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Sandhill Writers Retreat - About

SCHEDULE - Sandhill Writers VIRTUAL Retreat

8th Annual Sandhill Writers VIRTUAL Retreat


"Renewing the Writer in You"

The Conference Will be Held Virtually
Saturday, May 15, 2021
9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Featuring "An Evening with Brian Turner"

Join us for an intimate and memorable evening with award-winning poet and memoirist Brian Turner.

Friday, May 14, at 7:00 pm

Streaming live & free to the public via Zoom

Turner served seven years in the US Army and is the author of two poetry collections, Phantom Noise and Here, Bullet, which won the 2005 Beatrice Hawley Award, the New York Times “Editor’s Choice” selection, the 2006 PEN Center USA “Best in the West” award, the 2007 Poets Prize, and others. In addition to his poetry, he is the editor of the anthology The Kiss (2018), a diverse anthology of essays, stories, poems, and graphic memoirs.

image of Brian Turner - Writing for Veterans

Turner’s work has been published in National Geographic, the New York Times, Poetry Daily, Harper’s Magazine, and other fine journals. Turner has been awarded a United States Artists Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship, and more. His recent memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country, has been called, “achingly, disturbingly, shockingly beautiful.”

Retreat Schedule - Saturday, May 15, 2021

9:00 am - 4:00 pm

Livestreamed on Zoom

Check In
Book Sales from Tombolo Books8:30 am - 9:00 am

Session A9:00 AM - 10:15 AM

Memoir and Nature Writing

Janisse Ray

Nonfictional Landscapes & the Life We Dream
A deep relationship with the world beyond humans will breathe life and passion into your stories, because intrinsic to that relationship with place are chambers of feeling and layers of meaning. Place creates in writers the kind of tension that transfers to the work. For the entirety of this workshop we’ll be exploring our relationship to nature: how to inhabit your place so that you see the stories it drops at your feet and what to do when you find them.


Yolanda J. Franklin

Painting Poetic Lines: Using Exphrastic Techniques as a Muse for Composition
On the Poetry Foundation website, Carmen Giménez Smith notes, “[Critic’s] definition of ekphrasis would be that it is “art about art,” a very sweeping, over-all, general umbrella term. My working definition: Ekphrasis is the verbal and literary representation of a visual representation.” In this workshop, participants will experiment with various approaches to writing an ekphrastic poem.

Writing for Veterans

Brian Turner

The Soldier's Rucksack (A workshop for veterans)
In this generative workshop for veterans and the mil-family community, we'll use lessons learned from short passages of military-related fiction, poetry, and essay to explore our own stories and imaginations. We will mostly study literary craft tools that will help us to navigate the landscape of our work, along with the spatial quality of time itself. From the home front to the battlefield to the decades that follow in the wake of experience, we'll consider literary techniques to help us bring our own stories and experiences to the page. Materials required: Please bring writing tools with you (pen & paper or a laptop, etc.).

Fiction: Writing Short Stories

Patrick Crerand

Faraway, So Close!: How to Manage Emotional Distance in Stories
Besides being the name of a great U2 song and a heck of a Wim Wenders film, this talk will concern itself with the ways (the hows, the whens, and the whys) authors control emotion by moving readers closer and farther away from characters in stories. We’ll take a look at a variety of techniques of narrative distance in new works and old, and then we’ll try some exercises to get your stories zooming in and out for effect.

Book Sales from Tombolo Books 10:15 am - 10:30 am

Session B10:30 am - 11:15 am

Creative Nonfiction

Bob Kunzinger

What Fourth Wall? Making Room for the Reader in our Prose
One common mistake in non-fiction is the need to "prove" we know what we are writing about by overloading details. But writing must allow space for readers to bring their own details to the page. In this workshop, we will talk about and practice the art of being vague without being obtuse.


Helen Pruitt Wallace

What's Form in Free Verse and Freeing in Form?
As poet Kenneth Burke states, “Form is the arousal and fulfillment of desires.” This course is devoted to the idea that good writing is good rewriting whether working within the traditions of formal poetry or writing in primarily open forms. We will, however, have as our underpinning, the idea that studying specific meters and traditional forms can provide a great base from which to play with whatever style of writing you prefer. A study of traditional forms allows us to experiment and veer from them to greater effect, even in our open form work. In this class we'll explore and practice couplets, syllabic verse, tercets, or sonnets, but skilled use of open or free verse form is also welcome. Key will be elements integral to poems regardless of form, especially those referred to by the poet Jane Hirshfield: music, rhetoric, image, emotion, story, and voice. Above all, this course hopes to deepen a love of the bumps and grinds of language, and explore poetry’s surprising ability to both nurture and convey the human heart. Students should come prepared to write new drafts and share their work.

Spoken Word & Performance

Wally B. Jennings

You know all of those questions that are constantly on your mind but you're reluctant to ask out loud? Well, they JUST may hold the key to the spoken word artist inside of you! Join renowned artist Walter "Wally B" Jennings for an amazing time of self-discovery and empowerment through poetry and spoken word. Participants will learn how to utilize the intrinsic power of questions to ignite their creativity and cultivate oral communication skills.


Sterling Watson

Unusual Ways to Create and Develop Characters
When you read a novel or a short story, you follow a character through an action. At some point, you ask yourself: Do I like this person? Do I extend sympathy to this person? Does this person’s predicament interest me? If the answers are not yes, you probably won’t finish the story. Successful writers have said that characterization is the most important element of fiction. Plot, theme, point of view, and setting are all important but there is some validity to the notion: If the characters are right, the story will follow. Some characters are so real, original, and relatable that readers will follow them anywhere. Charles Dickens’ plots are often predictable and melodramatic, but the vividness and vitality of his characters usually save his stories. We will discuss some unusual ways to bring characters to life so that readers relate to them immediately and want to follow them to the end of the story.

Lunch and Participants' OPEN READING
(hosted by Victoria Dym) 11:30 am - 12:45 pm

Open Reading

Session C1:00 pm - 2:15 pm


Janisse Ray

Avoiding the Curse of Narrative
Any story can be distilled to "this happened, then this happened," and therein lies its curse. The hardest job of a literary writer is to move beyond simply narrating events, the stuff of everyday life, to higher planes, where the meanings of words leave a reader weak-kneed and breathless and transformed. This is the art of writing. We’ll talk about five (of many) ways to avoid this curse. Basically, this class is about the magic of language and how to be a magician.


Susan Lilley

My Florida, Your Florida: A Poet’s Wonderland
In this workshop, we will look at some Florida poetry by both residents and visitors and marvel at how both swamps and theme parks can open the poetic imagination. We'll then move into writing prompts that explore our own responses to this wild and diverse state we live in.


Anne Barngrover

Publishing Your Poems
You've written, you've workshopped, you've revised--what comes next when you're ready to share your poems with the world? This session will explore the avenues, logistics, and techniques for publishing your poems, both individually and together as a chapbook or full-length collection. We will discuss how to submit your work, avoid pitfalls, deal with rejection, and persevere to find the good homes that your poems deserve.


Sterling Watson

Fiction & Poetry: Alike or Different?
PowerPoint form illustrating some things that poetry and fiction have in common and some differences. This presentation ends within the admonition that prose writers are sorely in need of a greater understanding and appreciation of poetry.

Book Sales FROM Tombolo Books2:15 pm - 2:30 pm

Session D2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

Creative Nonfiction

Bob Kunzinger

Triggers: Braiding Nature and Memory
We will explore the marriage of our surroundings with our past, the visceral triggers which digress into those areas of recollection all readers experience.


Yolanda J. Franklin

The Anatomy of the Ghazal
The Poetry Foundation’s website provides the pronunciation and definition of the poetic form Ghazal: (Pronunciation: “guzzle”) Originally an Arabic verse form dealing with loss and romantic love, medieval Persian poets embraced the ghazal, eventually making it their own. In this workshop we’ll explore the ghazal and write and make it our own.

Creating Literary Community

Tiffany Razzano

Literary Rock ‘n’ Roll: Creating Literary Community with Irreverence and Accessibility
Literature doesn’t always have to be so stuffy. It also doesn’t need to be a solo endeavor. We’ll discuss utilizing humor, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking to organize innovative literary events that are fun and more accessible for the average person. We’ll also talk about the collaborative experience and working with other authors, organizations, and community groups outside the literary realm to form mutually beneficial partnerships. Other topics to be discussed: self-promotion, social media, finding new ways to reach readers.


Steven Kistulentz

Writing the Novel
A seminar. We’ll discuss the commonalities and obscurities that go into making a novel, as well as best practices for organizing your thoughts, writing a panoramic and gripping opening, and what to do once you have a finished draft. We’ll leave plenty of time for interactive discussion too, about the marketplace, finding an agent, self-publishing, and all the other questions that writers face after they get up from the work desk.

Book Sales from TOMBOLO BOOKS3:45 pm

Faculty books may be purchased from Tampa Bay’s independent bookstore Tombolo Books or by calling 727-755-9456.

Writing Sessions

Participants may attend any of the classes. Session recordings will be available for at least one month after the live event. By attending, you agree to be recorded

Gianna Russo, Retreat Director
Angel Jimenez, Associate Director
John David Harding, Assistant Director



THANKS to Our Partners and Supporters
Dr. Mary Spoto
Vice President of Academic Affairs

School of Arts and Sciences
Dr. Heather Parker, Dean

Department of Language Studies and the Arts
Dr. Chantelle MacPhee, Chair

Jennifer "Megan" Case
Administrator of Events and Special Programs


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