Repetition and Evolution: A Tool for Structure

In this workshop, we take a close look at the children’s book There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and the Marc Richard short story, “Strays,” to see what they can teach us about how to structure a story. We discuss the natural progression and repetitions in these narratives and how each story resolves itself through evolving the repeating element.

Workshop attendees take a close look at their own works in progress to see how they can apply these principles to their own stories. We discuss strategies in implementing this structure in ongoing work.

Making Messes: How Character and Plot Thrive on Mistakes

Fiction often relies on bad behavior and making messes. In an interview about writing his movies, Ethan Coen said that many of his stories begin when he takes a situation or problem and gives it to a character who is incapable of dealing with it. Mistakes are then made, and they pile up, moving the narrative forward. In this class, we’ll look at the movie Raising Arizona and a few pieces of literature where characters create difficult problems for themselves and then have to solve them.

Come to this workshop prepared to write! We’ll be doing some exercises in character development with bad behavior and mistakes in mind. Problems in fiction often stem from interactions between characters. We’ll pay close attention to what kinds of interactions might create the best problems for your characters, and how these can relate to the broader narrative within a story.

Caves and Cathedrals: Writing a Novel in Dark and Daylight

Herman Melville compared writing a novel to building a cathedral. Virginia Woolf described it as digging caves—at a certain point, the caves would connect, and daylight would finally appear. But how to get from that first stone, or idea, to the cathedral of your novel?

In this workshop, we’ll try out some cave digging exercises and explore strategies for drafting and outlining. As part of our discussion, we’ll touch on narrative promises, structuring scenes and chapters for momentum, and revision tools used by well-known contemporary novelists. This will be an interactive class. Bring your novel-in-progress—and your struggles and triumphs while writing it. If you’re just starting, that’s okay, too. There’s something here for everyone, no matter where you are in your novel-writing journey.


Submissions Strategies

In this workshop, we discuss what it’s like as a literary magazine editor moving through the slush pile: sins we’re willing to forgive, and those we’re not. We’ll also look at tools to finding literary magazines that are a best fit for your work, how to rate them, and when to submit to what. We’ll also look at strategies for submitting to contests. If it’s in part a numbers game, then this class is about figuring out your best odds.

Tools for Publication: To Know and to Make Known

The meaning of the word ‘publish’ means to “make known” or “make public,” but there’s so much unknown about how to get published. The industry often feels hidden from the very people who want to access it: writers! In this class, we take a look at some tools in how to make your work known—whether you’re writing individual poems, stories, essays or whole books. In addition, we’ll learn about formatting the best query letters, writing a synopsis, submissions practices of literary magazines, independent book publishers and more. We’ll look at some of the best resources in finding the right publication or agent for your work, how to gain access to those agents and editors, when your project is ready to query and more. You’re welcome to bring your one page query letters and synopses for real-time feedback. What and where are the ideal places you want to publish? Who are your dream readers? Let’s find them.


February through October of 2021, I co-hosted a weekly Zoom series supported by SC Humanities and the South Carolina Writers Association called Writing Conversations. In it, I discussed craft and publishing topics with published authors.


For five years, Amber was conference director for SCWA, planning their virtual and in-person conferences, designing workshops and educational series on craft and publishing topics, interviewing industry professionals and moderating numerous panels of publishers, agents and authors.