A Fun Time at the St. John’s Writing Intensive

Saturday’s Writing Intensive at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland, was a great time all around: such a wonderfully organized event, such a fine group of writers in attendance, and such a beautiful campus as well!

I attended Susan Coll’s morning session on “Compulsive Reads” in the morning and was pleased to hear how her discussion meshed and previewed with much of what I was planning to present in my afternoon workshop, “Something Is Going to Happen,” on the craft of suspense. What makes a book compulsive? Characters you care about, conflict and tension, surprise. And while my own session emphasized distinctions between surprise and suspense and between action and suspense too, the attendees seemed to appreciate some of the tips we discussed about building conflict, increasing dramatic tension, and navigating that balance between providing and withholding information as a plot unfolds.

In our session, we examined passages by David Baldacci, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Millar, Michael Connolly, Becky Hagenston, and Scott Turow—and drew on tips from craft books by Jane Cleland, Hallie Ephron, and Patricia Highsmith.

My wife Tara Laskowski also got kudos for her talk on writing flash fiction, and I wanted to give a shout out to Jeff Kleinman of Folio Lit, who was super kind to our son Dash throughout the day. Dash was a trooper throughout the program, roaming the halls and campus with me while Tara was in her session and with Tara in the afternoon while I presented. Much fun all around!

Thanks to Laura Oliver, Lynn Scwartz, and Torii Campbell for including us in the program and for organizing such a great event, such a great day!

Here are some photos from the program and from St. John’s campus itself.

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