Porches Writing Retreat
Porches Writing Retreat

Workshop FAQ    

How long is the workshop?

2 1/2 days.

Am I the only writer you work with?

Yes. 

How do I apply?  

Contact Porches about your interest.

You'll then be directed to submit approximately 30 pages of your novel. If it seems to be something that will benefit from a collaborative analysis then you'll submit a hard copy of your novel. I'll have read through your novel thoroughly, more than once, by the time we meet. 

How do the novel sessions work?

The sessions are one-on-one and they are intense and focused. We work and think hard!

Usually there are structural issues and so a lot of time is spent on charting and brainstorming and figuring out the novel. I usually do a brainstorming exercise outside the novel itself to get us going and to illuminate 1) how plot works, and 2) how plot can release literary writing and themes. Toward the end of the workshop we move toward editing individual chapters and evaluating sentence placement for most effective scene development. 

You mention plot development in your answer. What if my plot is already quite elaborate but I'm thin on character?

If you don't have well-developed characters, then that's what we'll work on. Each novel has its strengths and weaknesses. We address what needs to be fixed. My experience is that weaknesses usually arise because of plot/forward movement issues or point of view inconsistencies or a miscued point of entry or troubles with chronological management. But I won't know for certain until I read your novel.

How long are the sessions?

We go from 9 to 12 for the morning session (10-12 the first day). Then there's an hour or two-hour break, and then we go again for at least 3 hours. Sessions are usually around 5 or 6 hours per day. We're pretty casual, but the thing you need to know is that I will do what it takes. If we have to spend 8 or 9 hours on the manuscript that day, that's what we'll do. On the third day, there is a 9-12 session to close out the one-on-one part of the workshop. 

When should I arrive for the workshop? 

The workshop begins at 10 a.m. on the first day (9 a.m. thereafter).  Check-in the day before. 

How far along should my manuscript be?

You will get much more out of the workshop if you are well into your novel.

How polished should my manuscript be?

Keep in mind that you are doing this kind of workshop because you are already a good writer, a serious writer. You've probably written many stories and you may have published some of them. You may have already published a novel or another kind of book. We are workshopping this particular manuscript because you are having some kind of trouble with it. Trouble is fine. It's good, in fact. Your manuscript should be a good mess. And out of this mess will come something much better than if there hadn't been a mess--because true creativity is messy when it starts out.

Is there a page limit?

Yes. 300 pages. Editors will talk individually about length depending on the manuscript. 

Do you help me to get the novel published or find an agent?

Unfortunately, this workshop can't address that issue for you.

Will you reread the manuscript if I rewrite it according to what I've gained in the workshop?

The workshop does not include going over future revisions.

I still don't know if the workshop is right for me or I'm right for the workshop.

Feel free to call Trudy at Porches and talk it over.

How much is the One-on-One Novel Workshop?

workshop fee and four nights at the Porches is $3,000 

Could you tell me a little bit about your qualifications as an editor and teacher?

Nancy Zafris: Currently the series editor of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction. You can read more about this at http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/series/FOC For nine years she was the fiction editor of The Kenyon Review.  Each June she teaches at The Kenyon Review Adult Summer Workshop for which she is the associate coordinator.  Many stories from the workshop have subsequently been published. She taught at the University of Pittsburgh, The Ohio State University, Centre College, West Virginia University, and Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic (where she was a Senior Fulbright Fellow). She published over two dozen short stories. Her books include The People I Know, collection of short stories that won the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction as well as the Ohioana Library Association award for best fiction; The Metal Shredders, a novel that was a New York Times notable book of the year; and another novel, Lucky Strike, that was a BookSense notable and most recently, The Home Jar Stories. She's won several awards and grants, including two National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grants. nancyzafris.com

Greg Michalson is the co-publisher of Unbridled Books. Previously he was a founder of BlueHen, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, and general editor of fiction at MacMurray & Beck where he developed an award-winning novel series. He also spent twenty years as an editor with The Missouri Review. He is the author of short stories and articles, with work mentioned in both Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prizes, and the co-editor of multiple collections and anthologies, including For Our Beloved Country: American War DiariesConversationswith American Novelists; and Best of The Missouri Review: Fiction.

He’s known for having published the debut novels of many prize-winning authors who have won or been finalists for national awards, including the National Book Award, PEN Hemingway and PEN Faulkner awards, a variety of prestigious regional book awards, and other national Indie Lit and small press awards for fiction. Many of his authors’ novels have been named #1 Indie Next Picks and B&N Discover Great New Writers selections. Among the writers whose debut novels he edited and published are Susan Vreeland, William Gay, Steve Yarbrough, Nancy Zafris, Debra Earling, Timothy Schaffert, Laura Hendrie, Emily St John Mandel, Peter Geye, Shann Ray, etc. He’s also edited and published novels by best-selling and prize-winning authors such as Margaret Cezair-Thompson, William Harrison, Ed Falco, C.M. Mayo, Jack Fuller and many others.

Novelist Tonja Reynolds writes, “I had high expectations for my intensive novel workshop with Greg Michalson at Porches. Those expectations were exceeded by the first afternoon of the first day. . . I have been to workshops I described as transformative. Those workshops made me feel like I was wearing new eyeglasses, like I could see one or two things more clearly. This workshop was like lasik surgery. A permanent change for the better.”