2015 Workshop Archive

Click HERE for the highlights of the 2015 workshop

June 12th to 14th 2015

Writing Home: Capturing Your Place in the World


2015 Writer in Residence: Anna Keesey

Anna Keesey is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.  Her work has appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories.  She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship and has held residencies at MacDowell, Bread Loaf, Yaddo, and Provincetown.  Keesey teaches English and creative writing at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon.

Keesey’s historical novel Little Century (2012 Farrar, Straus & Giroux) has been widely-praised for capturing the drama and tumult of nineteenth-century homesteading, cattle ranching, range-wars and railroads—themes very familiar to those of us living on the Great Plains—but Little Century is instead set in frontier Oregon, reminding us that the West extends beyond our horizon, to the promise of the Oregon Trail itself. From the author’s website: annakeesey.com:

“Here is a fine novel, written with grace, about the settling of Oregon and the evening redness in the West. In the desert town of Century, haunted by Indian blood and barren to the core, the cattlemen hate the shepherds and the shepherds hate the cattlemen. But as the community is about to consume itself with greed and vengeance, a young orphan from Chicago shows up with a moral clarity that outstrips her age, to remind us that character matters, and that justice is pursuant to to conscience. Little Century is a frontier saga, a love story, and an epic of many small pleasures.”

  • Joshua Ferris, author of And Then We Came to the End

“In this novel of stunning beauty, Anna Keesey gives us the American West at the turn of the century, and a cast of unforgettable characters who will risk anything to tame it. Oregon’s hardscrabble frontier comes utterly alive for us, and in prose so lovely, spot-on and accomplished, I found myself dog-earring nearly every page. An incredible debut—and a writer to watch.”

  • Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife

Thursday Advanced Workshop Pre-sessions

Intermediate to Advanced Level. Writers will meet as a group in the morning for workshop focusing on peer editing, revision and shaping your narrative towards publication. In the afternoon each participant will meet with Anna Keesey for a thirty minute individualized consultation on a work of fiction already in progress. Participants will submit their writing in advance of the workshop. Space is limited and additional registration fee required.

Friday General Session–Craft Lecture: “Lollygagging: Emerson and Me and You.”  

All Levels: this lecture will focus on the elements of literary fiction with an emphasis on writerly craft and technique. Should we listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s one-time admonishment to ‘make haste’?   What exhortations from others can help us to write more, and write better?

 Friday Evening Keynote Reading: “Landscapes and Loss: Readings from Little Century.”


Sean Prentiss

Creative Nonfiction

Sean Prentiss has lived in most parts of the United States–the East Coast, Florida, the Rocky Mountains, the Great Basin, the Pacific Northwest, the Midwest, and now New England. And wherever he has lived, writing and the power of stories has always been a part of his life.

Sean is a writer who focuses on creative and  environmental essays, poetry, a few short stories. He also writes craft essays concerning on creative nonfiction. He is the author of Finding Abbey: A Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave (forthcoming Spring 2015 from University of New Mexico Press), the co-editor of an anthology on the craft of creative nonfiction, entitled The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre, and the co-author of Environmental and Nature Writer: A Craft Guide and Anthology (forthcoming 2016 from Bloomsbury Press).

Sean also publishes magazine articles, and he is the creative editor for Backcountry Magazine.

When he is not writing, traveling, canoeing, mountain biking, or drinking a dark beer, Sean is an assistant professor at Norwich University in Vermont. There he runs the Norwich University Writers Series and the Chameleon Literary Journal.

Before Norwich, Sean has also worked as a trail builder with the Northwest Youth Corps in the Pacific Northwest, dishwashed in five states, and did about a million odd jobs ranging from demolish to construction to driving cars.

He lives on a small lake in northern Vermont with his beautiful wife, Sarah.

Author’s Website: seanprentiss.com

Friday General Session 1: Literary Nonfiction

All Levels: This workshop will focus on ways to recognize, understand, and apply techniques involved in the production of memoir.

Saturday Retreat Session 1: Environmental Writing

All Levels: This outdoor workshop will examine techniques writers consider when addressing the environment, and issues relating to the environment, in their writing.


Alison Stine

Prose and Poetry

ALISON STINE’s first YA novel Supervision will be released by HarperVoyager on April 9, 2015.

She is also the author of three books of poetry: Wait (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), Ohio Violence (University of North Texas Press, 2009), and Lot Of My Sister (The Kent State University Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in more than 90 publications including: The Nation, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Tin House, and Poetry.

Trained as a performer, Ali’s original stage plays and musicals have been produced at the Cleveland Playhouse, the University of Nebraska, La Habra Depot Theatre, and the Trilogy Theatre Group. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and received the Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Ali holds a B.A. from Denison University, an M.F.A. from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. from Ohio University. She has taught as the Emerging Writer at Gettysburg College, Visiting Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University, and Postdoctoral Fellow at Ohio University, and is on faculty at the Reynolds Young Writers’ Workshop at Denison University.

Author’s Website: alisonstine.com

Friday General Session 3: Fiction

All Levels: This workshop will focus on ways character, voice, and imagery contribute to the writing of a successful story.

Saturday Retreat Session 2: Young Adult Fiction

All Levels: This workshop will focus on the various approaches involved in producing a successful young adult story.


Steven Coughlin


Steve Coughlin’s first book of poetry, Another City, finalist for the FututreCycle Poetry Book Prize, will be published this summer by FutureCycle Press. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in several notable magazines and literary journals, including the Gettysburg Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Green Mountains Review, Seneca Review, New Ohio Review, and Slate. In the Summer 2013 issue of Pleiades, Coughlin was the featured emerging writer. In commenting upon his writing style poet J. Allyn Rosser states that Coughlin is “strong, capable, and original . . . [he is a writer] capable of radically different tones and angles of approach.”

This past year Coughlin joined CSC’s English and Humanities department as an Assistant Professor of English. Prior to this Coughlin earned his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Massachusetts Boston, his master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Idaho, and his Ph.D. from Ohio University in English with an emphasis in creative writing. While at Ohio University, Coughlin also served as Editor of the literary journal Quarter After Eight, a nationally recognized publication of innovative literature and commentary.

General Session 2: Poetry

All Levels: This workshop will discuss approaches to avoid writer’s block in the writing of poetry.

Storycatcher Festival

The last day of the workshop is a FESTIVAL, open to the public, and set aside to celebrate the work of our participants, to promote writing and creativity in the region, and to highlight achievements of an important writer or figure associated with writing whose work echoes the spirit of Mari Sandoz.

Special Presentation: Poe Ballantine


At Home in the World—My Writing Life

In a retrospective of his writing life, inspired by what he has called his “years of itinerancy,” Poe Ballantine will take us behind the scenes of representative stories and essays from various stages in his publishing career, sharing his struggles and successes in becoming a working writer, and the recurring theme of “place” and “home” in his life and his writing, particularly from the perspective of an often-times drifter and outsider. Poe will chart the evolution of his storytelling, reading selections of his writing and then explaining the connections he drew from the time and place the work was crafted—from his earliest short stories, essays and novels to his most recent work. Along the way, he will share his insights about process, the importance of the small press (breaking in), writing about the community you belong to, balancing family and career, and any other questions, problems, and concerns for the budding writer might seeking to find his or her place in the world.

For well over twenty years, Poe Ballantine traveled America, taking odd jobs, living in small rooms, trying to make a living as a writer. At age 46, he finally settled with his Mexican immigrant wife in Chadron, Nebraska, where they had a son who was red-flagged as autistic. Poe published four books about his experiences as a wanderer and his observations of America. But one day in 2006, his neighbor, Steven Haataja, a math professor from the local state college disappeared. His memoir of these events, Love and Death on the Howling Plains of Nowhere was published to critical acclaim in 2013. A feature-length documentary based upon the book was released in 2014. (www.loveandterrorthemovie.com)

Poe Ballantine’s work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, regularly in The Sun MagazineKenyon Review, and The Coal City Review. His second novel, Decline of the Lawrence Welk Empire, won Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. The odd jobs, eccentric characters, boarding houses, buses, and beer that populate Ballantine’s work often draw comparisons to the life and work of Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. In addition to garnering numerous award nominations including The Pushcart Prize and The Pen/O. Henry Prize, Ballantine’s work has been included in the 1998 Best American Short Story and 2006 Best American Essay anthologies. Most recently, his “Free Rent at the Totalitarian Hotel” was included in Best American Essays 2013.

(Author Info: http://hawthornebooks.com/authors/poe-ballantine)


Rori Leigh Hoatlin

Recipient of the Mari Sandoz Emerging Writer Instructorship

Rori Leigh Hoatlin is a 2014 MFA graduate of Georgia College & State University and a 2013 Lake Michigan Writing Fellow. She has published essays in Prick of the Spindle, Tampa Review Online, Superstition Review, and Pine Hills Review. She is the Summer Director of the Writing Center at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI, where she also teaches.

Saturday Retreat Session 3: Character Development in Creative Nonfiction

This session will focus on turning loved ones into characters. All levels.


Workshop Schedule (subject to change)

Thursday, June 11th

(Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center Atrium)

For a map of campus, click here: CampusW-streets3d 8-02 

For detailed instructions on how to get to Chadron and the CSC Campus, visit the following page: http://www.csc.edu/visitors/location.csc


8 to 9: Morning Check-In & Registration for Advanced Workshop Pre-sessions

9:00 to 11:30 AM Advanced Workshop Pre-Session

With Writer in Residence Anna Keesey

  • Intermediate to Advanced Level: these workshops take place over two sessions and focus on writing that is already in progress, with an emphasis on peer editing, revision and shaping your narrative towards publication. Space is limited and additional registration fee required.


1:00 to 6:00: Advanced Workshop Conferences

  • Each participant in the advanced writing session will meet with Writer in Residence Anna Keesey for a thirty minute individualized consultation on a work of fiction already in progress.

5 to 6: Evening Check-In & Registration for General Workshop

6 to 7pm: Dinner (on your own) Bean Broker (202 W. 2nd Street)

7pm: Special Reading at the Bean Broker (with Sean Prentiss and Steven Coughlin)

Friday, June 12th

(Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center Atrium)


8 to 9:15: Morning Check-In & Registration for General Workshop

Continental Breakfast

9:30 to 10:30–Craft Lecture: “Lollygagging: Emerson and Me and You.”

With Writer in Residence Anna Keesey

  • All Levels: this lecture will focus on the elements of literary fiction with an emphasis on writerly craft and technique. Should we listen to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s one-time admonishment to ‘make haste’?   What exhortations from others can help us to write more, and write better?


12:00 to 1:15: General Workshop Session #1: Literary Nonfiction

With Sean Prentiss 

  • All Levels: This workshop will focus on ways to recognize, understand, and apply techniques involved in the production of memoir.

1:30 to 2:45: General Workshop Session #2: Poetry

With Steven Coughlin

  • All Levels: This workshop will discuss approaches to avoid writer’s block in the writing of poetry.

 3:00 to 4:15: General Workshop Session #3: Fiction

With Alison Stine

  • All Levels: This workshop will focus on ways character, voice, and imagery contribute to the writing of a successful story.

5:00 to 6:00: Reception (open to the public)

6:00 to 7:00 PM Keynote Presentation (open to the public)

  • Anna Keesey: Landscapes and Loss: Readings from Little Century. 
  • (book signing to follow)

Saturday, June 13th

(WRITERS RETREAT: Camp Norwesca & Chadron State Park)

Camp Norwesca and Chadron State Park are located next to each other in the scenic Pine Ridge Region just south of Chadron.

Continental Breakfast 8:00 AM (Norwesca Lodge)

9:15 to 11:00: Retreat Session #1: Environmental Writing (Norwesca Lodge)

With Sean Prentiss 

  • All Levels: This outdoor workshop will examine techniques writers consider when addressing the environment, and issues relating to the environment, in their writing.


(Pack your own lunch. We will have access to a refrigerator in our meeting room).

(Bring clothing/shoes appropriate for the outdoors if you plan to participate in those activities)

2:30 to 3:45: Retreat Session #2: Young Adult Fiction (Norwesca Lodge)

With Alison Stine

  • All Levels: This workshop will focus on the various approaches involved in producing a successful young adult story.

4:00 to 5:15: Retreat Session #3 (Norwesca Lodge)

With Rori Leigh Hoatlin (Winner of the Mari Sandoz Emerging Writer Instructorship)

  • All Levels: Character Development in Creative Non Fiction. This session will focus on turning loved ones into characters.

EVENING PROGRAM 5:30-8:00 PM (Chadron State Park)

Cookout: Pinecone Shelter, Chadron State park

Campfire reading by Alison Stine

Sunday, June 14th


(Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center Atrium—Open to the Public)

Continental Breakfast 8 AM

8:30 to 10 AM Special Guest Presentation

With Poe Ballantine: At Home in the World—My Writing Life

10:15 to 12 PM OPEN MIC

  • Readings from Workshop Participants


General Workshop & Retreat: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 12-14, 

  • General Workshop & Retreat Tuition: $150, which gains you access to all open workshops and special sessions over the three days.
  • There is no deadline for General Registration, and you do not need to sign up for any specific sessions in advance.
  • Students and Mari Sandoz Heritage Society Members Receive a 20% discount.
  • A limited number of scholarships are available for student writers. See application for details.                 

ADVANCED Revision Workshop: Pre-Session on Thursday, June 11th

With 2015 Writer-In-Residence, Anna Keesey.

Meeting a day before the general workshop, writers who have prose work (fiction or non-fiction) in progress and are interested in revising and refining their writing for publication will gather in a small writing community for one-on-one feedback with Anna Keesey.

  • Advanced Workshop Tuition: $100 (Advanced & General Workshop Special Rate: $200)
  • Space is limited to 8 writers, so early registration is encouraged.


In order to provide the utmost value and flexibility for our workshop participants, housing costs have NOT been added to your workshop registration fee. Instead, participants will have the following options for securing their own accommodations while in the region:

o   A limited number of dormitory-style rooms will be available for rent at Chadron State College during the Workshop and Festival. Costs are approximately $13 per person, per night, double occupancy, and $17.50 per person, per night, for a private room.

o   A list of hotels in the region will be provided. Several of these will be partnering with us to provide a discount rate to our conference participants.

o   Chadron State Park (approximately 9 miles south of CSC) and Fort Robinson State Park (approximately 25 miles to the south of CSC) have cabins, camping facilities and other forms of lodging as well.


Workshop participants often find that they need a relaxing break between sessions. Some may want to gather socially with other workshop members over a leisurely lunch, while others may want to grab a quick bite and work on their writing in solitude. In order to provide the most value and flexibility for your workshop experience, meals have NOT been added to your workshop registration fee.

o   As part of your registration fee, snacks and refreshments WILL be provided for the Opening Ceremonies and Reception. Continental Breakfast with coffee and tea service (and other light refreshments) WILL be available each morning before the workshop sessions in the Sandoz Center Atrium. Coffee and Tea service will also be provided throughout the day for breaks during the workshop sessions.

o   Noontime lunches and evening dining will be on your own. A list of dining options will be provided, with several restaurants in the region providing special rates or discounts for workshop participants.


 The workshop sessions will take place on the campus of Chadron State College, which lies within the southern boundary of the city of Chadron, Nebraska, with a population of approximately 6,000 residents.  Chadron State College is located about 290 miles north of Denver, Colo., and 100 miles south of Rapid City, S.D. U.S.  Highways 20 and 385 intersect in Chadron. For driving directions and regional and campus maps, please visit this website:  http://www.csc.edu/visitors/location.csc. The city of Chadron has a municipal airport with daily flights to Denver International Airport.

In addition to our workshop sessions on campus, other events will take place in the rugged beauty of the surrounding region. The scenic Pine Ridge of northwestern Nebraska has long been recognized as the most beautiful portion of the state.  The prairie and hills around Chadron are rich in pioneer history, and the town was founded in 1885.  Fort Robinson, twenty-eight miles away, was once a colorful frontier military post and provides a variety of activities amid its historic buildings, including the Post Playhouse, sponsored each summer by the college’s theatre department. Chadron State Park, the Pine Ridge, the Museum of the Fur Trade, the Sandhills of

Nebraska, the Hudson-Meng Bison Site, the Agate Fossil Beds, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Hot Springs Mammoth Site provide opportunities for exciting day trips, including sight-seeing, fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking and skiing. In 2000, Sports Afield designated Chadron as one of the “top 50 outdoor sports towns” in the nation and one of the four best

mountain biking towns in the United States.  Outside Magazine has selected Dawes County, where Chadron is located, as one of the nation’s top 100 counties in which to live.    The climate in the Pine Ridge Region during late May/Early June is typically pleasant, with clear skies and moderate temperatures—with highs in the low eighties and lows in the upper forties.

The Chadron State College residential campus, occupying two hundred eighty-one acres, is bound on the south by the tall, pine-clad buttes of the Pine Ridge.  Twenty-four major buildings with more than one million square feet of floor space provide state-of the art facilities for residential students. A highlight in the last decade was the  development of the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, which pays tribute to the western Nebraska native who became one of America’s leading authors—and which will be our “headquarters” for the Workshop and Festival this year.  The center focuses on the settlement and development of the High Plains region, including the history of the cattle industry in the C.F. Coffee Gallery.  The center houses an archive of important historical documents and artifacts, as well as a state-of-the-art digitizing laboratory, the Kosman electronically mediated classroom, a gallery of rotating artistic and historical exhibits, permanent exhibits on Sandoz and the high plains environment, and the outdoor Heritage Gardens that feature Sandhills and pioneer plantings.

About the Workshop

The Story Catcher Writing Workshop and Festival takes its inspiration from one of Nebraska’s most prominent writers, Mari Sandoz (1896-1966), who grew up in the region on the homesteads her family settled in the late 1800s. In addition to building an impressive career as an author, Sandoz went to great lengths to encourage other writers, conducting summer writing workshops on college campuses, reviewing manuscripts sent to her by aspiring authors from all over the nation, and teaching creative writing through programming produced by Nebraska Public Television. A prolific writer and dogged researcher, her works crossed the boundaries of history, fiction, biography, memoir, journalism, ethnography, ecology, activism and advocacy for marginalized groups, such as Native Americans. It is fitting, therefore, that this passionate teacher of writing who captured so many stories from this region should be the inspiration for our workshop.

The workshop and festival itself takes its name from The Story Catcher, Sandoz’s last published novel, and winner of the Levi Strauss Golden Saddleman Award in 1963 and the Western Writers of America Spur Award for best juvenile fiction in 1964. Set in the same high plains region of our workshop, the novella follows the trials and tribulations of a young Oglala Sioux searching for his place within a mid-nineteenth century tribal society facing white encroachment and continued conflict with neighboring tribes. Turning his back on the glory he might gain as a warrior, he instead wins honor and a new name: “Story Catcher,” recorder of the history of his people.

It is our goal to channel this spirit of Sandoz and The Story Catcher—to guide and encourage the participants of our workshop in capturing their own creative ideas, to help transform those ideas into written works that can then be shared, discussed and revised, and to celebrate the best qualities of writing from this workshop—and this region—in a festival that may inspire the story catcher in all of us.

In response to requests from our previous workshop participants, this year we are offering a greater mix of workshops that focus on getting started/generating writing, workshops that focus on revising work in progress towards publication, and general sessions on writing, creativity and getting published.


Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Society

The vision of the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society is to perpetuate and foster an understanding of the literary and historical works of Mari Sandoz, and to honor the land and the people about which she wrote: Native Americans, ranchers, farmers and the people who settled the High Plains country. The Society hosts a conference and presents the Pilster Great Plains Lecture

Series. Additionally, the society provides collections on loan to the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center at Chadron State College. Contributions to the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society are tax-deductible. To join the Society, or for more information, e-mail marisandoz_society@windstream.net or visit our website: www.marisandoz

Chadron State College Department of English and Humanities

Chadron offers a wonderful setting for the study of English literature and the humanities, with abundant beauty, natural resources, and open spaces to help open our minds. Many of our English major course offerings, such as Great Plains Literature, Literature Across Borders, and Environmental Literature have been developed with an eye towards the natural spaces of the High Plains where we live, teach, and learn. Our unique partnership with the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center offers further opportunities to read and write within a regional and environmental context. In other words, English majors at CSC benefit from an unfettered exposure to the great outdoors; here, you can literally get outside yourself. For more information, please visit our website: http://www.csc.edu/english/


Please visit our website for updates and the most current information, as well procedures for registering for the workshop or attending the festival


Story Catcher Summer Writing Workshop and Festival Staff:

Dr. Matthew Evertson, Director

Chadron State College

Department of English & Humanities (ADM 206)

1000 Main Street

Chadron, NE. 69337
(308) 432-6462   mevertson@csc.edu

Planning Committee:

Matthew Evertson, Professor,

Chadron State College Department of English and Humanities

Stephen Coughlin, Assistant Professor,

Chadron State College Department of English and Humanities

Kurt Kinbacher, Assistant Professor,

Chadron State College Department of Social Sciences

Sarah Polak, Director,

Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center