a post-graduate writers’ conference

November 19-21 (Thursday through Saturday)

Welcome home to the Spalding MFA Program!

SpaldingCon is a post-graduate writers’ conference held at the end of the MFA program’s fall residency. SpaldingCon begins with lunch on Thursday, November 19, and ends at lunchtime on Saturday, November 21.

Highlights include

  • a master class with Helena Kriel
  • workshops in fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and writing for children & young adults
  • seminar on how to connect with agents and editors (limited to 15 people)
  • publishing/production sessions
  • faculty lectures on craft and other writing topics
  • novel manuscript review (closed)
  • script review (full-length playscript or screenplay review)

Registration opens July 1. Registration ends September 20.

SpaldingCon on Publishing

Agents & Editors: When, Why & How to Connect, with Leslie Daniels
 Join Leslie Daniels, a veteran of publishing and a three hat wearer (agent/editor/writer) with insight and strategy on getting your work out there, for a 2-hour seminar on agents and editors. Open to the first 15 SpaldingCon participants who sign up for the session. This session will take place Friday morning and participants may also sign up for a workshop. (This session will be concurrent with other sessions.)

The Personal (Narrative) Is Political (and Cultural): Using the News to Frame Your Essays for Publication, by Erin Keane
The personal essay is a useful calling card and platform-builder for any writer, not only memoirists and essayists, and there are more online outlets than ever publishing high-quality first-person writing. As the culture editor for, one of the first successful online-only culture and politics magazines, I’m particularly interested in publishing compelling narratives that personalize our wider cultural conversations. In this session, we’ll discuss why you should consider submitting to online magazines like ours in addition to your literary journal submissions, best practices for pitching editors, and why you should pay attention to pop culture and politics (even if you’re allergic to one or both).

Panel on Submitting to Literary Journals and Small Presses: how to find places to submit and tips on writing query letters.

(Sessions about production for dramatic writing alumni are discussed below.)

SpaldingCon with Workshop

SpaldingCon workshops will have a minimum of 3, maximum of 5 participants, in a format similar to residency workshops (or as described below). If workshops fill, new ones  may be added. Placement in workshops is determined by your registration date (i.e., the date you pay for the conference). (Several of the workshops are full but email ( to be put on a waiting list in case of cancellations.)


Workshop 1: Getting at the Heart, led by Sena Jeter Naslund (This workshop is full.)

Workshop 2.  Honing In on Final Drafts by Kirby Gann. (This workshop is full.)

POETRY: From Creative Thesis to Revised First Book: Collecting Your MFA Poems and Newer Poems into a Unified Manuscript, led by Kathleen Driskell
Your creative thesis is shelved, your diploma hangs on your wall . . . and on your desk? That growing stack of poems you’ve been writing since you graduated from the MFA Program. If you’re now wondering how to “re-think” your first book, how to include your new favorite poems with those pet poems you polished while in the program, this workshop will be helpful. During SpaldingCon, we’ll consider relationships between your new and old subjects, as well as new and old themes and rhythms. This investigation will help you re-conceptualize a new manuscript. We’ll also explore whether or not your new book needs sections–or (gasp!) a new title. And we’ll consider how you might you fill any holes that appear after reordering the  narrative arc.  Then, we’ll discuss how to create an elevator speech for your manuscript–and why it’s worth your time to do this. To be best prepared for this session, you should bring a print out of the poems you believe ready or nearly ready to collect into a book, a double-spaced list of the titles of those poems, and a pair of scissors!

CREATIVE NONFICTION: Milking Reality, led by Cathy Medwick (This workshop is full.)

WRITING FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS: Necessary Ingredients, led by Beth Bauman (This workshop is full.)

SpaldingCon as Conference: Dramatic Writing

Script Review: Rather than spending time in workshop, dramatic writing alumni will receive a full-length script review (playwriting or screenwriting, 100-120 pages, 1 per participant). The script will be reviewed by a professional writer, who will make margin notes, provide a 3-4 page letter of comments, and have a 30-minute conference with the alum. These scripts are due by August 15 (or soon thereafter; let’s talk). (Once participants have registered, instructions on how to submit the script will be emailed.)

The script review and all the sessions below are included in the SpaldingCon registration fee; however, if dramatic writing alumni do not wish to have a script review, they may attend the conference on Friday and Saturday only for $150 and attend the following sessions.

Lectures and other sessions:

  • Helena Kriel and Larry Brenner will present a 2-hour faculty lecture of interest to playwriting and screenwriting on the TV series Breaking Bad (suggested pre-assignment: watch the first season).
  • Charlie Schulman will give a lecture on revision for screenwriting and playwriting which covers the step by step pulling apart the project. It will discuss how to prepare for a rewrite by self-identifying and correcting script problems.
  • Eric Schmiedl will give a lecture for playwrights on how to write plays that address topics of current interest, such as environmental, horror, or LGBTQ.
  • Recent graduate Andrea Nasfell will present a lecture on the business of screenwriting: “The Game of Hollywood: An Overview of The Biz”
  • Michael Dixon, former Associate Artistic Director of Actors Theater and author of a book on craft will present “Breaking from Realism:  Narrative Strategies for Theatre in the 21st Century” for playwrights.
  • Larry Brenner will present a session for screenwriters on how to take a pitch meeting, which includes a discussion of 3 different kinds of pitch meetings.
  • Screenwriting alums will give their pitches (on their own script or based on Larry’s lecture) and get feedback from faculty. A follow-up session will allow alums to revise and pitch again after hearing the feedback.

More about Andrea’s talk: The Game of Hollywood: An Overview of The Biz

In the board game Life, there are many paths to success. The same is true when writing for Hollywood – there are as many roads as there are screenwriters, and everyone’s experience is different. In this Game of Life-style lecture, we’ll explore the divergent paths through the industry and answer many of the questions writers ask. Queries or contests? Studio or independent? Why are there so many titles for producers? How do I get in the Guild? And most importantly, when do I get paid? By the end, we’ll trace a screenplay’s progress from “FADE OUT” to the 99-cent DVD bin at Walmart, and all the steps in between.

More about Larry Brenner’s talk: I’ve got a pitch meeting. Now what?

Not all pitch meetings are the same, and it’s normal to have anxiety before taking one.  In this lecture, we will discuss different types of pitch meetings, and how to prepare for each in turn.  What is expected from the writer in a pitch meeting?  How much preparation should you do? What questions should you ask a producer when going after an assignment? How is pitching different for film and television?  What role does your representation play in any of this?

More about Michael Dixon’s talk: Breaking from Realism:  Narrative Strategies for Theatre in the 21st Century

 How can playwrights write theatrical text that better reflects “life as it is” in the 21st century?  Can playwrights develop their unique voice within a context that resonates in this new millennium rather than echoing cultural priorities of the past?  This talk offers a few ideas that can guide playwrights away from conventions of realism and toward more theatrical and imaginative forms of theatre. Resources: Michael Dixon’s book Breaking from Realism:  A Map/Quest for the Next Generation (Smith & Kraus) and available on

Michael was the Resident Director of The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, Literary Director of The Guthrie Theater, and for 17 years Literary Manager and then Associate Artistic Director at Actors Theater in Louisville. To learn more, see:

More about Eric Schmiedl’s talk: Wrestling with the Market: Writing to Outside Prompts and Needs

Theatre is a collaborative art.  It is one of its most celebrated hallmarks.  However, sometimes this means that the generative impulse for a project might not come from the playwright.  Theatres commission new works to explore themes or celebrate heroes.  Contests want to address topical issues or specific social concerns.  How do we as writers address these requests with authenticity?  This lecture seeks to find ways of shaping writing exercises to help us create meaningful theatrical works that thoughtfully address outside needs.


Registration opens July 1 and ends September 20. Register and pay by August 20 for the early-bird price of $450! After August 20, the cost to register is $499. (Dramatic writing students who wish to take part in SpaldingCon without the script review should email Karen Mann at before registering.)

Workshop and Worksheet Information

For Workshop Booklet Information, see Workshop and Worksheet Information.


The MFA Program has reserved a limited number of rooms with the Brown Hotel at $100 per night (tax included) for SpaldingCon participants. SpaldingCon takes place from  November 19-21. If you’d like to arrive earlier to attend other residency sessions or to have your own writing time at the Brown, additional nights may be available.  The residency takes place November 13-22. You’ll receive confirmation for your housing by October 20.

Cancellation Policy

For the registration fee
Before September 20–full refund.
Sept 21 to October 20–$400 refund.
October 21 to November 10–$250 refund
November 11 to November 19–$150 refund.
After November 19, no refund.

For housing
Full refund if cancelled by November 12. If cancelled after, November 12 (and before check-in date), all but $50 is refunded.

To register for the conference and make housing reservations, click here.