Sign Up Now for Fall Retreat!
This November 12-13th, Inkwell will be proudly holding its sixth writing retreat at the beautiful lakeside Crowne Plaza in downtown Suzhou. We’re thrilled to partake on this adventure, with deep thanks to Inkwell Suzhou and all the team for making this happen. We hope to build off of the success of our spring retreat.
This retreat will be different than previous retreats in many aspects, though. This time, Inkwell will not be booking rooms or making food arrangements for participants. Instead, we will be staying downtown, and we encourage conference participants to stay wherever they want to stay, so they can choose the right hotel for them. In addition, since Inkwell is not providing any meals, participants are free to select from any of the dozens and dozens of restaurants in the area for their dining needs.
While there will be a casual meet and drink on Friday evening, the festivities will be focused November 13th where a full line of wonder and knowledgeable speakers will host a wide range of generative workshops. These workshops are designed to get participants excited and engaged in the process of writing and to have writers leave that Saturday with a range of starts on different projects that they can complete at a later date.
The retreat will be capped off with an evening reading at a local bar of some of the work that had been produced over the course of the day. While there have not been any formal events planned for the 14th, I hope participants will take some time to explore the beautiful city of Suzhou.
On Saturday, we will have two conference rooms running all day long with complementary coffee available between the two rooms. With a schedule this packed, participants do not have to attend a lecture every single hour, but instead, they are encouraged to pick the events that sound best to them.
The cost of retreat is 500 rmb if participants sign up by October 20th, 600 rmb if participants sign up by November 5th, and 700 rmb if participants sign up after that.
What’s included? All your retreat writing materials as well as some Inkwell swag and your attendance at retreat. Complementary coffee and water during breaks.
What’s not included? Room, food, and transportation are entirely up to you. Arrival and departure depend on your own demands.
The fifty slots for retreat sold out in a little under three weeks in the spring, so I would recommend signing up early.
To reserve, contact the retreat director, Ryan Thorpe, and make a deposit. Deposit is half of your total fee.
Cancelation Policy: Deposits are non-refundable. Additional money given towards the retreat can be refunded at participant’s request at least two weeks before the start of the retreat. If participants want someone else to use their registration, it is up to the participant to locate someone else and exchange money. Please notify the organizers so a suitable nametag can be prepared. If Covid requires the hotel to close, then we will cancel the retreat and refund all money.
Each writing retreat has its own personality and its own flavor, and I think the diversity and wisdom of these teachers will light a fire of creativity for all writers in attendance. I hope to see you there.
(in order of presentation)
Creating Meaningful Dialogue
with Ender Waters
8:30 Fiji Room
Ender Waters is a filmmaker and high school writing teacher from Melbourne, Australia and Los Angeles, California.
Creating dynamic, meaningful exchanges between well-rounded characters is the one of the primary jobs of the screenwriter or playwright. In this generative workshop Ender Waters will show how to use a close analysis of character motivation and tactic to create conflict-laden scenes with deep subtext.
Meditation and Morning Pages
with Jane Wang
8:30 in Hainan Room
Jane is the founder and the chief editor of Trinergy Yoga Weekly, a mindful lifestyle online magazine. She is a meditation teacher, writer and speaker to inspire people find a balance in life.
A healthy morning routine can help you generate quality contents consistently. By combining meditation with morning pages, you don’t need to wait for inspiration. It will flow freely as your mind becomes calm and quiet yet fill with abundant unique ideas.
In this session, you would learn some quick and practical meditation tips, a hands-on practice of morning pages after a guided meditation and an efficient way to form an ongoing habit to get your creative soul dancing everyday. Please be punctual out of respect for other participants, thanks!
Creative Brainstorming and Story Recipes
with Ryan Thorpe
9:30 in Hainan Room
Dr. Ryan Thorpe is Executive Director of Inkwell, an associate teaching professor of writing at the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and author of Teaching Second Language Creative Writing from Routledge.
Brainstorming has its problems. It wasn’t designed for creative writing. It wasn’t even designed for writers. So why do we stay so attached to a model that was built for another field? By looking at the origins and objectives of brainstorming and applying relevant current theory, we can construct a model of creative writing brainstorming that generates writing and speaks to our situation as creative writers.
This model will be demonstrated through the idea of story recipes. There are tried and true recipes for stories, but if this is true, then what are the ingredients and how else can they be arranged? We will identify a few classic recipes, identify some ingredients, and then start mixing it all together to see the infinite options that are available with every sheet of paper.
with José Domínguez
10:30 Fiji Room
José Domínguez is an AP Psychology and Colloquy instructor and a sci-fi / fantasy enthusiast of all artistic persuasions.
Ever hit a wall in your writing that you felt was insurmountable? We all have, and FATE is one tool I’ve used in my writing to help scale the Writing Wall.
FATE is a tabletop RPG that pushes players through conflict driven storytelling. We’ll explore its unique game-system to generate writing ideas, and how to build off of the system for your own writing needs.
Poetry and Science: Continuing the Conversation
with Russell Grant and Nana Liu
10:30 Hainan Room
Nana Liu is an associate professor at the Institute of Natural Sciences and the University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute. She is a theoretical physicist who is currently working on quantum technologies and writes poetry in her spare time. She believes that passion for science and poetry both spring from the same underlying desire to understand and to communicate, and that they can enrich each other.
Russell Grant teaches high school English Literature, and is the head of the Shanghai Poetry Workshop. His poems have appeared in A Shanghai Poetry Zine, Visions, and Mignolo Arts Centre’s Pinky Thinker Press.
Continuing on from their Spring Retreat presentation, poets Russell Grant and Nana Liu would like to expand the conversation they initiated about the relationship between science and poetry further by attempting to put some of their ideas into practice in a generative workshop.
In their Spring Retreat talk, Russell and Nana explored some ways in which Poetry and Science share a host of similarities, including methodologies, attitudes, and vocabulary and even history. In addition they made the argument that poetry would be well served by looking to science and the scientific world, both for inspiration and content. Scientific concepts open up a wealth of metaphors and imagery that poets shouldn’t hesitate to explore.
For the Fall Retreat, Nana and Russell would like to develop their ideas and understanding further by seeing how they can be applied in a practical sense in the course of a generative writing session using science and scientific concepts as a springboard for poetic exploration.
Using ‘Show Don’t Tell’ to Worldbuild in Fantasy and Sci-fi Settings
with Paula Willis
11:30 Fiji Room
Paula is from the U.K. and can generally be found writing queer genre fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, and fairytales). They have had short stories published in anthologies and online magazines, and are working on editing a YA novel. They run Sunday Scribbles, a casual writing and meet-up session.
‘Show don’t tell’ is a classic piece of writing advice, but what does it mean, and how do you do it? In this workshop, we will use this skill to generate some key story elements. Beginning with some quick fire games to practise, we will then build from simple statements about setting to the ‘what if’ problems that form key motivations and conflicts for characters.
By the end of the workshop, participants should have a patchwork of story pieces, such as settings, creatures, and magic/technology, which can be used as the jumping off point for a piece of speculative fiction.
Writing with the Book of Changes: Using the I Ching (易经) as an Engine of Creativity
with Michael L. Robinson
11:30 Hainan Room
Michael Robinson is founder of a small creative copywriting firm and is Inkwell Head of Events. He is an avid writer of genre fiction, especially science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
The I Ching (pinyin yì jīing) is one of the oldest existing Chinese classic texts. Originally a book of agricultural astrology, the I Ching took on new meaning during the tumultuous end of the Shang dynasty and became integral to the founding mythos of the succeeding Zhou. Eminent scholars and thinkers in the following millennia, famously including Confucius, would add their own interpretations and commentaries to the I Ching, adding a wealth of moral, social, and practical philosophies that all follow the immutable law of change.
It has also found a surprising use as Using the I Ching as the I Ching still finds use—Phillip K. Dick famously used the I Ching to write his famous speculative historical fiction, Man in the High Castle.
This lecture will introduce the I Ching, its basic principles and methods of use, and how the I Ching can be used as a kind of random event generator for characters, help create plot-points, and connect desperate parts of creative fiction to form a compelling, complete whole.
Setting as Character
with Dylan Coyle
1:30 Fiji Room
Dylan Coyle is a game designer and creative director, specializing in story rich, expansive worlds. His games are about cats, Vikings, mechs, and post-capitalist economic policies.
What makes a setting breath and drive a story, poem, or game? How can a location pursue its own goals, and what are its obstacles? How does the world look when we see through the senses of the background? What is environmental literacy? In this workshop, we will deconstruct how place and purpose are intertwined and then subvert that for comedy, suspense, and social impact. Exercises will include brainstorming, flash writing, and imbuing the place around us with story. Writers will leave with a new perspective for both living and appreciating where we are.
Looking at Art as an Idea Generator
with Jamey Braden
1:30 Hainan Room
Jamey Braden is an American artist combining improvisation, material play, text, and performance to create sculptures and experiences that reach for a sense of poetic catharsis. She has maintained a parallel writing practice that both informs and is informed by her visual art. Influenced by feminism and surrealism, she is interested in intuition, affect, and impulse and the intimate dialog arts practitioners have with their materials. She received her MFA from the University of British Columbia and has exhibited in museums and galleries across China, USA, Canada, and Sweden.
Primarily a visual artist, my writing is often formed by visual cues. I work with textiles and find the tactility of fabric informs my tendency to include sensate details in poetry. I’ve also had the opportunity to make art inspired by poetry for an exhibition—exploring the flow between the visual and the verbal has opened a new bandwidth of creativity that I invite others to explore with me.
These two art forms provide a fertile feedback loop that can be harnessed for inspiring creative expression. In this workshop, we will look at visual art images and films and explore ways to generate text from what we see. Some images may conjure the budding plot of a new story, others might inspire visual metaphors to fuel poems. In this workshop we will talk together, view together, brainstorm, have time for a writing session, and end with sharing some of our works.
Sauntering through Sonnets
with Bri O’Boyle
2:30 Fiji Room
Bri has been living in Shanghai for about three years, she currently works as an elementary school teacher at Shanghai Experimental School. She is a frequent attendee of the Inkwell Poetry Workshop and fills the rest of her free time with more social obligations than the average person and majiang.
Sonnets are one of the most well-known forms of poetry, many might remember sitting through English class reading Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? But what many people don’t realize is the sonnet comes in a wide array of styles from Petrarchan, to Shakespearean, to American—there’s a kind that suits everyone! In this workshop we will examine where did sonnets come from, how Shakespeare influenced sonnets, and what they have evolved to today. We will learn about what are the most common types of sonnets and how to distinguish them as well as have a chance to generate our own “modern sonnet” which is a lot easier than you might think!
Writing as Play
with Adriana Rewald
2:30 Hainan Room
Adriana Rewald (she/her) leads the Inkwell Guangzhou writing workshop. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Hollins University and currently teaches at the American International School of Guangzhou.
As adults, we rarely make time for play. But by tapping into our dormant childish joy, openness, and weirdness, we can better tap into that which makes our writing rich, true, and powerfully our own.
In this hands-on, ppt-free workshop that will be structured as a series of activity stations, we will give ourselves permission to reconnect with our inner child. Let’s see what happens when we make time for silliness, follow our impulses, let go of whatever holds us back and just play.
Introduction to the Oulipo Creative Writing Workshop
with Gaelle Dechelette
3:30 Fiji Room
Gaelle Dechelette is a French author, content creator and trainer, and have been living in Shanghai for 15 years. With the desire to stay connected with her relatives and to share her experience of China, she started to write informative articles but also columns. Since 2016, she has contributed to several French and English online magazines. In 2016 and 2019, she also self-published two novels, and is working on a third one. At the same time, she joined a writing group which allowed her to experiment a wide range of writing styles and tools.
@passage.des.histoires on Instagram for French and English short stories
I will start by quickly introducing the method, which derives from a gathering of French-speaking writers and mathematicians who wanted to develop creativity using constrained writing techniques, founded in 1960 by Raymond Queneau and François Le Lionnais. Constraints are used as a means of triggering ideas and inspiration the group devises new techniques. We will use some of the techniques as “writing games” and in the end, create a short fragment together.
The key words of the Oulipo workshop are openness, acceptance and liberation.
with Elena Sichrovsky
3:30 Hainan Room
Elena Sichrovsky is an Austrian-Taiwanese writer and co-head of the Inkwell Shanghai Fiction Workshop. Her short horror stories have been published in numerous publications, including SciPhi Journal, Planet Scumm, Remastered Words, and Hinnom Magazine.
For most people the word “horror” conjures up frightening images of demonic possession, blood-thirsty vampires, or rampaging serial killers. Most of the horror narratives in books or television can be separated into three main tropes: possession, obsession, and transformation. Each of these relies heavily on the loss of control or autonomy: the one being possessed cannot stop themselves from floating above their bed; the feral cravings of the bloodlust cannot be tamed; and once the moon is out the man is forced to change into a wolf.
This workshop will be comprised of two segments: first we will identity and discuss the threads that both connect and differentiate these tropes, and explore how they are effective to convey terror to the reader. Then we will challenge ourselves to subvert the expectations of those tropes. What if the demon summoned didn’t want to take a vessel, and instead was the one trying to break free ? What if the sinister took the form of the small and mundane: how can one escalate an obsession with felt stickers or bottle tops, for example? What does it take for a transformation to give someone the shivers–is it the distortion of biology, or the misplacement of body parts, such as nostrils on the fingertips? This workshop invites you to bring your wildest imaginations and put them to work.
Tropes and the Dystopia
with Jack Olney and Philip “Phil” Hsu
4:30 Hainan Room
Jack Olney is head of literature at an international school in Shanghai. From London originally, his main writing focus is on character and setting. He is passionate about the journey of the writer, the experience that gets intertwined onto the page. His writing tries to capture the simplistic while exploring a dynamic environment, although he’s not a stranger to scrapping projects that aren’t working. If the story doesn’t tell itself, it needs to change. Jack’s reading usually revolves around works that offer a realistic character, he loves relating to complex characterization as it brings real depth to the story.
Philip “Phil” Hsu is a writer based in Shanghai. He is writing a science fiction novel about mermaids who build AI, and is completing a full-length music album, The Great Divide, about his life growing up between North Carolina and Taiwan. You can follow his dream journal at www.philbertsphables.com.
Reimagining the world is something writers are doing on every page. Even the most simplistic stories call for the writer to be presently aware of narration, point of view and voice. Dystopian fiction offers a chance to truly run free with the reimagining of setting. The writer has absolute power of imagination to paint a picture of a world in decay and ruin.
This workshop will have a simple goal; to generate writing that allows the mind and imagination run free to a complete unknown. Transporting both writer and reader to an existence so far from our own, yet so familiar.
We will be looking at the language of dystopia and tropes that often build a basis for the degeneration. The workshop will allow us to consider humanity in the face of absolute uncertainty, hopefully establishing new commentaries on adaptation of character along the way. There will be time for generative writing as well as some discussion around potential baselines for setting such as extreme authoritarianism, degenerative individualism, technological control, extreme landscape destruction and psychological nihilism.
For the purposes of the generative workshop, we will discuss three main themes and their definitive works/media in greater depth (other tropes are welcome too):
1) Zombie Apocalypse
2) Cyberpunk Dystopia
3) “Post-Tech” Wasteland