GSWP Class Schedule

Registration is now open for Spring 2019 classes with the Great Smokies Writing Program.

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.


Five-Week Courses

LANG 371: Writing in the Age of Loneliness: Eco-literature & the Writer’s Task
Instructor: Nickole Brown

Class meets Mondays, 6-8:30pm, Feb. 11, Mar. 4, 11, 18, and April 15
Location: Hanger Hall School, 64 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

We are now in the throes of a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. Some call it the Antropocene, but biologist E.O. Wilson said it may be called by scientists and poets alike the Eremozoic, meaning “The Age of Loneliness.” If we take the worries of climate change and habitat destruction seriously—and in this lonely age potentially bereft of our fellow creatures—how can we help but feel an incapacitating sense of hopelessness that threatens to render things like literature and poems utterly useless? In this course, we’ll strive together to find ways past this potentially debilitating hurdle. We’ll ask questions that instead of silencing ourselves will urge us on: What is our responsibility as writers to this epoch? Can the average working person with limited access to nature make any difference? How might we depict the suffering of non-human but sentient beings? How can one write about plants and animals without producing work that is sentimental, overly personified, flat-lined with facts, or, worse, rendered incapable of communicating from its own rage? What impact can we make with our words? In this course, we’ll study poems, lyric essays, and stories that have their own solutions to these pitfalls and will try our hands at writing through this darkness with awareness, control, and yes, even hope. 

Nickole Brown is the author of Sister, first published in 2007 with a new edition reissued by Sibling Rivalry Press in 2018. Her second book, Fanny Says, came out from BOA Editions and won the Weatherford Award for Appalachian Poetry in 2015. The audiobook of that collection became available in 2017. She is the Editor for the Marie Alexander Poetry Series and teaches at the Sewanee School of Letters MFA Program, the Great Smokies Writing Program at UNCA, and the Hindman Settlement School. She lives with her wife, poet Jessica Jacobs, in Asheville, NC, where she volunteers at four different animal sanctuaries. Currently, she’s at work on a bestiary of sorts about these animals, but it won’t consist of the kind of pastorals that always made her (and most of the working-class folks she knows) feel shut out of nature and the writing about it—these poems speak in a queer, Southern-trash-talking kind of way about nature beautiful, damaged, dangerous, and in desperate need of saving. A chapbook of these poems called To Those Who Were Our First Gods recently won the 2018 Rattle Chapbook Prize.

Lang 371: In the beginning: Exploring Questions of Spirituality & Faith Through Poetry & Creative Nonfiction
Instructor: Jessica Jacobs

Class meets Tuesdays, 6-8:30pm, Feb. 12, March 5, 12, 19, and April 16
Location: Hanger Hall School, 64 W.T. Weaver Blvd., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

We live in a time of always more, always faster, a time of disembodied screen-living where what’s new insists on itself as what’s most important. But outside this frenzy are questions that demand slow pondering, queries old as human consciousness: Why are we here? Is there a God? How do we live knowing our lives have a definite deadline? The long history of human engagement with these ideas, the striving after answers, is best recorded in religious texts. There, we find the stories and rituals, commandments and prohibitions, that, whether or not we believe in a faith of our own, have shaped the world in which we live. In this course, we’ll closely read what writers of all faiths and no faith have written in their grappling with these ideas and add our voices to a conversation that stretches across geography and time. Intended for writers of all levels, classes will be a blend of spirited discussion, contemplative meditations, and generative exercises. And, in the biblical spirit, our reading and writing will encompass both poetry and prose (specifically, in our case, creative nonfiction).

Jessica Jacobs is the author of Pelvis with Distance, a biography-in-poems of the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, winner of the New Mexico Book Award and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. Her second collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You're Going, will be out with Four Way Books in March 2019 and she is currently at work on paired collections of essays and poetry, which both explore questions of faith. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in publications including Orion, New England Review, The Missouri Review, and the Alaska Quarterly Review. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock-climbing instructor, bartender, and, in addition to leading writing workshops around the country, has taught as a writer-in-residence at Hendrix College, Converse College, American Jewish University's Brandeis Collegiate Institute, and the MFA program at UNC-Wilmington.  Associate Editor for Beloit Poetry Journal, she lives in Asheville, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown. 


Ten-Week Courses

LANG 372: Riding the Rocket Ship: Revising Your Poems
Instructor: Tina Barr 

Class meets Monday afternoons, 1:00-3:30pm, beginning Feb. 18 and running for 10 weeks
Location: Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State Street, Black Mountain, NC 28711

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

The best poems seem like rocket ships; they suddenly “take off,” into arenas we might not expect.  They reveal the personal while engaging with an outside world, juxtapose the expected with the unexpected, make connections beyond the ordinary.  Whether you are just beginning to write or a more experienced writer, learning how to “accelerate” in new directions is a process of growth.  We want our imaginations to explore, explode, surprise us as writers.  As Robert Frost said, “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”  This workshop will focus on providing optional exercises as strategies to “fuel” your poem(s), developing them in new directions. While there will be limited outside reading of examples (Ada Limon, Alice Friman, Gerald Stern, W.H. Auden), the workshop will foster new poems as well as revisions.  The class will be structured so we allow ample discussion time for participants’ poems. 

Tina Barr’s six volumes of poetry include her latest Green Target (winner of the Barrow Street Press Book Prize), Kaleidoscope (Iris Press), The Gathering Eye,  (Tupelo Press Editor’s Award) and three chapbooks, all winners of national competitions.  New poems have been recently published in American Journal of Poetry, Barrow Street Journal, Louisiana Literature, Tar River Review, and elsewhere.  She has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the MacDowell Colony and the Ucross Foundation.  

LANG 372: Creating Bridges Rather than Barriers: A Creative Nonfiction Workshop
Instructor: Chris Highland

Class meets Wednesdays, 6-8:30pm, beginning Feb. 20 and running for 10 weeks
Location: Thomas Wolfe Memorial, 52 N. Market St., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

Are there creative ways to communicate our worldviews and beliefs that create bridges rather than barriers? In our wall-building times, we need to discover new verbal passages—ways to express our most sensitive viewpoints in ways that include rather than exclude. In this course we will consider various styles of presentation, not to “evangelize” but to open the way to honest discussion where everyone feels heard. The focus will be on telling stories of our deeply cherished beliefs (or non-beliefs) in an honest yet invitational manner, refining our writing to enhance understanding across fences of faith and freethought. Ample class time will be given to comparing examples of experiential stories that reveal intersections of belief and unbelief as students sharpen and present their own writing in a respectful environment.

Chris Highland has taught courses in religion, philosophy and literature for many years. He currently teaches classes on Freethought at the Reuter Center (OLLI) and Blue Ridge Community College. Chris has a Master of Divinity degree through the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and a Bachelor degree in Philosophy and Religion from Seattle Pacific University. He served as an ordained Presbyterian minister and interfaith chaplain for several decades. His published works include A Freethinker’s Gospel (2018), My Address is a River (2010) and a series of wisdom collections beginning with Meditations of John Muir (2001). He writes a weekly “Highland Views” column for the Asheville Citizen-Times addressing issues of faith from a secular and humanist viewpoint. Chris and his wife Carol Hovis, a Presbyterian minister, spiritual director and certified Enneagram teacher, live in Asheville.

LANG 372: The Devil You Know: The Art, Skill and Thrill of Writing Your Memoir
Instructor: Brian Lee Knopp

Class meets Thursdays, 6-8:30pm, beginning Feb. 21 and running for 10 weeks
Location: RiverLink Offices, 170 Lyman St., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

A memoir is neither a diary made public nor a rough draft of your obituary.  It is a word kaleidoscope conveying the most colorful expressions of your life, often through the prism of a single intense experience.  But beware!  Memoir writing is a heroic quest for clarity amid chaos, a daring rescue of the truth trapped inside your life’s labyrinth. Should you do it?  Absolutely.  Can you do it?  Of course. You were born for the task. How do you do it?  By building up memory muscles, strengthening your capacity for empathy and informed imagination, and improving your language reflexes in order to convey your experience in the most vivid, convincing and authentic narrative possible. This course will require in-class and at-home writing assignments and class pre-writing or “life-storming” sessions—all dedicated to transforming a life lived into an unforgettable work of art. Required Reading: Helen Macdonald, H is for Hawk, Grove Press 2014 and Brian Lee Knopp, "Three Steps Toward Becoming a Dog Writer"

Brian Lee Knopp is the author of the 2009 best-selling memoir Mayhem in Mayberry: Misadventures of a P.I. in Southern Appalachia. He also created and contributed to the 2012 collaborative mystery novel Naked Came the Leaf Peeper. A former professional sheep shearer with an M.A. degree in English Literature from the University of Texas at Austin, Knopp has taught at Warren Wilson College and for the Great Smokies Writing Program. His nonfiction work has appeared in Stoneboat Journal, WNC Magazine, and Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine. His book reviews, essays, and poems have been published in several regional magazines and anthologies. 

LANG 372: Shape-Shifting Poems: A Writing Workshop
Instructor: Eric Nelson

Class meets Wednesday afternoons, 2-4:30pm, beginning Feb. 20 and running 10 weeks
Location: The Kellogg Center, 1181 Broyles Rd., Hendersonville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

When you write a poem in a received form—a sonnet, for example—the poem’s shape is predetermined (14 lines, ten syllables per line—a little box on the page), but in free verse, the shape of the poem is entirely the writer’s decision: single stanza or multiple stanzas? couplets, tercets, quatrains, or irregular stanzas? short lines, long lines, or a combination? What about layout and use of white space? This course will focus on the many different shapes that poems can take and how the shape influences tone, rhythm, and content.  Trying out different shapes while you are drafting a poem can help you discover what you want to say, or what needs to be added, or what should be cut. Throughout the term, we will read, discuss, write and workshop poems in a variety of shapes. Readings will be provided by the instructor. 

Eric Nelson’s six books include the award winning collections Some Wonder (Gival Press Poetry Award), Terrestrials (Texas Review Poetry Award), and The Interpretation of Waking Life (University of Arkansas Poetry Award). He taught poetry workshops at Georgia Southern University for 26 years before moving to Asheville in 2015.

LANG 372: Methodical Madness: A Fiction Workshop
Instructor: Heather Newton

Class meets Mondays, 6-8:30pm, beginning Feb. 25 and running 10 weeks
Location: Flatiron Writers Room, 5 Covington St., west Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

This course is for writers of fiction who want to generate new work, and have work critiqued for revision in a supportive workshop setting. Students should come committed to writing in response to prompts and giving and receiving thoughtful criticism as members of a community of writers. You may submit two pieces of up to 12 pages for group critique. For the last class, you will submit a piece of work to a publication or contest. Our text will be The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante (any edition is fine), who, along with Shakespeare’s Hamlet, reminds us that when it comes to writing, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” 

Heather Newton is Program Manager for Asheville’s Flatiron Writers Room writers’ center. Her novel Under The Mercy Trees (HarperCollins 2011) won the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, was chosen by the Women’s National Book Association as a Great Group Reads Selection and named an “Okra Pick” by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (“great southern fiction fresh off the vine”). Her short fiction has appeared in Enchanted Conversation, The Drum, Crucible and elsewhere.

LANG 372: The Poet as Witness: A Poetry Workshop
Instructor: Pat Riviere-Seel

Class meets Tuesdays, 4-6:30pm, beginning Feb. 19 and running 10 weeks
Location: First Baptist Church of Burnsville, 11 Town Square, Burnsville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

Throughout history, poets have written poems that address - and often offer resistance to – social, cultural, and political events. What can we learn from poets such as Anna Akhmatova and Carolyn Forché about how to craft poems for the zeitgeist of the early 21stcentury? What is the poet’s role and the poet’s obligation in making art? How do our poems bear witness? We will look at examples of a wide variety of poems of witness and discuss strategies, techniques and craft elements for writing our own poems. We’ll use prompts to write a poem each week and discuss the work in class. This class is appropriate for beginning as well as experienced poets. Handouts of poems will be provided.

Pat Riviere-Seel is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Nothing Below but Air. No Turning Back Nowand The Serial Killer’s Daughter,winner of the Roanoke-Chowan Award. She served as the Distinguished Poet for Western North Carolina from 2016-2018 in the NC Poetry Society’s Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series. In September 2017, Pat received the Charlie Award at the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, NC. She co-edited the 2016 Kakalakanthology and in2012 she served as poet-in-residence at the NC Zoo.  Before earning her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte, she worked as a newspaper journalist, publicist, and lobbyist. She lives in Asheville, NC.

Fifteen-Week Courses 

LANG 473: The Bare Necessities: An Introduction to the Craft of Creative Prose
Instructor: Tommy Hays

Class meets Wednesdays, 6-8:30, beginning Jan. 30 and running for 15 weeks
Location: RiverLink Offices, 170 Lyman Street, Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

In the writer’s world, craft is another word for hope.  The more the writer understands the possible approaches to her material, the more likely it is she will find a way into the story she wants to tell.  This class is for anyone interested in learning the essential elements of writing fiction and creative nonfiction.  Each week will be devoted to an aspect of craft, which we will explore through discussion and in-class writing exercises.  The backbone of the class will be the craft book The Making of a Story: A Norton Guide to Creative Writing by Alice LaPlante, which offers great insights and as well as examples of published pieces that illustrate LaPlante’s points. 

Tommy Hays’s middle grade novel, What I Came to Tell You (Egmont USA), was chosen as an Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and was a VOYA Top Shelf Pick. His novel, The Pleasure Was Mine (St. Martin’s Press), was a Finalist for the SIBA Fiction Award and has been chosen for numerous community reads. His other novels are Sam’s Crossing (Atheneum) and In the Family Way (Random House), a selection of The Book of the Month Club and winner of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award. He’s published stories in Redbook, The Chattahoochee Review, Smoky Mountain Living and storySouth.  Recently he was named The Carolina Mountain Literary Festival’s honoree for the Charlie Award, named in honor of Charles F. Price, and “given each year to an author who exemplifies fine writing and who works to build community." He is Executive Director of the Great Smokies Writing Program and Core Faculty for the Master of Liberal Arts and Sciences program at UNC Asheville.  He also teaches in the Converse Low-Residency MFA Program.  A member of the National Book Critics Circle, he received his BA in English from Furman University and graduated from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.  For more information, please go to

LANG 473: Staying the Course: A Creative Prose Workshop
Instructor: Vicki Lane

Class meets Thursdays, 6-8:30pm, beginning Jan. 31 and running 15 weeks
Location: Asheville School, Skinner Library, 360 Asheville School Rd., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

This workshop is aimed at writers with a work in progress, almost completed, or completed but in need of a final polishing. Each student will submit up to sixty pages (in increments of twenty over the course of the class) of work in progress for discussion and critique by the class and close editing with written comments by the instructor. We will focus on the effective use of key techniques such as creating an intriguing opening, crafting a likable and/or engaging protagonist, weaving in back story in small, manageable doses, setting up a dilemma that begs to be resolved, making the most of action scenes, -- in general, producing a page-turner. We will attempt to weed out the mistakes that mark the amateur writer and help each student to become a discerning editor of his own work. The goal will be to polish those pages till they are ready to catch the attention of an agent, an editor, or a publisher and make them ask for more. The recommended text is the highly acclaimed Don't Sabotage Your Submission by career manuscript editor Chris Roerden.

Vicki Lane is the author of the Elizabeth Goodweather mystery series from Bantam Dell.  She has taught with the Great Smokies Writing Program since 2006. She has also led writing workshops at Wildacres, John C. Campbell Folk School, and Historic Rugby.  Learn more about Vicki and her writing at her website and her blog

LANG 473: Prose Master Class: A Creative Prose Workshop
Instructor: Elizabeth Lutyens

Class meets Tuesdays, 6-8:30pm, beginning Jan. 29 and running 15 weeks
Location: Asheville School, Skinner Library, 360 Asheville School Rd., Asheville

Application, registration, and tuition information can be found here.

The Prose Master Class is a next step for those seeking an intensive writing experience. This small–group workshop is limited to experienced writers who are working on an ongoing project: a collection of essays or stories, a novel, a memoir. The writer should have at least sixty pages ready to submit for three critiques during the semester. An equally important commitment is for class members to offer the best possible attention to the work of others.

Most classes begin with a craft session requiring outside reading, with the focus on the theme for the semester. In lieu of some craft sessions, we will do in-class writing, with prompts, to generate fresh ideas and approaches. The emphasis for the course, always, is the review of student work, which includes extensive and in-depth comments from the instructor. For each of the three rounds of workshops, the methods will vary, from traditional craft-based discussions…to free-form explorations of resonance as well as craft…to writer’s choice.

Admission to the Prose Master Class is by permission from Tommy Hays or Elizabeth Lutyens, who has led this class for ten years. A former journalist, Elizabeth is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at Warren Wilson College and is completing her own work: a novel set in Boston and the Port Royal islands of South Carolina during the early 1860s. She is Editor in Chief of The Great Smokies Review, the online literary magazine published by The Great Smokies Writing Program and UNC Asheville.

For more information about the Prose Master Class, contact Tommy ( or Elizabeth (


The Great Smokies Writing Program is committed to providing the community with affordable university-level classes taught by professional writers, and to giving voice to local and regional writers through Writers at Home, its free reading series. The Great Smokies Writing Program wishes to thank Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café for its support of the Writers at Home series.