Literary Non-Fiction Workshop, July 23-30

Led by: Glenn Stout, Brett Popplewell, and Kim Cross

This invitation-only workshop provides professional writers and journalists a unique opportunity to practice the craft of literary nonfiction in Archer City Texas, a one-stoplight town with a rich literary history. Unlike other writing workshops that offer group feedback on existing stories, this immersive program requires active, hands-on practice in a real-world environment. Think of it as Spring Training for the sport of storytelling.

For one intense, immersive, life-changing week, a group of 10 professionals from the U.S. and Canada will work to elevate their craft with a small staff of published writers, among the top practitioners in the field. This year’s staff includes a a New York Times best-selling author of literary nonfiction, an accomplished author and editor of one of our country’s best storytelling anthologies, and a freelance writer, university instructor and author consistently included on best-of lists for his long-form narratives.

At the Archer City Story Center, we aim to break open old concepts of storytelling and push you out of your comfort zone, into the realm where transformative growth occurs. We will do so through an immersive real-time curriculum unlike any other. Each day begins with a discussion on a specific element of the craft. By mid-morning, you will be dispatched into the “living laboratory” of Archer City, a one-stoplight town and setting for the classic film “The Last Picture Show, to gather timeless stories from the same sort of vivid denizens Larry McMurtry discovered and drew upon for his many novels of western Americana.

You will report and write stories, in real time, in an environment where you are challenged to stretch and experiment. By evening, you will reconvene with the group to share your work over dinner and critiques from peers and staff. If you’re not sated, the evening may linger indeterminately with storytelling somewhere off the paved road between men and women of letters, swirling beer in bottles held by the necks under the inky sky and only-in-Texas stars.

The point of this workshop is not necessarily to publish. It's to learn and grow as storytellers. We aim to give working writers a chance to practice the craft and experiment without the pressure of publishing or the fear of failure. If individuals desire to create a publishable piece through the exercises, we support that. But it is not an expectation. In fact, we want to liberate our writers for one full week from the burden of expectations.

Here’s what some attendees from last year had to say:

“What an amazing week! I really can’t thank you all enough for this experience. My heart will always hold a place for Archer City and the friends I made there. I needed this experience right now so much, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.”

“I thought the workshop’s pace and structure was nearly perfect and allowed me to keep busy without feeling overwhelmed by the workload I loved the classes. I loved The Spur.  I loved being pushed to share my work. I loved listening to other people’s work. I loved the diversity of the writers. Right now it’s all still magic.”

“EVERYTHING WORKED. Seriously. It was a brilliant concept to split the days dissecting a part of the craft, then practicing it. I learn by doing, not by talking, so personally, it was really helpful to learn new tactics and concepts, then immediately put them to use. You…created a safe and trusting environment to experiment in. That's huge. I also loved how diverse the group was… I was really looking forward to this, and all expectations were exceeded. The days were long but the week flew by. That's the mark of a true experience.”

“I will never forget my time in Archer City.”

WHY IS IT INVITATION ONLY? We try to select a diverse, non-competitive group of 10 strangers from 10 states who can all learn from each other’s unique background. We continue the invitation-only tradition used by George Getschow, founder of the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Workshop, and founder of the graduate-level workshop that has evolved into a professional workshop. Now redesigned for working professionals, the workshop mixes people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels. The common factor is a desire to learn and a need for something that we feel we can uniquely offer. We do not accept applications, but if you have an interest, we’re happy to talk with you. We have, in some cases, accepted self-nominated candidates based on their desire, needs, and strong professional/personal references.

FEES: The workshop fee is $1,000, which includes tuition and 7 nights’ lodging (a modest room with a private bath) at The Spur Hotel, an 88-year-old historic inn, our classroom and the headquarters of the Archer City Story Center.

FOOD: Coffee and continental breakfast will be provided, but lunch and dinner are up to you. Food in Archer City is limited: Murn’s Café is across the street (breakfast and lunch), a small grocery store in town sells modest supplies, and the hotel kitchen will be available for use. And there’s always the famous Dairy Queen where Larry McMurtry penned Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.

TRANSPORTATION: Getting to Archer City is half the adventure. It’s a 2-hour drive northwest of Dallas. (We recommend flying into DFW, which is closer to the Mayborn Conference location and our meet-up spot). We encourage participants to share a rental car (we can connect you ahead of time), and instructors may be able to offer a limited number of rides, based on first-come basis.

OPTIONAL ADD-ONS: We highly recommend attending the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, the biggest gathering of its kind in the nation. Held in Grapevine, Texas (a suburb of Dallas), it is held the weekend before the workshop. (We generally meet up after the conference and carpool to Archer City.) Not only are the speakers first-rate (this year’s keynote speakers include Sebastian Junger, Kathereine Boo, and Charles Johnson), the after-hours gatherings are an incredible networking event. Though we have no formal affiliation with the conference, we plan our workshop the following week so we can put what we learn immediately to practice.

CANCELLATION POLICY: We have a strict cancellation policy that allows us to keep our fees below cost: 100% refund before May 1; 75% by June 1; 50% by July 1; no refund after July 2, 2017.

Questions? Email Kim Cross at kimHcross (at) gmail (dot) com.