COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to the delta variant and the Marconi Conference Center not reopening in time for our workshop, 

we will hold the workshop online over Zoom. We are currently planing to be back in-person in 2022. 

The Writing By Writers Tomales Bay Workshop brings emerging writers into close community with nationally known poets and writers. Classes are limited to 12 participants for manuscript critique workshops and 15 for generative workshops to ensure an intimate setting. 

When: October 20 - 24, 2021 ONLINE over Zoom.

Tuition: $950 includes one four-day workshop, admittance to all panels and readings.

Format: In 2021 we will hold the Tomales Bay Workshop online over Zoom. Workshops are held each morning for four consecutive days. The workshops allow participants to work closely with a nationally known writer, to receive constructive feedback from their peers, and to spend four intensive days dedicated to creativity. Afternoons are reserved for panels on craft and evenings will feature readings by our faculty.  

Faculty: Our faculty includes Kaveh Akbar, Alexander Chee, Mark Doty, Pam Houston, Elizabeth McCracken, and Tommy Orange.


Faculty & Workshops

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Crushed Glass and Medusa's Veil: Exploring The Revelatory Break

Kaveh Akbar

In his A Year With Swollen Appendices, Brian Eno talks about experiencing the crack in a blue’s singer’s voice or the static of a grainy film as being “the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.” If we accept as American writers that our medium, the English language, is one of the deadliest colonial weapons ever invented, then its breaking becomes a political urgency. How do we undermine our language’s inherent corrosiveness, turn a violent technology against itself to speak to things—doubt, sex, identity, justice, rage—it would rather us leave unspoken? This course will look at writers—including Robert Hayden, Jean Valentine, M. NourbeSe Philip, and Jos Charles—who use revelatory breaks in idiom, form, and syntax to render with clarity what is too urgent, too momentous, for mere rhetorical speech. We will then apply those techniques to our own imaginings of what might be possible outside the inherited strictures of our inherently imperialist medium. This is a generative workshop.

Kaveh Akbar's poems appear recently in The New Yorker, New York Times, Paris Review, Poetry, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. His newest book, Pilgrim Bell, will be published by Graywolf in 2021; he is also the author of Calling a Wolf a Wolf (Alice James 2017). Kaveh was born in Tehran, Iran, and teaches at Purdue University and in the low-residency MFA programs at Randolph and Warren Wilson Colleges. 


Resurrections: A Fiction Workshop

Alexander Chee

This fiction workshop will be focused primarily on work that you’ve abandoned and yet feel drawn back to working on, or work that has taken many years and is still unfinished. We will look at how to cast new life into seemingly dead or unresolvable novels and stories, and students will leave with a tool kit of options they can use going forward when it happens again. We will do writing prompts to investigate what might have gone wrong, or what was lost, or what is blocked, and encourage each other as we pursue answers, new pages, renewal and real endings. Manuscripts are limited to 5000 words.

Alexander Chee is the author of the novels Edinburgh and The Queen of the Night, and the essay collection How To Write An Autobiographical Novel, all from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and an editor at large at VQR. His essays and stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, T Magazine, The Sewaneee Review, The Yale Review, and Guernica, among others, and anthologized in the 2016 and 2019 Best American Essays. He is winner of a 2003 Whiting Award, a 2004 NEA Fellowship in prose and a 2010 MCCA Fellowship, The Randy Shilts Prize in gay nonfiction, the Paul Engle Prize, the 2018 One Story Magazine’s Mentor of the Year Award, and residency fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the VCCA, Civitella Ranieri and Amtrak. He is an associate professor of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.


Hybrid Forms

Mark Doty

Some of our time’s most compelling writing feels unclassifiable in terms of genre. Claudia Rankine, Maggie Nelson, Nick Flynn, Anne Carson and Terry Tempest Williams, to name a few, often blur or erase boundaries between essay, memoir, theory and poetry. Hybrid writing may open different registers of feeling and thinking, and surprise readers with unexpected juxtapositions. Do the ways we experience reality now require new ways of shaping our work?  In this generative workshop, we’ll look at a range of examples and use them as springboards for writing. The workshop welcomes writers who identify themselves as poets, essayists, memoirists, who have dual genre identities or none at all. You need only writing implements, a little nerve, and a willingness to go exploring. 


Mark Doty is the author of nine books of poetry, including Deep Lane, Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, which won the 2008 National Book Award, and My Alexandria, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the T.S. Eliot Prize in the UK. He is also the author of four memoirs: the New York Times-bestselling What Is the Grass, Dog Years, Firebird, and Heaven’s Coast, as well as a book about craft and criticism, The Art of Description: World Into Word. Doty has received two NEA fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize.


In Praise of The Nouns That Give Us Hope

Pam Houston

If we are to make it through these harrowing times, it will be with the strength and beauty of our individual stories. It will be in our ability to love the specific physical stuff of our lives. Our dogs, our partners, our favorite chicken green chili stew, the books we hold dearest, our pasts, and how they have made us strong enough to weather the storm. This workshop will look at the short stories, novel chapters, memoir chapters, personal essays of its twelve participants. When we come together we will talk about each piece. We will focus on what I believe to be the real artistry of writing: the translation of the emotional stakes of the story onto its physical landscape. Using the workshop stories, and some outside reading, we will work toward demystifying some of the essential components of fiction and creative nonfiction (image, metaphor, structure, dialogue, character, scene, among others) and turning them into comprehensible tools that are at our disposal. At the same time we will honor the (sometimes) inexplicable flights of imagination and/or lyricism that take a good story and make it great. Another thing we will talk about is the ever expanding grey area that exists between fiction and nonfiction: the fictionalized memoir, the autobiographical novel, the lyric personal narrative, and how we might go about deciding what genre best suits a particular body of work.  In preparation for this class, please do your best to read What You Have Heard Is True, by Carloyn Forché, and There, There by Tommy Orange. Manuscripts for critique are limited to 5000 words.

Pam Houston is the author of the memoir, Deep Creek: Finding Hope In The High Country, which won the 2019 Colorado Book Award, the High Plains Book Award and the Reading The West Advocacy Award and more recently, Air Mail: Letters of Politics Pandemics and Place coauthored with Amy Irvine.  She is also the author of Cowboys Are My Weakness, Contents May Have Shifted, and four other books of fiction and nonfiction, all published by W.W. Norton. She lives at 9,000 feet above sea level on a 120-acre homestead near the headwaters of the Rio Grande and teaches creative writing at UC Davis and at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is cofounder and creative director of the literary nonprofit Writing by Writers and fiction editor at the Environmental Arts Journal She raises Icelandic Sheep and Irish Wolfhounds and is a fierce advocate for the Earth.

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Fiction Workshop

Elizabeth McCracken

There is so much to think about, when it comes to writing, and so little to know: that’s what I think after a few decades of trying my hand at it. That’s the good news. There are no rules other than the rules each piece of fiction sets up for itself. In this workshop, we will read each other’s work with generosity and optimism and rigor and good humor, and we will work to understand each piece’s best intentions, and imagine what will help the author to fulfill them. Manuscripts limited to 5000 words.


Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books: Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry, The Giant’s House, Niagara Falls All Over Again, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Thunderstruck & Other Stories, Bowlaway, and the forthcoming collection of short stories The Souvenir Museum. She’s received grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Liguria Study Center, the American Academy in Berlin, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Thunderstruck & Other Stories won the 2015 Story Prize. Her work has been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, The O. Henry Prize, The New York Times Magazine, and many other places.


Considering the Reader: A Fiction Workshop

Tommy Orange

​We live in a distracted, brutally fast world now and there are countless other things to do than read, so I like to focus on the experience you’re facilitating for the reader, how to think about the writing in terms of making sentences either shine or disappear—always keeping pacing in mind, and increasing readability without sacrificing voice. That being said I believe the workshop as a whole is more important than the individual facilitator, so I try to help facilitate a kind and generous shared experience. I believe the most helpful kinds of feedback in a workshop are as kind as they are considerate. Manuscripts limited to 5000 words.


Tommy Orange is a graduate from the MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts. He is a 2014 MacDowell Fellow, and a 2016 Writing by Writers Fellow. He is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma. His novel, There There won the PEN/Hemingway Award, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the American Book Award. He was born and raised in Oakland, California, and currently lives in Angels Camp, California.


Workshop Schedule*


5:00 – 5:15 pm        Welcome & Orientation

5:15 – 6:15 pm        Faculty Reading

6:15 – 7:00 pm        Meet Your Workshop


9:00 – 12:00 pm       Workshops

3:00 – 4:30 pm         Panel Discussion

5:00 – 6:00 pm         Faculty Readings


9:00 – 12:00 pm       Workshops

3:00 – 4:30 pm         Panel Discussion

5:00 – 6:00 pm         Faculty Readings


9:00 – 12:00 pm       Workshops

2:00 – 3:30 pm         Fellowship Winner Reading

3:30 – 4:30 pm         Cocktail Mixer

4:30 – 6:00 pm         Open Mic Readings


9:00 – 12:00 pm       Workshops

12:00 – 12:30 pm       Wrap-up



Application Details

Acceptance to the workshop is based upon review of a writing sample (10 pages of fiction or nonfiction/personal essay, or five poems).  Writing samples must be double spaced, using a size 11 or 12 Times New Roman or similar font.

An application fee of $25 is required. If you are accepted to the workshop, your application fee of $25 will be applied to your tuition. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once you apply you will receive an immediate email confirmation of your application. Sometimes these go into your junk or bulk mail folder. If this happens, please add to your safe senders list to make sure you get our acceptance notification! If you are accepted, you will be notified of your workshop placement via email and asked to confirm your intention to attend within one weeks by enrolling and submitting a payment deposit of $950. 

Fellowships:  WxW offers a limited number of fellowships for the Tomales Bay workshop. Fellowships are highly competitive. The WxW Board reviews each fellowship submission and awards are made on the merit of the writing sample alone. Please do not send letters of recommendation. Fellowships cover the cost of tuition, room and board, but do not cover transportation. To apply for a fellowship, please check the “Fellowship Submission” box on the workshop application. The deadline for fellowship consideration is May 1. We are always seeking funding for additional fellowships. If you would like to sponsor a fellowship, please contact us at

Cancellation Policy:  If you cancel by August 1, 2021, your tuition will be refunded minus a $150 cancellation fee. Refunds for cancellations made after August 1 are contingent upon filling your place and will be made only if your place is filled. In the unlikly event that we must cancel a workshop and you do not wish to transfer to another workshop, you will receive a full refund.