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
  • 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).

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

Kirby Gann will teach the second fiction workshop. More information soon.

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
When you decide to write nonfiction, you agree in some sense to put yourself in a bind. You can’t make up characters or events. You can’t invent dialogue. You can’t set the action on a distant planet.  What you can do is milk reality for all its worth. This workshop will explore ways of making your nonfiction essay a truer reflection of the reality it seeks to represent. We will zero in on the most successful passages as well as those that could benefit from more (or less!) physical and emotional detail. We will also talk about what to do when your memory fails you and when the facts get in the way of telling a good story.

WRITING FOR CHILDREN & YOUNG ADULTS: Necessary Ingredients, led by Beth Bauman
In this workshop, students writing for children and young adults learn to improve craft, deepen fiction, and identify and tackle common storytelling problems.  We’ll talk about reasons some books never sell, how to avoid these pitfalls, and the necessary ingredients for compelling stories.

SpaldingCon as Writer Retreat with Novel Manuscript Review

Up to five alumni may submit novel manuscripts for critique by Karen Mann. Karen will make margin notes, give you a 3-4 page letter of comments, and have a 30 minute conference with you while other participants are in workshop. You can use your free time to write. All SpaldingCon sessions are open to you except workshop. All manuscripts due by August 1. (Once participants have registered, instructions about how to submit the manuscript will be emailed.)

Karen Mann has critiqued nearly 100 novel manuscripts, including manuscripts for Sena Jeter Naslund, who says, “Any book-length manuscript would benefit from a reading by Karen Mann. She has helped me immensely with each of my novels, starting with Sherlock in Love, which is dedicated to her.”

SpaldingCon as Conference: Dramatic Writing

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. (Once participants have registered, instructions on how to submit the script will be emailed.)

In addition, several sessions will be available for playwriting and screenwriting, such as a 2-hour faculty lecture on the TV series Breaking Bad with Helena Kriel and Larry Brenner. This lecture will include information of interest to all dramatic writing students. Also a lecture on revision by Charlie Schulman. This lecture will cover the step by step pulling apart the project. It will discuss how to prepare for a rewrite by self-identifying and correcting script problems.

Screenwriting: Larry Brenner will present a session on giving pitches. Recent graduate Andrea Nasfell will present a lecture on the business of screenwriting. Alums will have a chance to give pitches and get feedback from faculty. Helena Kriel will lead a session that is a discussion on a movie and how the craft of screenwriting carries over to other areas.

Playwriting: (Specifics on these sessions are still being finalized but will be announced soon.)


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.

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.