SBWC explores the art and craft of writing through hands-on workshops, lectures and panel discussions for writers working in all genres at every level of experience. For descriptions, times, and locations, please see individual events below. 

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2017 -2018 Schedule
Saturday, September 30, 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
Writing From History: A Panel Discussion. with Tim Castner, Mary Babson Fuhrer, Tona Hangen, Kevin Levin, Megan Kate Nelson, Richard C. Wiggin, and Ursula Wong.

How do you create compelling stories born from the past? Seven Bridge Writers’ Collaborative hosts a panel of local, award-winning novelists and historians as they explore the ways fiction and non-fiction writers bring history alive for the modern reader and address the challenges they face. How do we weave historical fact into compelling characters and plots, reconstruct worlds and cultures, maintain truths in speech and action, and conduct effective research? Please join us for this special event.

Tim Castner has worked as a history teacher for the past twenty years at Nashoba Regional High School. His publications include chapters on The Great Awakening and The Constitutional Convention in Conflicts in American History: A Documentary Encyclopedia, 8-Volume Set, and a recent collaboration with Paul D. Hanson for his book, A Political History of the Bible in America.

Mary Babson Fuhrer is a public historian who specializes in the social history of New England. Her book, A Crisis of Community: The Trials and Transformation of a New England Town, 1815-1848 (University of North Carolina Press), was awarded the Peter J. Gomes Memorial Book Prize.

Tona Hangen is an associate professor and department chair in the Department of History and Political Science at Worcester State University. She is a permablogger at Junvenile Instruction, an emeritus author at Teaching United States History, and  a contributor to many scholarly journals, including, The Journal of American History, and American Quarterly. 

Kevin Levin is a historian and former high school history teacher based in Boston, Massachusetts. He is a consultant with the National Humanities Center’s Transpacific Teacher Scholars program, the author of Remembering The Battle of the Crater: War as Murder,  and the editor of the forthcoming Interpreting the Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites for Rowan & Littlefield’s “Interpreting History Series.”

Megan Kate Nelson is a writer and historian based in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Her current book project, Path of the Dead Man: How the West was Won—and Lost—during the American Civil War, has received a 2017 NEH Public Scholar Award, and will be published by Scribner in 2019. She has written for the New York TimesThe Chronicle of Higher Education, and Preservation Magazine, and currently writes a regular column on Civil War pop culture for Civil War Monitor. Nelson has also written two previous books: Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (2012) and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (2005).

Richard C. Wiggin has written numerous articles about the Revolutionary War time period, including seven audio tours for different segments of Minute Man National Historical Park and Boston’s Freedom Trail. His award-winning book, Embattled Farmers: Campaigns and Profiles of Revolutionary Soldiers from Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1775-1783 (Lincoln Historical Society, 2013), has been hailed as a compelling narrative of the connection of a New England farming village to the sweep of the Revolutionary War. His articles have appeared in Alaska MagazineThe Boston Globe, the Civil War Courier, and The Lincoln Review.

Ursula Wong is the author of two novels, the award-winning Purple Trees, and the recently released historical Amber Wolf, set in 1944, during the Soviet invasion of Lithuania. Her short stories have appeared in Everyday Fiction, Spinetingler Magazine, and the popular Insanity Tales anthologies.

Saturday, October 21, 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Thayer Memorial Library
Suspense on Stage and Page, with James Nicola

How do you keep an audience riveted throughout your poem, song, or play? How do you keep a reader turning the pages of your novel or short story? How do you make your memoir not merely an account, but an adventure?

James B. Nicola’s workshop Suspense on Stage and Page is designed for writers of all genres—drama, poetry, song, memoir and essay. It looks at how some of the greats have created suspense not only with plot and character development, but through devices like word choice, repetition, tension and conflict, mystery, danger, voice, wonder, nuance, and restraint. Exercises will involve participants as performers and audience as well as authors. This workshop will also prove helpful, maybe even essential, to all performers, directors, and lovers of literature who want to get the most out of their experience as writers, readers, or audience. All you need bring is pen and paper, an inquisitive creativity, and an adventurous spirit. In other words, come ready to play—and to write!

JBNicola BW

 James B. Nicola’s poems have appeared stateside in the Antioch, Southwest and Atlanta Reviews, Rattle, Tar River, and Poetry East, and in many journals in Europe and Canada. A Yale graduate, he won a Dana Literary Award, a Willow Review award, and a People’s Choice award (from Storyteller), and he was featured poet at New Formalist. His nonfiction book, Playing the Audience, won a Choice award.

Following the tradition of poets Stanley Kunitz, Elizabeth Bishop, and Frank O’Hara, James moved from his native Worcester, Massachusetts, to New York City where he makes his home. Lately he has been conducting both theater and poetry workshops at libraries, literary festivals, schools, and community centers all over the country, most notably the Kennedy Center/American College Theater Festival.

James is also a director, composer, lyricist, and playwright. His children’s musical Chimes: A Christmas Vaudeville premiered in Fairbanks, Alaska, where Santa Claus was rumored to be in the audience on opening night.

Saturday, November 18, 2017, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
The Secrets of Self-Publishing, with Ursula Wong

Join us for an overview of the self-publishing process. We’ll cover the importance of editing, e-book formats, print on demand, services for publishing on Amazon, and marketing. We’ll highlight work the writer must do even if they choose to publish traditionally. Attendees will leave the session with a working knowledge of the effort and expertise self-publishing requires.

150603_0026 Ursula Wong lived and worked on the family dairy farm started by her grandparents, who fled Eastern Europe and the Bolsheviks for a better life in the  U.S. After losing her father as a young girl, Ursula overcame poverty and went on to become a high-tech engineer. An adventurous traveler, scuba diver, and hiker, Ursula writes gripping stories about strong women struggling against impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Her work has appeared in Everyday Fiction, Spinetingler Magazine, and the popular Insanity Tales anthologies.

Her award-winning novel, Purple Trees, exposes a dark side of rural New   England life. It’s the story of a naïve girl who loses her parents, and grows up fast to find work and build a future, while the weight of the past threatens everything she loves.

Ursula taps her heritage in her WW II novel, Amber Wolf. Destitute after her parents are taken by Russian soldiers, young Ludmelia Kudirka joins the farmers fighting for freedom in a David-and-Goliath struggle against the mighty Soviet war machine. Rich with scenes and legends of Lithuania, Amber Wolf was recently released on Amazon.

Saturday, January 20, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
Writing With Pictures: The Role of the Illustrations in Picture Books, with Jennifer Morris

Are you interested in writing picture books? Picture books merge words and images like no other genre. Writing and pictures play off of one another to create works that are greater than the sum of their parts.

We will explore the anatomy of picture books and what makes writing for them different from other forms of literature. We will discuss the role of the illustrator and if being your own illustrator could be right for you. And we will delve into the nuts and bolts of submitting your picture books for publication. What do editors want to see? Should you find an illustrator before you submit your story? And if so, how?

headshotJennifer E. Morris is an award-winning illustrator and children’s book author. She has illustrated numerous picture books, children’s magazines, greeting cards, and educational materials. She authored four books for Scholastic. The best selling, “May I Please Have a Cookie?” has sold over one million copies. She also illustrated “The Lemonade Hurricane,” written by Licia Morelli, which was selected as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People by the National Council for the Social Studies and the Children’s Book Council.

Saturday, February 17, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
Building Plot and Sustaining Narrative Momentum, with John Bell

Do you have a meaningful premise, a vision of a world, and compelling characters, but your story still isn’t moving? Plot is the crucial ingredient that braids those ingredients together, and narrative momentum is what carries readers along. Author J. L. Bell offers principles and techniques for developing a compelling plot and getting around common roadblocks. His formula for understanding narrative momentum provides a clear way to understand where to put your attention.

JL Bell (Rick Bern Photography) 150dpi

J. L. Bell is a published author of both fiction and nonfiction, prose and comics, for both adults and young readers. His latest book is The Road to Concord: How Four Stolen Cannon Ignited the Revolutionary War. He was a book editor for over ten years, with his titles including two New York Times bestsellers.


Saturday, March 17, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
Writing the Personal Essay, with Winona Wendth

“The hallmark of the personal essay is its intimacy,” says essayist Phillip Lopate. This short session will introduce writers to the personal essay in its various forms and offer suggestions for finding voice, content, and possible landing places for this kind of writing. Writers will have time to generate their own in-head and on-paper work that might lead to finished pieces.

UnknownWinona Winkler Wendth holds an MFA in literature and writing with an emphasis on creative non-fiction from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been a resident of Lancaster since 1992 and currently teaches writing, literature, and other humanities courses at Quinsigamond Community College. Wendth has been a workshop leader in Lancaster since 2011 and a writing mentor since 2009. Her work appears frequently in print and online literary journals and was listed in Best American Essays/2010. She writes both fiction and creative non-fiction and is working on a collection of memoiristic essays as well as a short novel.

Saturday, April 21, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m, Thayer Memorial Library
Memoir: Finding and Shaping your Story, with Paul Hertneky

 Writing personal narrative demands that we find the truth, use stories to support it, and reveal it in a way that matters to the reader.

Paul Hertnecky presents powerful lessons for memoirists on techniques and strategies for arresting the attentions of readers and “never letting go.”

Writers will get the most benefit from this session by reading Vivian Gornick’s The Situation and the Story beforehand.

Paul HertkeyIn Paul Hertneky’s RUST BELT BOY: Stories of an American Childhood the author counts himself among the millions of Baby Boomers who fled the industrial north upon fulfilling their parents’ dreams of a college education, leaving behind a rich cultural legacy that has all but disappeared.

Over twenty-five years, Paul Hertneky has written stories, essays, and scripts for the  Boston Globe, Athens News, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette New Hampshire Union Leader, NBC News, The Comedy Channel, Gourmet, Eating Well, Traveler’s Tales, The Exquisite Corpse, National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Adbusters and many more. His work centers on culture, food, industry, the environment, and travel, winning him a Solas Award, and two James Beard Award nominations. A graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars, he serves on the faculty of Chatham University.

Saturday, May 19, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thayer Memorial Library
Poem-Patterns:  New Dance Steps in Writing Poetry, with Alan Feldman

 There are many more poems in us than we think. Each time we set out to make a poem by following a pattern we discern in a poem by someone else, we draw more out of ourselves than we might have included if we had no pattern in mind.  More than mere prompts, these poem-patterns don’t require any specific kind of subject, but guide the writer by asking for certain kinds of rhetorical moves, a certain kind of “dance step.” In this two-hour workshop, we’re going to write two poems using two very different patterns. Even more important, we’ll explore how to read by looking for patterns, so that, going forward, we’ll be able to find a way of responding to poems we enjoy by writing other poems that are completely our own (and that few would guess were inspired by the originals) but that are built more variously than the ones we’d probably build alone.

alan-feldmanAlan Feldman is the author of several collections of poetry, including Immortality (2015), winner of the Four Lakes Prize; A Sail to Great Island (2004), winner of Pollak Prize for Poetry; and The Happy Genius (1978), winner of the annual George Elliston Book Award for the best collection published by a small, U.S. non-profit press. His work has appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, and Kenyon Review, among many other magazines, and included in The Best American Poetry anthology in 2001 and 2011. Feldman’s recent work appears in Hanging Loose, Cimarron Review, upstreet, Southern Review, Yale Review, Salamander, Southwest Review, Cincinnati Review, Catamaran, Worcester Review, and online in Boston Poetry Magazine and Cortland Review. His poem “A Man and A Woman” was featured in Tony Hoagland’s 2013 article for Harper’s, “Twenty Little Poems That Could Save America.”

Feldman was a professor and chair of English at Framingham State University, and for 22 years taught the advanced creative writing class at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Seminars. He offers free, drop-in poetry workshops at the Framingham (MA) public library near his home, and in the summer at the Wellfleet library.

Saturday, June 16, 2018, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.,  Thayer Memorial Library
The Art of Speaking: Dialogue at Its Best, with Paula Castner and Ann Connery Frantz

 In the workshop, He Said, She Said: Writing Effective Dialogue, participants learned the conventions for writing effective dialogue, including best practices and what to avoid. In this follow up session, The Art of Speaking, there will be some review, followed by discussion of how to use dialogue to further character development, reveal plot tension, change pacing, and establish mood and tone. Participants will engage in active writing practice and have opportunity for feedback. Attendance at He Said, She Said not required in order to participate.

Bio PicPaula Castner is the Chief Operating Officer for Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative as well as a freelance writer, playwright, drama director, writing workshop facilitator, baking coach, and professional administrator. Though she received her certification for writing children’s literature, she writes in multiple genres. Her pieces have been published in a variety of venues, from parenting magazines, to newspapers, to online magazines, and have claimed first prize in several writing contests. Her play, A Fairy Tale Life? A Musical, with music by Canadian folk artist, Nancy Beaudette, was performed recently in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Her current writing project is a fictionalized account of a historical court case about a slave girl from Holden, MA.

IMG_0689 (1)Ann Connery Frantz, of Lancaster, is former managing editor of the Sentinel & Enterprise, Fitchburg, and worked at eight other newspapers in writing and editing roles. She profiles authors and their books, and writes a twice-monthly column about books and book clubs for the Telegram, Worcester, MA. She writes short fiction and has completed a novel, “Emilee’s Song.”