About to enter its second year, the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing plans to provide training this summer to 23 individuals looking for craft-based lessons in improving their writing and getting published. The brainchild of Aquinnah summer resident Alexander Weinstein, the workshop will be based at the Mansion House in Vineyard Haven from July 17 through July 22.
“We have The Yard for dance, and many other organizations for other arts, but nothing for writers,” Mr. Weinstein says. The Institute serves as a venue for sharing work, meeting other writers, and improving one’s writing.
After a successful first year in 2010, the Institute has added a poetry unit to its workshops, which last year focused on fiction, and will include free readings open to the public. In addition, the High School Writers Collaborative is a new component that will offer a summer camp to Island high school students in grades 9 through 12 who are preparing to go to college.
Mathea Morais, who runs the high school writing lab at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School in West Tisbury, will co-direct the high school program with Mr. Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Morais will teach the fiction workshops, while Islander Keith Leonard will offer poetry workshops.
Mr. Weinstein, who directs the Institute, has gathered a group of writers from the Island and off-Island to lead the workshops. Among them is Tony Ardizzone, the author of seven novels, including “The Whale Chaser.” He has won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Milkweed Editions National Fiction Prize, the Chicago Foundation for Literature Award for Fiction, the Pushcart Prize, and the Bruno Arcudi Literature Prize. Mr. Ardizzone will give a talk open to the public.
Leaders of the Institute workshop series include Mr. Leonard, who is poetry editor of the Indiana Review and has received an Academy of American Poets prize. Justen Ahren, another Vineyard resident, who is founder and director of the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency and co-director of the Summer Festival of Poetry at Featherstone Center for the Arts, will lead poetry workshops.
Christopher Citro, who won the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award for poetry and is a former associate editor for Lyric Poetry Review, will also lead poetry workshops. Morgan Baker, who teaches at Emerson College in Boston, will teach creative nonfiction.
Bradley Bazzle, who will participate in the fiction component of the program, has published stories in The Iowa Review, New England Review, Opium, Splash of Red, and Cold Mountain Review. His book reviews appear in Indiana Review, and his scholarship in “Critical Insights: Benjamin Franklin.”
Raised in Williamsburg, Va., Leah Nielsen, who teaches at Westfield State University and organized the Massachusetts Poetry Festival’s poetry slam, will also offer workshops.
“My criteria for bringing in teachers is that they have been published and they are good teachers,” says Mr. Weinstein, a professor of Creative Writing at Lawrence Tech University. He is less interested in using professional writers who are known primarily as celebrities and might intimidate emerging writers.
The Institute is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization, and Mr. Weinstein, who has been working as a creative writing teacher and freelance editor for 10 years, says he hopes ultimately to find a physical home for the Institute and provide classes on a year-round basis on-Island.
“It’s a big dream,” he says. “I like to dream big.” He hopes to collaborate with other arts organizations and find a way to unite all the Island arts. He also hopes to establish accreditation for the Institute at some point in the future.
“It’s what I love to do,” he says. He sees the Institute as providing a smaller, cozier, more community-based and craft-oriented environment that is nurturing to writers than most summer writing programs. He suggests this approach contrasts to the sometimes shark-pool atmosphere of MFA programs in writing.
The Institute will offer evening readings by visiting faculty and a panel discussion on publishing and developing a life-long writing practice. Each workshop attendee will also meet with faculty for a personal editing session.
After a welcome reception and faculty reading on Sunday, July 17, at the Mansion House, participants will meet Monday through Friday, from 10 am to 5 pm in a series of workshops and seminars. On Friday, July 22, participants will attend a panel discussion on how to pursue the writing profession.
That same day from 6 to 8 pm, participants will read their work and have dinner at Z Burgers.
The program fee for the Summer Writing Program is $975. The High School Writers Collaborative is $350. The deadline for scholarships is June 12. For more information and to register, visit mvicw.com.