Clark Colleges hosts Creative Writing Festival May 6-11

For Immediate Release
April 23, 2024

Free festival culminates in day-long workshops designed for writers

VANCOUVER, Wash. — The English department at Clark College hosts its annual Creative Writing Festival from May 6-11. The event, which is free and open to the public, features activities geared for writers at all levels. The festival allows writers to immerse themselves in workshops and readings by renowned authors. It will culminate with the Clark Spring Creative Writing Workshop on Saturday, May 11, with a full day of workshops for writers.

All events will be in the Penguin Union Building (PUB) on Clark College's main campus, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver.  Directions and maps are available online.


May 6, 11 a.m. - noon, PUB 258B:
Writing from Lived Experience: A reading and conversation with author Peyton Marshall

May 7, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., LIB 101, Cannell Library:
“Exit Black” book release party: A reading and celebration of Clark English professor Joe Pitkin’s new sci-fi novel

May 8, 12 p.m. - 2 p.m., LIB 101, Cannell Library:
Create Your Own Comic: A hands-on workshop by Clark Art professor Grant Hottle. Art materials provided

May 9, 10 a.m.- noon, PUB 161:
“The Swift” release party with student readings and a celebration of the publication of the 2nd edition of Clark's student-run literary journal

May 9, 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., PUB 161:
English Department Awards Ceremony

May 10, 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., PUB 258B-C:
Yoga for Creativity: A free yoga class focused on connecting the mind and body to nourish creativity

May 11, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Penguin Union Building: Spring Writing Workshop:
A full day of writing workshops, readings, and community building. Includes free lunch, coffee, and pastries

Reserve your free tickets

Spring Writing Workshop on May 11

STEPHANIE ADAMS-SANTOS, "Dreamscape of the Altar". "You must give birth to your images." — Rilke. Through a blend of guided meditation and writing prompts, we will work to nurture a fertile soil for receiving sacred imagery from the depths of the psyche. Delving into the mysterious terrains of embodied inner life, we'll explore the concept of an interior altar, using active imagination to connect with unconscious symbols and dreams. This process serves as a pathway to delve more deeply into our own creative material. Note: We will be working on the floor for part of the workshop, though this portion can be adjusted to accommodate any body; all materials provided.

LISA BULLARD, "Opening Another Door: Symbolism in Poetry". Symbolism opens the door for a poet to say more with fewer words, and a striking symbol adds depth and intrigue to a poem. In this workshop, we will look at models of how others have used symbols and create symbols of our own. The workshop will be group oriented: the more brains, the better! We'll have fun and play with words.

EMILY CHENOWETH, "Disruption and Change in Character, Setting, and Plot".  "There are only two plots in all of literature — a person goes on a journey, and a stranger comes to town." So said celebrated writing teacher John Gardner (supposedly). Whether Gardner’s right is up for debate, but Arrivals and Departures are classic literary tropes for good reason. In this generative workshop, we’ll consider the three pillars of character, setting, and plot, and craft short prose pieces that have disruption and change at their heart.

MICHAEL GUERRA, "Tangible Objects: Developing an Inner Life for Your Character".  This workshop will focus on the life of tangible objects that often define and shape our lives. Through this process of developing an inner life for our characters, we will discover patterns for shaping both knowns and unknowns that motivate our characters and push our stories in ways we never thought possible.

DEBRA GWARTNEY, "Who is Telling Your Story?". In this workshop, we will explore the role of the "I" in memoir writing. Both the "I" involved in the action, and the "I" remembering and reflecting upon the event at the center of your narrative. This "dual-I" is where the tension in memoir lives, and where readers engage and connect. Come prepared to write and, if you wish, to talk about the challenges of turning yourself into a character on the page.

HR HEGNAUER, "Judge a Book by Its Cover".  It could be said that the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover" seems to overlook the significant impact of book design. In this workshop, we'll dive into key aspects of book design, covering topics such as cover design, interior layout, paper selection, printing methods, and the integration of eBook design. We'll also envision our own future book covers, looking at your design ideas alongside logistical considerations.

SARA JAFFE, "Starting with Image: A Prose Workshop".  What is an image? While conventionally defined as a visual representation or description, an image in writing can activate many senses at once. Transcending mere detail, an image electrifies and swirls up from the page, announcing to the reader that they are in this language-world and none other. In the words of cartoonist and writer Lynda Barry, "[An image is] alive in the way thinking is not, but experiencing is, made of both memory and imagination." Because so much meaning and sensation accrues to them, images can be terrific starting points for works of fiction and creative nonfiction. In this workshop, we'll mine our own personal image-banks for generative material, and work together to effectively bring the power of the image to the page.

MEREDITH KIRKWOOD, "Unexpected Arrivals: Writing Surprising Images".  A poem is a series of departures and arrivals. A poet takes the reader to one image, then departs to another. Sometimes the reader arrives at the place they expected, but at its best, poetry can surprise—can take us to places the reader (and writer!) never anticipated. Those places offer us a sense of mystery and weirdness, a glimpse into other modes of consciousness and ways of being. This workshop offers tools for getting our poetry from the ordinary and predictable into some of those other places. Using as a guide the poem "4 Stars" by Oregon Poet Laureate and recent Columbia Writers Series guest Anis Mojgani, participants will write a poem by combining fragments of memory in unexpected ways. Then they will exchange images to create an even weirder, more surprising poem. Finally, they will try to break all the rules of grammar they can to arrive at unknown poetic terrain.

JOE PITKIN, "From Margins to the Center: How to Use Duotrope to Get Connected to Publishers". Do you have a story that you are proud of but have no idea how to get it published? Are you wondering what kinds of magazines and podcasts would be open to publishing your work? This session will explore how the online tool Duotrope can be used to get connected to publishers and agents!

MATHIAS SVALINA, "Writing with Dream Logic".  Dreams cohere & dissolve in the same event; in this way the logics of dreams relate to the logics of emotional overwhelm & to the logics of the mass hallucinations of history or culture. This workshop will explore dream logic as a conscious & intentional writing tool, a writing strategy to employ to arrive at writerly truths beyond the rational. We will discuss the fugitive rationality in nonsense & the profundity in silliness as we look at some writers’ use of dream logics, & the forms & rhetorics of how we tell others our dreams. We will write to explore dream logic in narrative, lyric, & personal writing. The goals are to generate work that both bewilders & intimately engages the reader & writer alike.

PAULS TOUTONGHI, "Intention and Obstacle: The Use of a Time-Based Goal to Give Your Story Urgency".  Fiction writers often struggle with plot -- or at least the idea of plot. Writing can come from a place of deep imagination, which is often not harnessed to any kind of mechanical apparatus. In fact, the imagination -- a dreamworld -- often specifically resists thinking in terms of timeline and story container. We will work to open stories that have a clear sense of urgency or, if it's missing, think about ways to get this urgency in existing stories.

CLAIRE VAYE WATKINS, "Writing Life and Death: How to Raise the Stakes of a Story". This workshop will be a generative session on how to raise the stakes in your story.

Clark College is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Institution. Learn more at If you need accommodation due to a disability in order to fully participate in this event, please contact Clark College’s Human Resources Office. Phone: 360-992-2105 or email:

About Clark College

Founded in 1933 and celebrating its 90th year, Clark College provides residents of Southwest Washington with affordable, high-quality academic and technical education. It is a public community college offering more than 100 degree and certificate programs, including bachelor’s and associate degrees; professional certificates; high school diplomas and GED preparation; and non-credit community and continuing education. Clark serves a wide range of students including high school students, displaced workers, veterans, parents, non-native English speakers, and mature learners. Approximately 45% of its students are in the first generation of their families to attend college.

For additional information (media inquiries & photo requests):
Maureen Chan-Hefflin, Clark College Communications & Marketing
T: 360-992-2243 E:

Alexis Nelson, Clark College English Department
T: 360-992-2373 E: