Spring Writing Workshop

The Clark College Writing Workshop is an annual creative writing festival that takes place spring quarter every year. It is comprised of author readings and writing workshops and invites Clark students and the Vancouver and surrounding communities to come together to celebrate writing and practice craft. Workshop facilitators include renowned writers as well as Clark faculty. 

The theme of the 2022 Workshop is Writing as Community Practice. All events take place on May 14th, 2022, in the Penguin Union Building (PUB) starting at 10:00 a.m. Please see below for the workshop schedule, author bios, workshop descriptions, and registration information. For more information, please email creativewriting@clark.edu.

Registration Information

All writers from beginning to advanced are welcome to attend, and we also welcome area high school writers too. Admission is free, but so we have an accurate number of attendees, we are asking that you register in advance. Lunch is free for all attendees, and there will be meat, plant-based, and gluten-free options. Participants are welcome to attend the full day of readings and workshops, or as much as their schedules allow. Please ensure your spot by registering at Eventbrite

2022 Workshop Schedule

Detailed workshop descriptions follow this schedule. 


PUB 161
Opening, Lunch, & Readings

PUB 258A
Fiction Workshops

PUB 258B
Non-Fiction Workshops

PUB 258C
Poetry Workshops


Jesse Morse and Jen Denrow: Opening and Welcome       


  Lindsey Schuhmacher: "Well-Rounded: Crafting 3-Dimensinal Characters of Size"  Melissa Matthewson: "Crafting a Memoir-in-Essays and other Nonfiction Experiments"  Dawn Knopf: "Creating Erasure Poems: A Generative Act of Resistance" 


  Tobias Peterson: "Letting in/Letting Go" Allison Cobb: "On Delight"  Meredith Kirkwood: "Writing for and with Your People: Findings Words for Life's Big Moments"


Lunch Served Author Readings: Sierra Crane Murdoch, Kesha Ajose Fisher, and Allison Cobb       


  Joe Pitkin: "A Way Out of the Labyrinth: Strategies for Working through Writer's Block" Sierra Crane Murdoch: "Writing What You Don't Know" Emily Kendal Frey: "Collaborating with the Hidden Mind: The Postcard Workshop" 


  Kesha Ajose Fisher:  "For the Love of Storytelling: How Do You Write Versus How Do You Speak?  Cheston Knapp: "Persona Grata"  Shin Yu Pai: "Be Where Your Are" 


Author Readings:  Shin Yu Pai, Melissa Mathewson, Emily Kendal Frey, Cheston Knapp   Closing Remarks      

Workshop Descriptions

Allison Cobb, “On Delight”

The word “delight” comes from two Latin roots: de: “away” + lacere: “allure, entice.” In essence, then, to be delighted is to be transported, moved, led elsewhere. We’ll explore delight and how it can feed—and perhaps is fundamental to—a creative process.

Kesha Ajose Fisher, “For the Love of Storytelling: How do you write versus how do you speak?”

In this workshop we’ll discuss the similarities between oration and writing. There will be tips on using the skills we already have in the way we communicate with others and utilizing our abilities to help shape the way we write fiction.”

Emily Kendal Frey, “Collaborating with the Hidden Mind: The Postcard Workshop"

Art is transformative--not only in the way it names, but in how it leads us to clarify our questions. What are the questions at the center of your life? How does your experience of a piece of writing, of art, pivot around these inquiries? Art is also a reflection of the sensory world we inhabit. How then, can we move beyond the simple surfaces of the senses and begin to listen for the questions beneath? How can we consider the breadth of a question? The image it makes (or unmakes)? Perhaps most importantly, how can we attend responsibly, joyfully, to the questions we uncover? This workshop will use questions and images to create a space of inquiry and meaning making.

Meredith Kirkwood, “Writing for and with Your People: Finding Words for Life’s Big Moments”

Death, birth, celebrations, goodbyes and hellos, serious illness, weddings, religious holidays—these are some of life’s big moments, events we share with our communities, and poetry can help us experience them more deeply, with more awareness and connection to others. Through poetry we can name and create communal encounters, hold space for difficult emotions, and revel in a joyful moment together. But writing for life’s big moments can be a lot of pressure, too. This craft workshop will provide examples and templates to help you get started, or just to keep in your back pocket for the next time they’re needed. We’ll also focus on a few literary devices that can enhance the impact of our poems: concrete imagery, anaphora, refrain, and personal allusion. We’ll write a poem as a group, and you’ll get started on a poem for your next big moment, too.

Cheston Knapp, "Persona Grata"

How do writers of creative nonfiction give shape to that most malleable of pronouns, the 'I'? How do we take that incomplete stick-figure and turn it into the illusion of a real live person? In this workshop we'll look at how other writers have built their personas and do some exercises of our own, too.

Dawn Knopf, “Creating Erasure Poems: A Generative Act of Resistance”

Using the technique of erasure, or the blacking out of existing texts, poets will generate poems with the language they allow to remain on the page. This form of poetry can be an empowering personal and political act, where poets reclaim space and find their voice and community. Source texts will include historical, philosophical, and literary excerpts as erasure subjects and inspiration.

Melissa Matthewson, “Crafting a Memoir-in-Essays and other Nonfiction Experiments”

In this nonfiction workshop, we will explore questions of creative nonfiction as collage, as hybrid experiment, as curiosity and lyric composition. How do we craft an intimacy of self and world as it plays out in the pages of creative nonfiction? More specifically, we will talk about generating material for a collection, sequencing essays, form and structure, looking at gaps and absence, and association and conversation between essays.

Sierra Crane Murdoch, “Writing What You Don’t Know”

“Write what you know,” the trope goes, but what happens when you have to write about a topic, person, or place you know little about? This is the job of the journalist, and it often treads over ethical landmines. In this workshop, through writing prompts, we will examine our own blind spots as we reconsider some journalistic conventions and propose other writing and research methods that might correct our biases. Though focused on nonfiction, this workshop is open to writers of any genre at any level.

Shin Yu Pai, “Be Where You Are”

In this one-hour writing workshop, we’ll explore two different writing exercises. First, we’ll warm up by playing around with instruction poems, based on the writings of Yoko Ono and others, to imagine everyday and not so ordinary instructions that invite you to bring attention to your imaginative space. In the second half of our workshop, we’ll focus on writing place-based poems close to home, taking their inspiration from Vancouver and its surroundings.

Tobias Peterson, “Letting In / Letting Go”

If your writing is feeling stuck or uninspired, this generative workshop will help loosen things up. We’ll be using tarot cards to summon your Muse, listen to a voice from the Beyond, or simply introduce random chance into your process. Participants will be guided through a series of questions and reflections, using the cards to inform their insights as they craft an original poem or piece of short prose.

Joe Pitkin, "A Way Out of the Labyrinth: Strategies for Working Through Writer's Block"

Are you feeling stalled out on your writing project? Do you have the perfect story that's stuck on page 14 (or 140)? This session will explore the roots of writer's block, as well as self-talk strategies to help you get out of your own way.

Lindsey Schuhmacher, “Well-Rounded: Crafting 3-Dimensional Characters of Size”

This workshop explores how cultural stigma surrounding body size shows up in fiction and offers ideas for and practice in writing fully-fledged characters of size who defy stereotypes. It emphasizes the impact of exclusion as well as the promise of inclusion, underlying the need for representations of diverse bodies in our stories.


Author Bios

Allison Cobb

Allison Cobb (pronouns she/her) is the author of four books: Plastic: an Autobiography, Green-Wood, After We All Died and Born2. Cobb’s work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, and many other journals. She was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and National Poetry Series; has been a resident artist at Djerassi and Playa; and received fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission, the Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. Allison works for Environmental Defense Fund and lives in Portland, Oregon.

Jen Denrow 

Jen Denrow is the author of California. Her chapbooks include How We Know it is That, From California, On and Wave Behavior. Her writing has appeared in journals such as Gulf Coast, jubilat, Alaska Quarterly Review, Octopus, and on Poets.Org. She holds a PhD in English from the University of Denver and is the recipient of a fellowship in Creative Writing from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches writing classes at Clark College in Vancouver, WA and runs the art space 1122outside. 

Kesha Ajose-Fisher

Kesha Ajose-Fisher is the author of No God Like the Mother, a short story collection which won the 2020 Oregon Book Award in fiction. She is also an Oregon Literary Fellow and an aspiring leader of her very own dog army. Much of her written work is guided by her childhood in Africa and America and an unshakable urge to change the female experience in the world. As a former social worker for immigrant and refugee families, she now spends her days writing, while also advocating for social justice. She currently lives in Portland with her spouse, children and poodles, and is working on an upcoming memoir and another collection of short stories. Yes, she sleeps sometimes.

Emily Kendal Frey

Emily Kendal Frey is the author of Lovability (Fonograf Editions, 2021), The Grief Performance (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2011) winner of the 2012 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Sorrow Arrow (Octopus Books, 2014) winner of the 2015 Oregon Book Award. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is a teacher and therapist.

Meredith Kirkwood

Meredith Kirkwood received an MFA in poetry from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2007 and has taught writing at Clark College ever since. Her poetry has appeared in The Atlanta Review, The Santa Clara Review, VoiceCatcher, Windfall, and others—but she enjoys writing for her friends, family, and neighbors the most. Find her on the web at mkirkwoodblog.wordpress.com.

Cheston Knapp

Cheston Knapp is the author of Up Up, Down Down, a collection of essays. With his family, he lives a life of reluctant modesty in Portland, OR.

Dawn Knopf

Dawn Knopf has taught composition, literature, and poetry at Clark College and Portland State University. She received her bachelor's degree at University of California Davis and her master's degree at Columbia University in New York, where she was the editor of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Her poems and essays have appeared in the Boston Review, Pacific Standard, Bomb, the New Inquiry, and Fence, among others.

Melissa Matthewson

Melissa Matthewson is the author of a memoir-in-essays, Tracing the Desire Line (Split/Lip Press 2019), a finalist for the 2021 Oregon Book award. Her nonfiction has appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, Oregon Humanities, Longreads, American Literary Review, River Teeth, DIAGRAM, Mid-American Review, The Rumpus, among other publications and anthologies. She teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University. Find her at melissamatthewson.com.

Jesse Morse

Jesse Morse is the author of Flash Floods are Anomalies, (Finishing Line Press 2020). He is currently a faculty member at Clark College in Vancouver, WA. His poems and book reviews have appeared in Amerarcana, Bombay Gin, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Golden Handcuffs Review, jacketmagazine, Page Boy, Poetry Flash, and Vanitas, among others. He plays guitar and sings in the rock band The Whirlies, and helps run 1122 Outside in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife, the poet Jennifer Denrow, and their daughter Wren.

Sierra Crane Murdoch

Sierra Crane Murdoch is the author of Yellow Bird: Oil, Murder, and a Woman’s Search for Justice in Indian Country, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, won an Oregon Book Award, and was named a best book of 2020 by The New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and NPR. She has written for Harper’s, This American Life, The New Yorker online, VQR, and other magazines. Her second book, Imaginary Brightness: An Autobiography of American Guilt, is forthcoming from Random House.

Shin Yu Pai

Shin Yu Pai is a poet, essayist and visual artist. She is the author of several books of poetry, including VIRGA (Empty Bowl, 2021), ENSŌ (Entre Ríos Books, 2020), SIGHTINGS: SELECTED WORKS (2000-2005) (1913 Press, 2007), AUX ARCS (La Alameda, 2013), Adamantine (White Pine, 2010), and Equivalence (La Alameda, 2003). She served as the fourth poet laureate of the city of Redmond from 2015 to 2017 and has been an artist in residence for the Seattle Art Museum, Town Hall Seattle, and Pacific Science Center. She lives and works on the unceded ancestral lands of the Duwamish people in Seattle.

Tobias Peterson

Tobias Peterson’s collection Nothing More Beyond was longlisted for the Sexton Prize for Poetry by Black Spring Press. His work has appeared in Lunch Ticket, Superstition Review, Ghost City Press, Coldnoon, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Texas State University and has taught writing in Texas, England, Spain, and most recently at Clark College.

Joe Pitkin

Joe Pitkin has lived, taught, and studied in England, Hungary, Mexico, and the United States. His short stories have appeared in Analog, Black Static, Cosmos, Kaleidotrope, and other magazines and podcasts, as well as on his blog, The Subway Test. He lives in Portland, Oregon, in the shadow of a small extinct volcano. Stranger Bird, his first novel, was published in 2017; his second, a science fiction thriller, will be published by Blackstone in the coming year.

Lindsey Schuhmacher

Lindsey Schuhmacher earned her MFA in creative writing for young people at Lesley University. She works with K-12 students as a Special Education Paraeducator in Vancouver Public Schools, teaches English composition and literature at Clark College, and is the creator of the Portland State University community-based-learning Capstone "Embracing Size Diversity." The Capstone explores weight stigma and its intersections with other forms of oppression, using healthcare and social justice perspectives. Lindsey is deeply interested in children's and YA literature, science fiction, graphic novels, universal design for learning (UDL), culturally responsive teaching, disability justice, and helping to create a world in which all bodies are treated with dignity and respect.