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May 29–June 26, 2021. Beginning Novel Workshop: Start Your Novel from Scratch with Kelly Dwyer is a Course

May 29–June 26, 2021. Beginning Novel Workshop: Start Your Novel from Scratch with Kelly Dwyer

Time limit: 60 days

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Full course description



Beginning Novel Workshop: Start Your Novel from Scratch with Kelly Dwyer (Five–Week Workshop)


Saturdays on Zoom, May 29–June 26, 2021

10:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Iowa/Central Time (11:00–1:30 Eastern; 9:00–11:30 Pacific; 10:00–12:30 Mountain)

Fee: $550

Course Description

Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a novel, and now you finally have the chance. Maybe you’ve long suspected you might have a novel in you, but you’ve never quite known where or how to begin. Or perhaps you’ve gone along quite happily for most of your life without thinking you needed to write a novel, but now, for some inexplicable reason, bread baking or flash fiction writing or whatever creative outlet that has been satisfying your soul up until now is no longer cutting it, and the novel is singing to you its siren song. What do you do?

Do you simply begin writing? Chapter one, page one, sentence one? Or should you come up with some sort of an outline first? Maybe you should write a list of character names and descriptions; that sounds fun. Should you research settings? (You wouldn’t be procrastinating, would you? If you would… well, welcome to novel writing!)

The answer, of course, is that there is no one way to begin a novel, but in this five-week course, in which we’ll meet for 2.5 hours each Saturday, we’ll discuss some successful strategies that will put you on the best paths to success.

You can come to the first class with a fully-formed idea in your head… or you can come with not the faintest idea for a novel at all. You can come with a first chapter, or you can come with not a single word written. This workshop will be focused on generating new material. It includes a 30-minute Zoom conference with each participant.

We will begin at the beginning, and you will leave the class with a plot outline, a character arc, a sense of what your novel needs to accomplish—and most important, a sense of how to begin, as well as the tools you need to finish.


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

Registration & Fees

The fee for this course is $550. Payment in full is required to register.

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

Enrollment for this class opens at 11:00 a.m. Central Time, Monday, April 26.

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.”

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!