Skip To Content
May 21–23, 2021. Creating Characters from the Inside Out with Karen Bender is a Course

May 21–23, 2021. Creating Characters from the Inside Out with Karen Bender

Time limit: 60 days

Spots remaining: 0

Enrollment is closed
Add yourself to the wait list and you'll be notified when a spot opens

Add to Wait List

Full course description


Creating Characters from the Inside Out with Karen Bender (Weekend Workshop)


Friday, May 21–Sunday, May 23, 2021

Friday on Zoom, 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Iowa/Central Time (8:00–9:00 Eastern; 5:00–6:00 Pacific; 6:00–7:00 Mountain)

Saturday and Sunday on Zoom, 10:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m. Iowa/Central Time (11:00–4:00 Eastern; 8:00–1:00 Pacific; 9:00–2:00 Mountain)

Saturday and Sunday meetings include a one-hour break. Class meets for four hours each day.

Fee: $300

Course Description

Explore a character you are working with, or create a new one, in this weekend intensive. I'll send you stories with some memorable characters to read before the class starts. On Saturday, we’ll do exercises in class, practicing ways to create characters through their internal worlds, thoughts, memories, and through dialogue. On Sunday, we’ll do exercises in which we’ll look at characters from the outside—how they move through and are perceived in the world.

Students will be invited to share the work they write in class if they wish. 

We'll also discuss the published stories we’re using as models and explore how writers create memorable characters in their fiction. You should leave with ideas on how to develop your characters and the stories they inhabit.



Karen E. Bender is the author of the story collections Refund, which was a Finalist for the National Book Award in 2015, shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Story prize and Longlisted for the Story prize; and The New Order, which was Longlisted for the Story prize. Her novels are A Town of Empty Rooms and Like Normal People, which was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Her fiction has appeared in magazines including The NewYorkerGrantaPloughsharesZoetropeThe Yale ReviewThe Harvard ReviewGuernica, and Story, and reprinted in Best American Short StoriesBest American Mystery StoriesNew Stories from the South: The Year's Best, and have won three Pushcart prizes. She has taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival and also in the M.F.A. programs at Hollins University, Warren Wilson College, the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Chatham University. She has recently joined the Core Faculty at the Alma College M.F.A. in creative writing. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rona Jaffe Foundation. Visit Karen at

Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $300. Payment in full is required to register.

Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Class size is limited to 12.

Note: Your credit card payment will be processed by an external provider and will appear on your credit card statement as “UI Writing—Magid Center.”

Refund & Cancellation Policy 

If you need to cancel your enrollment in a Festival class, please let us know as soon as possible. We can only offer full refunds if you cancel two weeks prior to the start of class. After that, before the start date of class, we can offer a 50% refund. We cannot refund day-of cancellations, and we cannot refund or partially refund tuition once the class has begun. 

Terms & Community Policy

The Iowa Summer Writing Festival is a community built on an assumption of shared enterprise, in the spirit of mutual respect. We reserve the right to a) revoke the registration of or b) dismiss from the program any person who disrupts the learning/working environment of others. Participants in the Festival are subject to all University of Iowa policies governing conduct in our community, whether online or in person.



Contact the Iowa Summer Writing Festival: Phone: (319) 335-4160.

Our tiny staff is working remotely. If you phone and we miss you, please leave a message!