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April 10–May 8, 2021. Advanced Novel Workshop: Conflict, Plot & Structure II with Kelly Dwyer is a Course

April 10–May 8, 2021. Advanced Novel Workshop: Conflict, Plot & Structure II with Kelly Dwyer

Time limit: 60 days

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Full course description


Advanced Novel Workshop: Conflict, Plot & Structure II with Kelly Dwyer (Five-Week Workshop)



Saturdays on Zoom: April 10 - May 8, 2021

10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Central Time

(11:00–2:00 Eastern; 8:00–11:00 Pacific; 9:00–12:00 noon Mountain)


Course Description

You are going happily along in your novel. You are quite pleased with the characters; they seem complex to you, interesting, like real, fleshy humans—more or less. The writing, if you do say so yourself, is good, heck, at times, you might even say brilliant (though of course you would never say this). But suddenly you are worried that it might be … well, of course it couldn’t be… boring—could it? There is a conflict. But is it weighty enough? Is the plot interesting enough? Is the structure—what’s the word—sturdy enough? (What is a structure, anyway?) Suddenly, you are unsure of yourself and your novel. You are no longer moving along happily. Maybe you should begin a new novel, one with a weightier conflict, a more interesting plot, and a sturdier structure (whatever that is).

Before you abandon the precious novel you’ve worked so hard on for a new, shinier one—or if you simply want feedback on the novel that is going along for you quite well—consider joining us and having some of your novel workshopped in a supportive, stimulating environment. We will discuss elements of conflict, plot, and structure, and see how you might apply them to your novels (in any genre).

Class structure and objectives: Our class will meet weekly on Zoom. Each class will include a lesson and discussion on one of the above elements of the novel, in-class exercises on that element, and a workshop of participants’ work. Each writer will have their plot outline workshopped, and each writer will have their work (an excerpt of their novel, up to 2,000 words each time) workshopped twice in our five weeks together. Writers will receive written feedback from Kelly on each of their submissions, and Kelly will also hold a 30-minute (Zoom or phone) conference with each writer. By the end of the workshop, participants are sure to have a weighty conflict, an interesting plot, and a sturdy structure—and the tools to finish their novels in 2021.

This workshop is for advanced writers who are already working on novels. Focus will be mainly on material already written, but we will also be generating some new material over the course of the five weeks.

Please download Zoom before class begins. Feel free to set up a quick meeting with Kelly before class starts to make sure you are comfortable with Zoom before class.

Your 30-minute individual conference with your instructor will be scheduled in the latter part of the course.


Kelly Dwyer is finishing her third novel, Ghost Mother, and is the author of The Tracks of Angels and Self-Portrait with Ghosts, published by Penguin Putnam and Hodder & Stoughton, London. Her short plays have been produced in Madison, Wisconsin; Boston; New York; and Glasgow. She also writes flash fiction, mostly based on the Disney Princesses at middle age.

Kelly teaches in the University of Wisconsin system during the academic year and has taught at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival for about twenty years—and looks forward to it all year. Like many participants, Kelly has been missing the Festival and its people, and is grateful for the opportunity to connect with Festival participants online.

Having grown up in Southern California, Kelly lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, pug, and daughter, whom she used to take to the Festival in a Bjorn, and who has now started her first year of college. Please feel free to visit

What Festival participants say about working with Kelly:

The outcome [of this workshop] was beyond my wildest expectations. It was like magic. Kelly Dwyer is an amazing leader/educator/facilitator. You couldn’t have hand-picked twelve more different writers or stories. Kelly successfully juggled, nurtured, and guided us all with skill, intelligence, good humor (lots of that), and kindness. She kept us on task, carefully guarding the time so everyone received equal time to discuss and share their projects. Kelly was extremely knowledgeable concerning plot development and the writing process, and always had something helpful to say. I benefitted from her knowledge regardless of whether it was my own piece of writing being discussed or that of someone else in the class. She slipped in the examples and offered possibilities that stretched all of us. Kelly was wise and respectful, and generous with her talents throughout the week. She was also willing and very funny. One could not ask for more.

—Michael L., 2019

Kelly is an exceptional teacher—great listener—positive and encouraging and yet analytical and constructive in her comments and interactions. She was very well structured, organized, and collaborative while keeping a clear focus and at an appropriate level.

—Karen W., 2019

Outstanding workshop! It’s what I needed at this time of life as I once again pick up books and resume writing.

—Anne G., 2019

Fabulous workshop—the content was exactly what had been missing from my previous writing education—concrete, hands-on work on plot and structure. Kelly was amazing. Lots of great advice, very kind to everyone, and great time management. It’s not easy to find someone who can so effectively manage chatty, opinionated writers in a cheerful and very fair manner. This workshop was exactly what I was hoping for based on the description.

—Maria H., 2019

Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $600. Payment in full is required to register.

Registration for this course opens Thursday, February 18, 2021.

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

Class size is limited to 10.

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.” 

Cancellation Policy

A $100 cancellation fee will be applied to refunds for cancellations received by Friday, March 27, 2021. Thereafter, no refunds are available. 

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!