk to Rockstars and the 2017 chapbook It All Comes Rushing Back, as well as a number of zines. She was an arts writer and editor at alternative newsweekly Mountain Xpress for 17 years and currently directs AM/FM Broadcast, an artist development initiative.

Alli won the 2018 Ramsey Library Community Author Award and the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize (judged by Ron Rash) for her short story “Catching Out.” She received a 2019 Regional Artist Project Grant from the Asheville Area Arts Council for a collaborative performance about the Lilith archetype. Her most recent production, “The Top-Ten Superpowers of All Time,” will premiere at the 2022 Asheville Fringe Arts Festival.

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10-Week Classes

Lang 372: Character Study: Writing Compelling Characters with the Enneagram

Instructor: Ali McGhee
Meets online via Zoom.

Monday evenings starting 2/20, 6:00-8:30.

Our favorite characters feel like people we know. Their conflicts and desires leap off the page, and they linger with us long after a story ends. But writers commonly struggle to create characters whose vibrancy matches people in their favorite books, or in the real world. Even when a character emerges initially with a strong voice and backstory, we often lose that intensity and struggle to rediscover it as a project continues.

In this workshop, we’ll use the Enneagram, which has long been employed as a profound transformational tool for personal growth, to transform our creative writing practice. We’ll dive into the Enneagram’s triads (the gut, the heart, and the head) through teaching, discussion, and the revolutionary Embodiment  Tradition – an experiential, felt sense of the types that creates deep understanding of type.

Then, we’ll use readings and prompts to create characters of each type. We’ll craft backstories, dialogue, motivations, and dreams for  characters, giving them distinct, compelling voices that will carry them through any plot. We will spend half of our time together learning, and half workshopping and sharing characters we’re creating for our own projects. 

Note: No previous training in the Enneagram is required. Feel free to come in with characters (fictional or non-fictional) you’ve already created and would like to workshop.

Ali McGhee has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Rochester. She is the Culture and Team Development Leader for 6AM City, and is a core faculty member at the Enneagram School of Awakening, as well as an International Enneagram Association (IEA) Accredited Professional. Her work has been published in Dark Mountain, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, Holler, Scallywag, Lucid News, the MAPS Bulletin, and WNC Magazine, and she has shared stories at Story Parlor, Dogwood Alliance’s Woods & Wilds Festival and podcast, Craft with a Stranger, and Listen to This: Stories on Stage. She is currently completing her first novel, a post-apocalyptic horror/SF story about people turning into trees.

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Lang 372: Writers’ Room for Novelists

Instructor: Jacqui Castle
Meets in-person at Hanger Hall School.
Tuesday evenings starting 2/21, 6:00-8:30. 

Have you ever wished you could have your very own writers’ room, where ideas are exchanged in a fast paced environment and everyone is there to make each story the best it can be? In this generative workshop, we will apply the same camaraderie, energy, and brainstorming power that appears in television writing rooms to outlining your novel! 

You’ll enter with nothing more than a couple story-seed ideas, and leave with a beat sheet, character bios, setting sketches, and thematic goals for an entire novel. Come ready to give and receive ideas in a safe environment, treating each others’ stories with care, as if they were your own.

Jacqui Castle is an educator and novelist living and writing in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. She has been published in a variety of publications including Mountain Xpress, WNC Woman, Asheville Grit, and Explore Asheville. Her novel The Seclusion, which School Library Journal called “A must-have for all libraries and fans of scifi,” garnered Jacqui the title of 2020 Indie Author of the Year through the Indie Author Project (a collaboration between Library Journal and Biblioboard). Jacqui has taught creative writing workshops through the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, the Young Eager Writers Association, Indie Author Project, the Writing Heights Writers Conference, and more. When not writing, Jacqui can be found hanging out with her family and consuming far too much caffeine.

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Lang 372: Mastering Techniques of Memoir & Personal Essay

Instructor: Sebastian Matthews
Meets online via Zoom.

Wednesday afternoons starting 2/22, 2:00-4:30.

In this course, we will write and revise personal essays and memoir extracts. To this end, we will read a range of contemporary creative nonfiction—and, at times, fiction and poetry—as well as writings on the creative process. Our main focus will be to explore the elements and techniques employed in contemporary narrative nonfiction (including collage technique and hybrid form.) In addition to trying our hand at in-class exercises, we will workshop each other’s work. Along the way, we will read work by Ross Gay, Hanif Abdurraqb, Geoff Dyer, Maggie Nelson, Annie Dillard, Eddie S. Glaude Jr., and others.

Sebastian Matthews is the author of a memoir, In My Father’s Footsteps, and two books of poetry, We Generous and Miracle Day. His hybrid collection of poetry and prose, Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision, won the silver medal at the Independent Publishers Book Awards. His new book Beyond Repair: Living in a Fractured State, a memoir in essays, came out in 2020. He is also the author of The Life & Times of American Crow, a collage novel in paperback. Learn more at sebastianmatthews.com.

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Lang 472: Poetry Master Class: Workshop Unbound

Class Full

Instructor: Eric Nelson
Meets online via Zoom.
Wednesday afternoons starting 2/22, 4:00-6:30. 

This workshop for experienced poets is organized around the anthology Poetry Unbound, an outgrowth of Padraig O Tuama’s popular podcast of the same name. Each of the 50 poems in the anthology is followed by a short, insightful essay that comments on both content and craft. Class time will be spent primarily on workshopping poems  written by class members, but the writing assignments will be based on the poems and essays in the anthology and our class discussion of them. Students will write at least eight poems during the ten-week term.

Required text: Poetry Unbound, edited by Padraig O Tuama. Enrollment is limited to ten. Instructor: Eric Nelson (ericnelson121052@gmail.com). 

Eric Nelson taught writing and literature for 26 years at Georgia Southern University, where he received the Ruffin Cup in 2009 for sustained excellence in teaching, publishing, and service. He retired, professor emeritus, in 2015, and moved to Asheville. His 6 previous poetry collections include Terrestrials, chosen by Maxine Kumin for the X.J. Kennedy Award; The Interpretation of Waking Life, winner of the University of Arkansas Poetry Award, and Some Wonder, which won the 2015 Gival Press Poetry Award. His most recent collection, Horse Not Zebra, was published in April 2022. 


15-Week Classes

Lang 473: Fiction Master Class

Instructor: Cynn Chadwick
Meets in-person at Hanger Hall School.
Wednesday evenings starting 1/25, 6:00-8:00. 

My intentions, directions, guides, and focus for the craft of fiction writing can be boiled down to these four key ideas: 

  • Only trouble is interesting in fiction
  • All characters must want something
  • What if? not What is? will drive the story
  • Crafting is about how we write fiction, not why.

This workshop is meant for students with a strong writing, editing, and critiquing background and with a comfortable understanding and practice of craft. We’ll start our fifteen weeks by reading and reviewing examples of published fiction to determine certain craft considerations in our responses to the work of others. By the end of the fifteen weeks, students will have submitted a number of self-determined chapters or stories for substantive reviews by one another and myself. While the workshop is designed for advanced and seasoned fiction writers, students are welcome to workshop with just the glimmer of an idea or entire works.  (No, you won’t be able to submit your 400 page novel, but we will have a chance to take a look at bits and pieces of it!)  

Potential students are asked to submit up to 2,000 words of a chapter excerpt or story to the instructor (chadwickcynn@gmail.com) by January 23, 2023 to apply for the workshop. 

Cynn Chadwick is a novelist and author of the Cat Rising series, Angels & Manners, As The Table Turns, That’s Karma, Baby…, Things That Women Do, and her soon to be released first historical fiction novel The Incorrigible Rogue (2023). Her novels have been nominated for the Lambda, Stonewall, Golden Crown, and Bywater Fiction awards. She is a retired Senior Lecturer from UNCA’s English Department where she taught creative writing and fiction workshop for over 20 years. She holds both an MA and MFA from Goddard College, and lives to write in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her beloved Springer Spaniel Andy.


The Great Smokies Writing Program is committed to providing the community with affordable university-level classes taught by professional writers, and to giving voice to local and regional writers through Writers at Home, its free reading series. The Great Smokies Writing Program wishes to thank Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café for its support of Writers at Home.