Spring 2024 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. Enrollment for all in-person classes is limited to 10 students.

5-Week Classes

Lang 371: Worldbuilding in Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Lauren Yero
Meets in person at UNC Asheville, Karpen Hall Room 243

Note: begins in February
Thursday evenings starting 2/15, 6:00-8:30 

Worldbuilding is an essential part of writing speculative fiction, but it can often feel like an overwhelming, endlessly recursive, downright daunting process. Where do you even begin? In this class, we’ll:

  • Explore different worldbuilding techniques and approaches
  • Analyze excerpts of speculative fiction to better understand the connection between “world” and “story”
  • Generate unique speculative worlds collaboratively

We’ll also work through a series of prompts designed to help writers clarify specific aspects of their own fictional worlds. Participants will leave the class with a set of resources and tools for continuing to develop their own speculative worlds and stories. Ideas for specific fictional worlds are welcome but not required for participation in this class!

Lauren Yero is a Cuban American writer and teacher who writes speculative, near-future stories of first love and resistance that question the structures our world is built upon. Born in Florida, she received her BA from Davidson College and her MA in Literature and Environment from the University of Nevada Reno. Her debut novel, Under This Forgetful Sky (Simon & Schuster), was a Poets & Writers Get the Word Out pick and a Kirkus Reviews Best of the Month selection. She lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina.

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Lang 371: The Beauty of the Braided Essay

Class Full

Instructor: Jamie Tews
Meets online via Zoom

Monday evenings starting 3/18, 6:00-8:30 

In this class, you will explore the shared space between your experiences and your obsessions. Write an essay about cooking pie with your mother, the science of a pumpkin harvest, and the cooking habits you hold at present–with those threads, it could be an essay about heartbreak, intimacy, jubilance, or attention, among other themes, depending on the way you know, and come to learn, the different experiences. We will read essays and practice the form before students pick their threads and begin writing their own. We will workshop the students’ braided essays, so there will be feedback from me and their peers. We will read braided essays throughout the class by Katie Karnehm-Esh, Sayantani Dasgupta, Sarah Haak, and Helen Rosner, among others.

Jamie Tews graduated from the MFA program at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the Spring of 2022. She has work in The Shore, Eastern Iowa Review, The Chestnut Review, and Appalachian Voices, among others. 


Lang 371: Prosody and Poetic Form

Instructor: Luke Hankins
Meets in person at UNC Asheville, Karpen Hall Room 243

Wednesday evenings starting 3/20, 6:00-8:30 

This class is designed for each participant to develop their ability to recognize and analyze the rhythmic features of poems—both “formal” and “free” verse—that help determine, even subconsciously, the ways poems impact the reader. We’ll also look at a selection of received and invented forms and discuss the purpose of poetic constraints in general. Goals of the class include:

  • Learning (or reviewing) the main types of meter in the English language & learning basic terminology
  • Attuning your ear to better detect degrees of stress
  • Practicing scansion (marking metrical patterns)
  • Applying metrical observations to poetic analysis
  • Practicing employing metrical effects in your poems
  • Considering the functions of formal constraints from the perspective of the writer as well as that of the reader

Luke Hankins is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Radiant Obstacles and Weak Devotions, as well as a chapbook, Testament (Texas Review Press, 2023). He is also the author of a collection of essays, The Work of Creation, and volume of his translations from the French of Stella Vinitchi Radulescu, A Cry in the Snow & Other Poems, was published by Seagull Books in 2019. Hankins is the founder and editor of Orison Books, a non-profit literary press focused on the life of the spirit from a broad and inclusive range of perspectives.

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Lang 371: A Ball of Golden Thread: Building Transporting Worlds in Fiction

Instructor: Katherine Scott Crawford
Meets online via Zoom

Tuesday evenings starting 4/2, 6:00-8:30 

World-building. Setting. Place. Whatever you want to call it, a story just isn’t a story without it. A careful, inspired, rich, and transporting sense of place in our fiction is vital, no matter our topic, era, or genre. This is what our readers want, what anyone wants, when they pick up a book. When they say, “Tell me a story.” In each class, we’ll focus on a different craft element of world-building. We’ll study examples of successful world-building/place/setting from a variety of fiction genres, complete craft exercises and writing prompts both in and out of class, engage in discussion, and begin drafting our own fiction “worlds.” Through it all, we’ll learn how to transport our readers into the worlds of our imaginations as, hopefully, we also develop into a community of storytellers. 

This course is appropriate for writers in all stages of their writing journeys and a safe place for our stories to grow. After all, Eudora Welty once wrote that above all else in writing, world-building/place/setting is “… the ball of golden thread to carry us there and back and in every sense of the word to bring us home.” 

Katherine Scott Crawford is the author of the historical novels Keowee Valley (2012) and The Miniaturist’s Assistant (Regal House Publishing, May 2025). A recovering academic and former adjunct professor, she has served as guest lecturer and workshop leader at conferences, writers’ retreats, literary festivals, libraries, and more. Her popular newspaper column appeared weekly across the country and abroad, including in USA Today, The Detroit Free Press, the Asheville Citizen-Times, and many others. Other work has appeared in Appalachian Review, the Santa Fe Writers Project, South Loop Review, and more. A recipient of a North Carolina Arts Award, she holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Despite the passport burning a hole in her pocket, she lives in a small mountain town with her husband, two untamed daughters, and their trail dog.   

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10-Week Classes

Lang 372: Writers Room for Novelists

Instructor: Jacqui Castle
Meets in person at UNC Asheville, Karpen Hall Room 244

Wednesday evenings starting 2/14, 6:00-8:30
No class on 4/3; final class will be 4/24. 

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 of story seeds 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 other’s stories with care, as if they were your own.

Jacqui Castle is an educator and novelist living and writing in Asheville, North Carolina. She received her MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been published in a variety of local 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 sci-fi,” garnered her the title of 2020 Indie Author of the Year through the Indie Author Project (a collaboration between Library Journal and Biblioboard). Jacqui currently teaches creative writing through the Great Smokies Writing Program and Redbud Writing Project. She is also the owner of Lit Local Mini Bookshops, which bring the work of local authors to Asheville establishments. When not writing, she can be found hanging out with her kids and consuming far too much caffeine.

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Lang 372: Variations in Voice: Writing Persona Poems

Instructor: Kenneth Chamlee
Meets in person at UNC Asheville, Karpen Hall Room 243

Tuesday evenings starting 2/13, 6:00-8:30

“Just be yourself” is not the path this course will take, but “just be someone else.” The speaker in a poem can assume any identity or personality wished, not just the composing poet’s. What historical character wants to get something off his chest, either a boast or a confession? What marginalized figure needs to tell her story, speak the voice that was overshadowed or ignored?

A persona poem can give attitude to a rock musician, an athlete or actor. Let a minor literary character explain their perspective on the story. Visit relatives and say what the family never heard. What did Great Aunt Mathilda think about losing the farm and having to work in a textile mill? Even plants and animals have something to say, and we will coach them on how to avoid sentimentality. This class will cover how diction and tone are important components in establishing believability and will do exercises in writing pitch and posture. Closely related to persona poems are those of direct address—apostrophe—and we will work with those as well. This course is open to poets at any skill level, provided they have prior workshop experience. 

 Kenneth Chamlee is the author of If Not These Things (Kelsay Books, 2022) and The Best Material for the Artist in the World (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2023), a poetic biography of 19th century American landscape painter Albert Bierstadt. He has two contest-winning chapbooks, Absolute Faith (ByLine Press) and Logic of the Lost (Longleaf Press), and his poems have appeared in The North Carolina Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, Cold Mountain Review, Pinesong, Kakalak, and in many other places. Ken is a 2023 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for the North Carolina Poetry Society. He is Emeritus Professor of English at Brevard College in North Carolina and holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Learn more at www.kennethchamlee.com

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Lang 372: The Lives of Others: Creating Compelling Characters Across Genres

Instructor: Barbara Roether
Meets in person at First Baptist Church

Thursday evenings starting 2/15, 6:00-8:30

The great Russian novelist Ivan Turgenev stated that “I never started from ideas but always from character,” and many writers agree. Characters are the primary means through which we inhabit a story, their experience becomes ours, their ideas come to speak with our own. In this class, we will explore how to give birth to compelling characters, how to raise them properly, and how to stand back as they make their way in the world. Whether you are at work on fiction, memoir, or a journalistic profile, this playful and adventurous workshop will encourage each student to focus on developing several different characters. In the final weeks, a collaborative project will invite students to a virtual cocktail party in which their characters will have the chance to encounter and dialogue with their classmate’s characters.

Barbara Roether is a novelist, poet, essayist and the founding editor of Wet Cement Press.  Her novel This Earth You’ll Come Back To (McPherson & Co.) was the winner of the 2016 Independent Press Award for Women’s Fiction, and a finalist for the Ohioana Book Award in fiction. She is the author of two books of poetry, Saraswati’s Lament and The Middle Atlas. Her essays about reading & travel have appeared recently in Blaze Vox, The Swan, and The Kyoto Journal. She has written profiles for Tricycle, Yoga Journal and other magazines. Her book reviews appear in Rain Taxi and the New York Journal of Books.  In previous lives she worked in New York publishing for Harper Collins and Publishers Weekly. She holds an MFA from Bard College. More information is at barbararoether.com

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15-Week Classes

Lang 473: In Over Our Heads Together: Intensive Creative Nonfiction Workshop

Class Full

Instructor: Jennifer McGaha
Meets in person at First Baptist Church

Thursday evenings starting 1/18, 6:00-8:30

Stepping into the murky waters of the writing journey is easier and more fun when you have a supportive and stimulating writing community. In this workshop, students may get their feet wet with new projects or develop existing ones, but everyone should come with some prior writing and workshopping experience and be ready to dive right into writing, reading, and critiquing. Students may workshop up to three pieces during the semester and will receive both oral and written feedback from the instructor for each submission. We will also read selections from Best American Essays 2023 as well as other selected works.

Students must have previously taken at least two Great Smokies workshops or have the instructor’s permission to register. Limited to 10 students.

Jennifer McGaha’s memoir, Flat Broke with Two Goats, was chosen as a 2018 Big Library Read for OverDrive, an international digital library. Her second book, Bushwhacking: How to Get Lost in the Woods and Write Your Way Out (Trinity University Press, 2023), grounds writing lessons in outdoor adventures. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Image, The Huffington Post, The New Pioneer, Lumina, PANK, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brevity, Bitter Southerner, Crab Creek Review, River Teeth, and many other publications. A native of Appalachia, Jennifer lives in a wooded North Carolina hollow with her husband, two cats, three unruly dogs, ten relatively tame dairy goats, and an ever-changing number of chickens.