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Iowa Summer Writing Festival—Advanced Tools of Craft for Writers of Fiction & Memoir with Sands Hall (March 8–April 12, 2021) is a Course

Iowa Summer Writing Festival—Advanced Tools of Craft for Writers of Fiction & Memoir with Sands Hall (March 8–April 12, 2021)

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Full course description

Advanced Tools of Craft for Writers of Fiction & Memoir with Sands Hall (Six-Week Workshop) 


Mondays on Zoom: March 8–April 12, 2021

2:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. Central Time (3:00–6:00 Eastern; 12:00–3:00 Pacific; 1:00–4:00 Mountain) 

Fee: $700 

Course Description

As writers, we aren’t necessarily in charge of talent or timing; however, what we can control is craft. Craft, and the specific application of those tools to our work—whether that work is a manuscript in process or simply the desire to be a better writer—is the focus of this class. 

Each week, we’ll discuss an element of craft, supporting those ideas by examining examples by published authors of fiction and memoir. We’ll focus on structure and plot and point of view (all of which are as important to memoir as they are to fiction); and we’ll take a long, hard look at scene, that essential building block of any story. In the process, we’ll explore effective ways to build and reveal character. Whether you’re writing about an historical character, an invented one, or yourself, there are techniques to get that character across to a reader. By the end of our time together, it will be evident how these elements of craft all come together to help you create fluid, vibrant, and effective writing. 

Each week, you’ll be given an assignment that asks you to both read and write with intention and purpose. You’ll read as a writer, bearing in mind the craft element that’s the focus of that week; the writing assignment builds on those ideas, as you apply these tools of craft to your own work. Alternating weeks, your writing is either discussed in a workshop forum, with feedback from your peers and Sands; or you receive private written comments from Sands. Toward the end of our six weeks together, you’ll meet with Sands in a 30-minute individual conference, in which you can discuss your writing in more detail, and ask specific questions about your ongoing work.  

During our initial meeting, we’ll introduce ourselves, discuss a preliminary assignment, and launch into our first discussion of craft, supported by careful examination of published examples; we’ll end with a reading and writing assignment due the following week. In subsequent sessions, our three-hour meetings will take shape in the following way (below is Central time; be sure to adjust for your own time zone).

2:00-3:30: Examination of the previous week’s assigned reading, focusing on how it applies to the craft element under discussion. This is followed by workshop and class discussion of the writing assignment.

3:30-3:45: Break

3:45-5:00: Further workshop as needed, followed by lecture and discussion of the next craft focus, including illustrative examples and the occasional in-class prompt. The final ten-fifteen minutes are devoted to presentation of the reading and writing assignments for the following week.


Sands Hall is the author of the memoir Reclaiming My Decade Lost in Scientology (Counterpoint), a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and a Publishers Weekly Best Book in Religion and Spirituality. She is also the author of the novel Catching Heaven (Ballantine), a Random House Reader’s Circle selection; and a book on writing, Tools of the Writer’s Craft. Her stories and essays have appeared in such journals as New England Review, Iowa Review, and Los Angeles Review of Books. She brings her extensive theatre experience—as playwright, actor, and director—as well as her work as a singer/songwriter and performer, to her teaching. Professor Emeritus at Franklin & Marshall College, she teaches annually for the Community of Writers and for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, among others. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in California.

What Festival participants say about working with Sands:

Taking this class has been the best thing that I have done for myself in a while and the best thing I have done for my writing—ever!

—Lise G. 

I’m grateful to Sands for the inspiration, the excellent teaching at her skilled hands, her graciousness and kindness, and most of all the courage to continue.

—Christie F. 

Sands is amazing at listening to and evaluating people’s writing in so much detail and with such wonderful grace.

—Stef T. 

Sands offered the nuts and bolts of craft. Her steady examples, straightforward descriptions, and brilliant stepping stones to success were presented professionally and lovingly.

—Eileen J. 

I kept thinking throughout this workshop that I wish I had encountered Sands in my younger days. She’s a wonderful instructor and I’m in awe of the enthusiasm and fresh outlook she brought to every class.

—Karla A.

Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $700. 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, February 26, 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!