Bestselling author Dolen Perkins-Valdez leads novel writing workshop at Noepe


Noepe Center for Literary Arts will host Dolen Perkins-Valdez on August 15 and 16 for a Finish Your Novel workshop. Ms. Perkins-Valdez is the acclaimed author of the historical novels “Wench” (2010) and “Balm” (2015). She is currently a visiting assistant professor in the MFA program at American University. In the run-up to her workshop, The Times asked Ms. Perkins-Valdez a few questions on writing.

In a nutshell, what does your workshop entail?

This workshop is for writers who have an idea for a novel and don’t know where to begin; who have generated some pages of a novel and can’t figure out how to finish it; or who have a completed manuscript that still needs revision. At the core of the workshop, we will discuss in depth outlining vs. “flying by the seat of your pants” methods for getting a novel in shape. However, we won’t stop there. We will discuss aspects of story craft such as how to shape narrative arc, develop a scene, deepen characters, and enrich dialogue.

What do you hope participants will achieve upon finishing it?

I hope that by the end of the two days, writers will have some better idea of how to manage a lengthy fictional project. I want to demystify the process by revealing my nuts-and-bolts techniques for completing a well-written novel manuscript. I want them to leave the workshop inspired, but I also want them to walk away with a set of practical tools and strategies.

What level of writer does your workshop cater to?

My workshop caters to a wide range of writers, both novice and experienced. My only prerequisite is that they have an idea for a novel or some generated pages. The workshop can even be helpful for writers with a completed manuscript draft who are hoping to revise it so they can publish it.

Have you been to Edgartown before? Are there any thoughts you’d like to share about the Vineyard?

Yes, this is my fourth summer vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard. I love this place because it offers something for every mood, every occasion. I can see films and lectures, ride my bike, eat delicious food, browse the craft fair, nap on the beach, and even disappear into one of the Island’s delightful libraries when I need to get back to my writing. What’s not to love?

Could you talk a bit about your own work?

My most recent novel, “Balm,” came out in paperback earlier this year. It is a Civil War-era novel set in the ever-fascinating city of Chicago. My first novel, “Wench” came out in 2010 and was set in 1850s Ohio. It was a New York Times bestseller. Historical fiction is my passion. And my favorite historical fiction author in the universe lives on the Vineyard: Geraldine Brooks. Shout out to her. She is a rock star.
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