MFA in one week at Wildacres Writer’s Workshop

It was my privilege to attend the Wildacres Writer’s Workshop this July. Intensive workshops in Poetry, Short Fiction, Novels, and Non-fiction each day.

Among the faculty, published authors Ron Rash (think Serena – soon to be a movie – and The Cove), Carrie Brown, Luke Whisnant, and John Gregory Brown led the novel-writing groups and short story groups. All are award-winning writers of poetry, short stories, and novels. Commercial fiction (bought at the airport) was taught by my friend and teacher, Vicki Lane. Her Elizabeth Goodweather novels are all set in Appalachia near Asheville. Ron Rash’s stories are also set nearby. Serena in 1929, and The Cove during World War I.

Luke Whisnant’s Short Story class

For each class, we had a short story assigned by the teacher as well as two classmate-submitted stories. Each was discussed, first by the class and then by the teacher, bringing in teaching points as were applicable. Since each class met once a day for two hours, we were encouraged to sit in on another class. For me it was short story for two hours in the morning and two hours in the other short story class in the afternoon. John Brown’s and Luke Whisnant’s classes in combination provided a virtual Master Class in Short Story writing each day.

John Brown awaiting an answer to his perennial question, “What’s the story about? Not what happened in the story, but what’s it about?”

John Brown’s class debating a story’s structure




In John Brown’s class, my classmates included a published author, a rabbi, and a family doctor. All three were women.

I sat in on Ron Rash’s novel-writing class

Registration for the WWW includes a submission in the genre to be studied. That submission, of course, becomes one of  the critiqued readings in the course. Just being able to say that your story was work-shopped at the Wildacres Writing Workshop carries a smidgeon of panache, at least among writers who’ve been there.  Publication of your story or novel, of course, doesn’t automatically follow, but, needless to say, the comments gleaned during the class when your writing is critiqued gives you many ideas for improving the draft.

 Vicki Lane and two of her students on the Wildacres patio

The Workshop, for me, was primarily a time for the absorption of ideas rather than an opportunity for writing. Cell phones are not reliable and the “pay-phones” were disconnected when we had three days of mist and rain.

Reading in the auditorium


Two evenings were devoted to faculty readings in the auditorium. One of the highlights for me was Vicki Lane’s reading an unpublished short story that features a mountain beast that might or might not actually exist.  Two other evenings were student readings (four-minute limit!).

The week was heady for this writer. Lots of notes to read. Lots of short stories to read – Ron Rash’s “Burning Bright” collection for starters. Then back to work on the murder mystery I’m hoping to workshop at Wildacres next year!

Wildacres Retreat is an hour northeast from Asheville, near the tiny town of Little Switzerland and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Serious natural beauty!

Writer/musicians gathered on the Patio


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