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Feed Your Writing: Observation, Memory, & the Long Walk Home

  • Iowa Writer's House 332 East Davenport Street Iowa City, IA, 52245 United States (map)

When: Friday, June 15th, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Saturday, June 16th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Sunday, June 17th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Where:  Iowa Writers' House, 332 East Davenport St

Cost: $265


The goal of this workshop is to bring writers of all genres and forms together by exploring a sense of observation and become more comfortable with integrating research and personal narratives into your creative work. Participants will use personal anecdotes, remembrances of local history, observed details, and online sources to write fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry about the neighborhood where they grew up, currently reside, or a different place of interest. Through guided exercises, use of online photographs and resources, and by sketching while walking around Iowa City, we’ll refocus specific acts of remembering into creative work. 

While students may be familiar with memoir or traditional roman a clef autobiographical fiction, the narrow focus for this class is to use these skills and exercises to build out all of your work with rich, accurate details and to use anecdotes to add richness to your writing. In addition to craft-focused sessions, we’ll also break out for several adventures around IWH’s historic neighborhood to hone our observational skills. Bring your walking shoes!

Writers' House Note:
"We're so delighted to have Ted join us for this inspiring weekend! This special exploratory workshop is sure to be one of the best of the season!"



Theodore Wheeler Photo_credit Travis Thieszen.jpg

Theodore Wheeler is the author of the novel Kings of Broken Things and a collection of short fiction, Bad Faith. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Southern ReviewThe Kenyon Review, NarrativeThe Cincinnati ReviewBoulevardBest New American Voices, and New Stories from the Midwest, and has been recognized with an AWP Intro Journals Award, a Marianne Russo Award from Key West Literary Seminar, and a fellowship from Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany. A graduate of the MFA program at Creighton University, he currently teaches creative writing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and covers a civil law and politics beat as a reporter. Read more about his work at



So much of my writing practice is built around the idea of finding ways to feed the projects I’m working on at a given time. Fighting for a couple hours of daily time to write and guarding your mental health are big ones for every author—and a crucial aspect of these for me is to incorporate writing into most every aspect of my daily life. The form this writing takes isn’t all that important—most of the time this means jotting down a sketch, a bit of dialogue, even a verse or a silly song that catches me off guard—so long as I’m always writing, or being in the state of mind that writing can happen. Many of the best ideas and phrases that found their way into my two books did not come from structured writing at my desk, but began as scribbles on the back of an envelope or as a note tapped into my phone while I was on a long, ambling walk. Understanding this, I’ve made long, ambling walks a part of my process. When I mention how important it is to feed my writing, this is what I mean. Invariably it’s a bit of observation from the world around me or a deep memory that emerges from my subconscious at the right time that ends up causing a story to turn in a significant way. Recalling from nowhere the sound of my father’s voice when we visited a family member in the hospital; or how I used to hide in a cedar hollow with low evergreen skirts as a boy; or how the sweet, decayed smell of overripe cherries flattened on a sidewalk became the perfect way to express the entropy of a midsummer evening. Literary sketching, to me, is taking the time to be mindful and training your powers of observation in a way that keeps you engaged in your city, your past, and the surrounding stimulus that will power your work in surprising and meaningful ways.


Everyone has a story to tell. If you are financially unable to attend this workshop, scholarships are available through our generous partners and donors. Apply here.


Helping another person attend a workshop is helping them achieve their dreams. Thank you for making our world a better place.


All course information is sent to participants upon registering including confirmation of workshop times, location, and materials. Our workshop cancellation policy can be found here: