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2014 Summer Writing Retreat - Capturing Real Life: Long-Form Narrative in a Short-Form World

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Sul Ross State University
Alpine, TX 79832

8/3/2014 to 8/7/2014 From 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Retreat Orientation to be held Saturday, August 2, at 6 pm -- Details will be shared with participants in advance of the retreat's start date.


with Texas Monthly's Michael Hall

$329 Members

$379 Non-Members

"I loved Alpine, the attendees, Mike Hall and the overall experience -- I will definitely go again!"

-- 2013 Summer Writing Retreat Attendee on Michael Hall's Class

This course will give you the basic tools to write lengthy, narrative-driven stories that are more about attitude than objectivity, more about getting at the heart of a story than just the facts.

Just when you thought that social media, blogs, and the modern-day short attention span were going to kill long-form narrative story telling, it’s doing better than ever. Long narratives, in-depth profiles, and investigative articles are everywhere—in magazines and on the internet. Instead of killing long-form, the web has revitalized it, providing more and more websites that need to “fill the bucket” with content. And the rise of short-burst social media like Twitter and Facebook have only highlighted long-form stories, helping lead readers to them. In the world of the web, content is content, no matter how short or long.

Class participants will read some great sample stories and talk about how they got that way. You'll talk about information gathering tools: how to do good interviews and how to get people to open up and tell their stories. You'll discuss what goes into developing sources and how to be pushy--but not so pushy that you push sources away.

Class participants will discuss how to focus a story so that it has one main idea that guides the narrative--and you'll learn valuable practices for keeping people interested for several thousand words. You'll talk about structure, from the typical magazine structure to some more adventurous ones.

You'll talk about the challenges unique to narrative nonfiction, from writing scenes that play like movies in the reader's head to creating a sense of place to using anecdotes to move the story along. You'll learn about the fine art of putting you -- the writer -- in the story. You'll discuss beginnings and endings and, finally, you'll talk about revising and editing--killing today what seemed so essential yesterday.

By the time the class is done, students will have a better idea how to put their ideas together into a long, compelling story that readers won't be able to put down.

This class will be valuable for anyone looking to publish long-form articles (in print or online) and could be especially valuable to academics, bloggers looking to transition to long-form, and even writers of memoir or other types of nonfiction.

Requirements: Class participants will do exercises geared towards putting together a long-form story: you'll create scenes, work on developing characters, and explore different kinds of structures. To this end, the instructor asks all students to bring a long-form project to the class--either a work in progress you'd like help on or an idea for a long-form story you want to write but aren't sure how to get started on. The instructor will have conferences with each student to work on their individual stories.

About the Instructor: Michael Hall graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1979. Before joining Texas Monthly in 1997, he was an associate editor of Third Coast magazine and the managing editor of the Austin Chronicle. Hall won two 2001 Katy Awards: one for Best Reporter Writing Portfolio and one for Personality Profile/Interview for his July 2001 story “Lance Armstrong Has Something to Get Off His Chest.” He won a Texas Gavel Award in 2003 for his story about capital punishment, “Death Isn’t Fair,” which was also nominated for a National Magazine Award. Hall’s stories have appeared in the Best American Magazine Writing, the Best American Sportswriting, the Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Da Capo Best Music Writing. He has also written for Trouser Press, the New York Times, Men’s Journal, and the Austin American-Statesman.


Note: All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster and send your replacement the necessary information.


Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to