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2016 Summer Writing Retreat - "Finding the Hidden Narrative: Turning Experience into Compelling Memoir" with Donna M. Johnson

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Sul Ross State University
Alpine, TX 79832

7/18/2016 to 7/22/2016 From 9 am to 4 pm

Retreat Orientation to be held Sunday, July 17, at 6 pm -- Details will be shared with participants in advance of the retreat's start date.

with special guest instructor Kirk Wilson

ONE SEAT AVAILABLE. Please call our offices at 512-499-8914 FOR DETAILS.


$329 for Members (Please log in for member pricing)
$379 Non-Members

Please read both the credit card handling fee information and the refund policy at the bottom of this page before purchasing a ticket.


"This was the best writing workshop I have ever attended."

-- 2013 Summer Writing Retreat Attendee on Donna Johnson's Class


The most entertaining or tragic of “true stories” add up to little more than anecdotes without the deeper relevance imposed by form and structure. With a mix of morning instruction and in-class writing prompts and an optional afternoon workshop, this class will explore the use of scene, reflection, poetic truth, character, narrative voice, tension, compression of time and other elements of craft that come together to create meaningful stories that connect the personal with the universal.

In the morning sessions, learning will be facilitated through craft talks as well as the reading and discussion of published works. Students will have an opportunity to practice and incorporate new skills into their own work through the use of writing prompts designed to inspire and provoke.

In the afternoon sessions, supportive feedback is available through an optional, peer driven workshop. This afternoon workshop is open to all participants and is led by one of the two instructors. Students who elect to participate must submit work by June 8. (Workshop details and submission guidelines and instructions will be emailed to all class registrants at time of registration). 

Class Takeaways Will Include

• Knowledge of the fundamental elements of memoir

• Methods for incorporating showing and telling into the narrative
• Scene Setting
• Creating complex characters
• Mining experience for meaning
• Editing to create depth

Who Should Attend

• Writers with memoirs in progress and those who are just beginning
• Writers with completed manuscripts looking for ways to deepen the story

• Those writing family histories

Requirements: Participants are encouraged to read all assigned work. Please bring any manuscripts, chapters, outlines or fragments of memoir you may be working on. This opting to participate in the afternoon workshop will be expected to read and offer written comments on the work of fellow students prior to the retreat. If you choose not to participate in the afternoon workshop, that time will be yours to write or explore.

About the Instructor: Donna M. Johnson is the author of Holy Ghost Girl, a critically acclaimed memoir deemed “enthralling” by the New York Times and “compulsively readable” by Texas Monthly. Oprah named the book to her Memoirs We Love list. Holy Ghost Girl won the Mayborn Creative Nonfiction Prize and took top honors at the Books for a Better Life Awards in Manhattan. Donna has written for Huffington Post, The Rumpus, Shambhala Sun, Psychology Today, and other publications. Her work has been collected in the Her Texas and Beyond Belief anthologies. Donna is a sought after speaker and teacher and has spoken at the Texas American Studies Conference, Baylor University, McLennan Community College, Midwestern State University, and the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary as well as other educational, civic, and faith based organizations. She is currently at work on a second memoir.

About the Guest Instructor: Kirk Wilson’s personal essay A Brief and Necessary Madness was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2013. Kirk writes nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. His recent work has appeared in Confrontation, Eclipse, Folly, The Langdon Review, Meridian, Midway Journal, The New Guard Literary Review, River Teeth, Soundings East, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and The Wordstock 10 anthology. A chapbook of poetry, The Early Word, was published by Burning Deck press. Kirk’s nonfiction book Unsolved, an investigation into ten high profile murders, has been published in six editions in the US and UK. Kirk has studied with Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and Animal Crackers, and Editor of One Story magazine. Karen Russell has called Kirk “a rare talent with a gloriously expansive view.” Visit Kirk at

(Note: All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee - this fee can be avoided by mailing in a check for registration with this form).


(Please read this refund policy closely before registering for the 2016 Summer Writing Retreat; no exceptions will be made):

Through May 1, 2016: 100% refund available.
May 2, 2016 - May 31, 2016: 50% refund available.

All cancellations will incur a $50 cancellation fee.

After May 31, 2016: No refunds will be made, but registrants can transfer their registration to another person as long as advance notice is given to the Writers' League of Texas. If you wish to transfer your registration, please call the WLT at 512-499-8914.