2014 Workshop Archive

For a recap of the 2014 Workshop, click HERE

To print or download a PDF version of our two-page brochure, click here:  Storycatcher14FLYER



2014 Writer in Residence:  Dan O’Brien

Described by the New York Times “as a writer with a keen and poetic eye,”  Dan O’Brien is one of the most powerful literary voices on the Plains, author of numerous novels and memoirs, including Buffalo for the Broken Heart and The Contract Surgeon, winners of the Western Heritage Award for best nonfiction in 2001 and for best fiction in 1999, respectively.  Buffalo for the Broken Heart, which explores the history of his ranch and the conversion from beef to buffalo, was chosen as One Book South Dakota in 2009. He is currently working on a sequel. O’Brien’s latest novel, Stolen Horses, has won wide praise and was featured in an NPR review by noted book critic Alan Cheuse. His other novels include The Indian Agent, The Spirit of the Hills, In the Center of the Nation, and Brendan Prairie.O’Brien has been a wildlife biologist and rancher for more than thirty years. He is also one of the most celebrated falconers in America today and was a prime mover in the restoration of peregrine falcons in the Rocky Mountains in the 1970s and 80s. O’Brien’s memoirs on falconry include, The Rites of Autumn and Equinox, which are intimate and revealing explorations of his life-long search for wildness on the Plains. He is a two-time winner of the National Endowment for the Arts individual artist’s grant and a 2001 recipient of the Bush Creative Arts Fellowship.In addition to writing, O’Brien divides his time among the company he founded, Wild Idea Buffalo, teaching ecology and writing, running the Sustainable Harvest Alliance and serving on the Black Hills branch of The Nature Conservancy. He is the owner of the Cheyenne River Ranch just west of the Badlands National Park and North of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation where he lives and shares his life on the ranch with his wife Jill, and their old friend Erney Hersman. You can find out more by visiting his website: http://wildideabuffalo.com/about-us/dan/Keynote Address: “Writing the High Lonesome”

Advanced Prose Workshop: Fiction or Non-fiction, What’s the Difference?

Intermediate to Advanced Level: these workshops take place over three sessions and focus on writing that is already in progress, with an emphasis on peer editing, revision and shaping your narrative towards publication. Participants will submit their writing in advance of the workshop. Space is limited and additional registration fee required.



Todd Mitchell

 Todd Mitchell currently serves as Director of the Beginning Creative Writing Teaching Program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, where he teaches creative writing, adolescents’ literature, twentieth-century fiction and writing instruction. Mr. Mitchell is the author of several novels for young adults and middle grade readers, including Backwards  and The Secret to Lying (Candlewick Press, 2013 and 2010, respectively) and The Traitor King (Scholastic Press, 2007). Backwards is a finalist this year for the Colorado Book Award and the Colorado Author’s League Award. The Secret to Lying was a Colorado Book Award Winner, and The Traitor King was a finalist. He’s also a writer for the graphic novel, A Flight of Angels (VERTIGO, 2011). His short fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in national and international journals, and he’s received several awards for his writing, including an Arts Alive Fellowship, a Knight Select Award for Outstanding Fiction, and a Portland State Best Letter award. You can visit his personal writing website at www.ToddMitchellBooks.comGeneral Session 1: Beginning Fiction: Essential Approaches, Techniques, and Tips for Developing Character, Plot, and ScenesIn this session, Todd will lead participants through the steps he, and many other writers he knows, take to develop stories and write books for a wide range of genres and audiences. The topics covered will include: character generation, the most important things to know about your character, how to pull plot from character, the difference between a story and a situation, how to structure an effective story, how to use setting to show emotion and a character’s interior, and how to develop effective dialogue and write compelling scenes. Participants will be given a series of short activities to guide them through developing character and plot ideas, and short scenes will be written for discussion and workshop. Writers need not bring in previously written work (this is a generative workshop), but writers at any stage in the writing process are welcome. Whether you’ve written a book and are looking for ways to develop your characters and refine your story for publication, or whether you’re just getting started, this session will provide you with some of the most effective and essential writing tips and approaches that Todd Mitchell has gained from decades of writing, publishing, and teaching at the college level. Several pages of handouts with tips and techniques to consider as you write will be provided.General Session 2A: Writing and Shaping Compelling Novels

Sometimes books start with a story idea, sometimes with a character, but often what makes a story succeed is how well the character and plot work together to create a narrative that is both riveting and satisfying. In this intensive workshop, we’ll approach plot as a way to engage readers while also exploring and revealing characters. This workshop is designed to help writers in any stage of the process, from those who want to write a novel and struggle with getting started, to those who’ve already written a novel and want to improve the structure, pace, and appeal of their story-telling. Topics covered will include: developing sticky stories and elemental plots, creating effective hooks, determining your inciting incident, discovering how to begin in medias res, pulling plot from character and using plot to reveal character, increasing conflict and manifesting internal conflict through external events, picturing and pacing effective novel-length character arcs, understanding the three act structure and how to use it, themes, subplots and secondary characters, techniques for plotting novels (plot/counter plot, snow flake method, understanding story shapes), developing an effective story map (not a straight jacket), writing a beginning that will sell your book, and revision and publishing tips. Several pages of materials will be included in the session, and writers of all abilities and stages in the writing process are welcome. The overall goal of this session is to prepare participants to write a novel with confidence, or to revise and reshape a novel effectively to clarify the character, increase the conflict, and make the story something editors and readers won’t be able to put down.

General Session 3: Making the Strange Believable: Vital Secrets for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writing

In this workshop, we’ll focus on techniques writers use to make sci-fi and fantasy writing engaging and believable. Practical tips will be given for avoiding common pitfalls, developing effective fictional worlds, and getting readers to accept fantastic occurrences. We’ll also develop and discuss our fantasy/sci-fi ideas, and discuss submission and publication strategies for sci-fi and fantasy writing.


Dawn Wink

Dawn Wink is a writer and educator whose work explores the beauty and tensions of language, culture, and place. Wink grew up on a cattle ranch in the San Pedro River Valley of southeastern Arizona. She is a member of Women Writing the West and the Tony Hillerman Writers Conference. Wink’s emphasis on writing the land resulted in a column exploring how landscape gives insights into parenting and life. Her essays and chapters have appeared in numerous books and journals.Wink’s recent novel, Meadowlark (Pronghorn Press, 2013), was inspired by her great-grandmother on her family’s ranch in South Dakota. Her first book, Teaching Passionately: What’s Love got to do with It?, co-written with Joan Wink (Pearson, 2004), explores the landscape of education.Wink is an Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Santa Fe Community college and works with teachers in the U.S. and around the world. She is currently at work on two nonfiction books, Love Stones and Raven’s Time. Wink and her family divide their time between their home in the high desert of Santa Fe, NM and the family ranch on the prairie of western South Dakota. You can visit her personal writing website at www.dawnwink.com.General Session 2B: Writing the Land

“Bring your writing to life through the elemental—the land. Landscape holds the potential to convey emotion, character, and plot in ways the resonate on a deep human level. In this workshop, we explore a spectrum of fiction and nonfiction writings that highlight how the land can create connection, highlight nuance, and convey emotion and plot. We will explore  writing the land through multiple lenses:

• Land as Story: The land holds the potential to convey story to connect with readers on a deep human level. We explore multiple writings that lift and highlight story through descriptions of the land

• Land as Emotion. How do writers convey emotion through the land? We look at a variety of writers who do this brilliantly and discuss the specifics within the writing and ways writers can do this effectively.

• Land as Character. Wild, lush, dry, raw, evocative, harsh: The land takes many forms and each holds the potential to convey character in story. We look at land as character and students strengthen land as character in their own writing.

• Land as Connection. The reason we write: connection with others, connection with ideas, connection with story. We’ll focus on how to strengthen that connection both with readers of our work and within ourselves as writers.”

General Session 4: Writing Meadowlark: The Journey in Word and Image

The journey of Meadowlark began with a question to my mom about my great-grandmother, Grace, a question she couldn’t answer and instead responded with a smile, “I don’t know, but I’ve always wondered.” I wrote a book to find out. Ten years, piles of notebooks, interviews, research, and miles and miles walking, riding, and driving the land later Meadowlark was born. This presentation shares the writing journey through the landscapes of fiction, land, and life. We’ll explore ideas and touchstones in writers’ own journeys and work. Images of the land and people who inspired the novel and details of the writer’s journey along the way highlight the shared path writers walk.

“General Session 6A: Will this Book EVER Be Published? Where to Begin and How to Complete

Have you ever thought or uttered the words, “Will this book ever be published?” If not, wonderful! Now, just wait, because it’s only a matter of time. If you have already whispered this to yourself or shouted it to the world, you are in great company! I don’t know of a published writer who hasn’t felt this at some time—or many times. In this workshop, we dive into the rhythms of craft and process of writing life. People envision writers with huge swaths of time to write. There are writers like this, I hear. Someday, actually, I hope to be one. The reality, though, is that writers who create a body of written work also lead rich, full lives of other kinds of work and demands on our time. My own experience, and that of writers I know, is that one must write in open bits of time and weave the rhythms of a writing life into the reality of our lives. In most writers’ journeys, we use unromantic bits of open time to stitch together a body of written work. This session will focus on sheer craft: the writing process, the progress of a book, and how to stay the course. During our time together in this workshop, we’ll dive into how to do this in ways that sustain and inspire a writing life.

This workshop is highly engaged and interactive. Come prepared to take these ideas and apply them to your own writing during our time together!”


Shannon Baker

Shannon Baker is the author of the Nora Abbott Mystery series, a fast-paced mix of murder, environmental issues and Hopi Indians. She can often be found backpacking, skiing, kayaking, cycling, or just playing lizard in the desert. From the Colorado Rockies to the Nebraska Sandhills, the peaks of Flagstaff and the deserts of Tucson, landscapes play an important role in her books. Tainted Mountain, the first in the Nora Abbott Mystery series, is set in Flagstaff, AZ, where she lived for several years and worked for The Grand Canyon Trust, a hotbed of environmentalists who, usually, don’t resort to murder.  It is a 2013 finalist in the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. She lived for twenty years in the Nebraska Sandhills, where cattle outnumber people by more than 50:1. When Shannon moved to Boulder, CO, Nora followed her and Broken Trust , released in March  2014, is set in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. Her first thriller, Ashes of the Red Heifer, takes place in the Sandhills and Israel. She is a contributor to Leaning Into the Wind, Woven on the Wind, and Crazy Woman Creek, as well as publishing short stories and essays. Shannon  makes her temporary home in Nebraska and believes her job description is now itinerate writer. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com.General Session 5: Taking the Mystery Out of MysteryRoughly one third of all novels sold in the US are mysteries. What is a mystery and how is a cozy different from a thriller, noir, or soft-boil? Learn the basics of plotting a mystery, how to create great villains and protagonists, how to plant clues and give readers a satisfying conclusion. We’ll touch on great resources for craft and marketing.WRITERS RETREAT: Fort Robinson State Park (specific sessions TBA)

Writing Festival–Special Topic: Beginning With a Bang

Get your story off and going. If you don’t grab an agent, editor, or any reader by the first page, first paragraph, first sentence, then you might as well not bother writing the rest of the book.  Learn some of the tricks and tips of what to include on those first pages and what to avoid at all costs.


Rich Kenney

Rich Kenney is a former Little League centerfielder from Boston, Massachusetts. As a social worker, radio talk show host and newspaper columnist, he has worked with people like Big Ray, the cigar-smoking, twenty-year-old special needs student with a heart bigger than his 48-inch waistline; and Edgar, the elderly slide trombonist dying of cancer with a scheme to retrieve his horn from a hock shop.Kenney writes about hawks herding clouds or old ticket stubs caught in cobwebs. He writes about tiny canes the color of clouds hanging on a wall outside a preschool classroom for kids who are blind.The recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Kenney has also contributed commentaries to National Public Radio. Recent publications include nonfiction prose in The New Social Worker and Social Work Today; and poetry in Rockhurst Review and Third Wednesday.  Kenney holds degrees from the University of Texas (MSSW), and the University of Arizona (BA). He is currently an assistant professor and Director of the Social Work Program at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.General Session 6B: Bucket List Poetry: Why You Should Add a Poem to Your List and How to Write It   (poetry workshop for all levels)

This workshop will provide you with the tools to write a meaningful poem based on a prized memory, a reflective observation or a whimsical snippet from your life.


Special Presentation: Ron Hull

“Everybody Has a Story To Tell…”As he so colorfully relates in Backstage, Stories from My Life in Public Television, Ron Hull has lived a very full life—and yet, like many of the participants in our writing workshop, he considers himself a “first time writer.” In this special presentation, he will relate his experiences and what he learned in the process of writing his first book, getting it published, and he will relate a number of episodes and read some selections from Backstage. He will also talk about the inspiration of Mari Sandoz on his work, and her advice to young writers.Born in 1930 in “Diddlin’ Dora’s” establishment on the banks of Rapid Creek and carried by the Madam herself to a social worker at the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, Ron Hull was destined from the outset to live an interesting life. And interesting it has indeed been, at the very least. A well-known and much-loved figure after six decades in television, Hull sets out in Backstage to tell his story—from playing a bellhop in a junior class play in South Dakota (and meeting his “real” mother backstage) to initiating the American Experience series for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.Before he even owned a television set, Hull produced a military TV show at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. But it wasn’t until he got a job in public broadcasting in Lincoln, Nebraska, that he truly found his medium. Hull has a lifetime of fascinating anecdotes to tell: working as a producer and director, encountering celebrities like John Wayne and William Shatner, befriending famous Nebraskans like writers Mari Sandoz and John Neihardt and actress Sandy Dennis, moving to Saigon in 1966 to bring television to embattled Vietnam, and working in Washington as director of the program fund for the CPB. Through it all, though, Hull’s story is a tribute to his adopted Nebraska, a celebration of the people—stars and unsung heroes—he’s known, and a moving memoir of the dramas of life, large and small.

“Ron Hull’s book is a compelling read. It’s the story of a life filled with richness of experience, personal and professional success, invaluable public service, and authentic high adventure—and all following about as inauspicious beginnings as it’s possible to imagine.”—Dick Cavett

Ron Hull is senior advisor to Nebraska Educational Telecommunications and professor emeritus of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Backstage was the 2013 Nebraska Book Award winner in Nonfiction Autobiography. He was named the 2014 Nebraskan of the Year by Rotary International.