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You Can't Do It Alone: The Writing Relationship

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

When: Friday, March 23rd, 6:00pm-7:30pm

Saturday, March 24th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Sunday, March 25th, 9:30am-3:30pm (Lunch break at noon)

Where:  Iowa Writers' House, 332 East Davenport St

Cost: $265


John Cheever's inspiration was his audience: “I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.” The idea of the writer as a solitary figure is pervasive, and it's a myth we're here to break down. A writer's relationship with her audience, with the authors she reads, and with other writers in her circle are all essential parts of her identity as a writer and the writing process. 

Whether in a workshop setting, a meeting with an editor, or in bed with the partner who has read every draft: How do you know which advice to take and which to pivot from? How can you become the best critique artist in your circle, and how can learning to critique (and enjoy!) others' work help you become a better editor of your own? Our workshop will focus on developing these relationships. You will learn how to get the most of reading others' work, and being read. Through in-class exercises, we'll also learn how the essential elements of storytelling (character, conflict, situation, plot, setting, and dialogue) all contribute to realistic relationships within your narrative. This immersive class is open to fiction and nonfiction manuscripts, and will operate as a traditional workshop, with discussion and critiquing of the work you bring in. Finally, by practicing reading your work aloud, you will learn to connect with your audience and hear your work from the reader's side--an essential part of the revision process! 

Participants will email copies of an original short story, essay, or nonfiction narrative of 12-18 pages in length no later than one week prior to the workshop. This class welcomes writers at all levels: beginning, intermediate, or advanced! Anyone looking to prioritize relationships in their writing and in their writing process will find their place here! 


Keith Lesmeister is the author of the story collection We Could’ve Been Happy Here (MG Press, 2017). His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, Meridian, North American Review, Redivider, Slice Magazine, and many others. His nonfiction has appeared in River Teeth, Sycamore Review, The Good Men Project, Tin House Open Bar, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. He received his MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. He has taught at Luther College, Northeast Iowa Community College, Viterbo University, and the Vermont Young Writers Seminar.

More info can be found at 


My writing, my work—now and when I first started—needed and continues to depend on other readers to help identify what is working well and what isn’t working well. But even more, early readers motivate me to finish a story or essay. They encourage me to keep going; to keep editing; to develop more here; or cut this character; or add another scene. And perhaps even more valuable, reading other work has also provided me a sense for how to become a better editor of my own writing. My hope for our weekend together is to provide an engaging, safe, supportive, and productive community during our time in Iowa City, so that we might discuss, practice, workshop, and learn together—how to be an effective reader and workshop participant, and how that translates to improving our own work.


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:

Earlier Event: March 4
Drawing the Graphic Memoir