Workshop 2017

Workshop 2017

The Zurich Writers Workshop will be held May 12-14, 2017, in Zurich, Switzerland. It is divided into two sections: Fiction Boot Camp with Susan Jane Gilman and Poetry and Prose with Jill Alexander Essbaum. Each section also includes the Sunday Panel: Career Paths in Writing. There is also the opportunity to register for the Sunday Panel only. The entire workshop is conducted in English. To register, click here.

Fiction Boot Camp

The Fiction Boot Camp section is ideally suited for writers working on their first novel or short story. The section is limited to 15 participants.

There is a great myth about writing fiction. Many beginners assume that if they are truly talented, all they need to do is sit down before a blank page, wait for a bolt of inspiration, and have a story flow out of them, fully formed and perfect. But fiction writing requires discipline – and more often than not, it’s a struggle. What’s more, GOOD fiction requires a set of skills (like piano playing, tennis, or wood-working) that can be learned and mastered. This intensive workshop will focus on developing such “tricks of the trade” through writing exercises, readings, and critiquing each other’s work. Participants will submit a piece of their writing in advance; these, along with guidelines and short story selections, will be distributed to everyone ahead of time to prepare. We’ll then engage in a full weekend’s worth of “fiction boot camp.” Expect it to be strenuous and inspiring, but enjoyable. Ideally, everyone will come away from this a better writer.

Additional details will be included in the registration confirmation e-mail.

Instructor: Susan Jane Gillian

Susan Jane Gilman is the bestselling American author of three nonfiction books, “Kiss My Tiara,” “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” and “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven,” plus the novel “The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street.” “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress,” her memoir about growing up in New York City, was a New York Times bestseller; “Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven,” her account of a disastrous backpacking trip through China, was an Oprah Book Club recommendation; and her novel, “The Ice Cream of Orchard Street,” an epic story of an immigrant’s rise and fall, is currently a Target Club Pick and was named a “top read of 2014” by multiple magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Story, Ploughshares, the Virginia Quarterly, the Greensboro Review, and the Beloit Fiction Journal and have received several literary awards. Gilman has also written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, Real Simple, US, and Ms. magazine, among other publications and been a commentator for National Public Radio. For five years, she also hosted a “Bookmark,” a literary radio program on World Radio Switzerland. She received an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan, where she became an adjunct writing professor before going on to teach literature at the University of Eastern Michigan. She has also given a TEDx talk on the creative process called “There Is No Lightning Bolt.”

Poetry and Prose  

The Poetry and Prose workshop is ideal for novel, short story writers, or poets of any experience level. This section is limited to 15 participants.

The most difficult circumstances to write about are often the most dire. Your character is in crisis. Your character is in grief or despair. He is angry. She is terrorized. And now you, the writer, are frightened too.

You’re navigating setting. You’re dealing with a plot that careens toward a terrible inevitability. And your character is doing one thing when they were supposed to be doing another.

How do we handle this kind of writing? Like trying to steer a runaway stagecoach, it demands an enormous amount of planning, control, and finesse—in other words, it demands this workshop.

During this course, we’ll discover techniques to employ and pitfalls to avoid so that your writing (be it poetry or prose) will deliver your reader through and to any extremity with full engagement and a can’t-tear-themself-away attention to the story you tell. We’ll look at some passages, do some writing, and share our strategies for elevating poetry and prose to its highest emotional state—all while keeping our own emotions under control.

Additional details will be included in the registration confirmation e-mail.

Instructor: Jill Alexander Essbaum

Jill Alexander Essbaum is an American poet, writer, and professor. Her debut collection of poems, Heaven (2000), won the 1999 Bakeless Prize. Other collections include Harlot (2007), Necropolis (2008), and the long-poem chapbook The Devastation (2009). Her work has been included in the anthology Best American Erotic Poems (2008). Essbaum’s novel Hausfrau (2015) was a New York Times Bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Huffington Post, and Shelf Awareness, and nominated for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. The recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Essbaum has served as an editor for the online journal ANTI- , the print journal The National Poetry Review, and has also edited for the Nanopress Project, whose aim is to “pioneer a new poetry publishing model that brings together, on a one-time basis, an independent editor’s judgment and gravitas and a poet’s manuscript.” Essbaum teaches in the University of California-Riverside Palm Desert’s low-residency MFA program and lives in Austin, Texas.

Author Reading & Panel Discussion: Career Paths in Writing

Workshop instructors Susan Jane Gilman and Jill Alexander Essbaum, along with additional guests Adam H. Graham and Chantal Panozzo, will read from their work as well as discuss a typical day in their writing life. How did they get to where they’re at? From teaching to travel journalism to content writing to bestselling novels—four authors will discuss their work and what it takes to turn a love for writing into a career.

Adam H. Graham is an American travel journalist and frequently contributes to The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal and BBC, among other titles. He’s married to a Swiss architect and moved to Zurich in 2013. He writes a lot about Switzerland and Japan.

Chantal Panozzo is the author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d KnownShe has written about Switzerland for the The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN TravelDie Zeit, Fodor’sThe Christian Science MonitorVox, VICE, and Salon, and has also been a guest on HuffPost Live. The founder of Cross Border Content Inc. and the Chief Content Officer for the Washington D.C.-based The Brand Consultancy, Chantal is also at work on a novel and a collection of essays, American Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known—the sequel to her first book.


The workshop will be held at the Volkshaus, Stauffacherstrasse 60, 8004 Zürich.

Friday, May 12
19:00 – 21:00 Author Meet & Greet at James Joyce Pub (Optional; drinks are at your own cost, no registration necessary)

Saturday, May 13
9:00 – 10:30 Session 1
10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:30 Session 2
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:30 Session 3
15:30 – 16:00 Break
16:00 – 17:30 Session 4
18:00 – 20:00 Literary dinner at Haus Hiltl (Optional; Separate registration required)

Sunday, May 14
9:00 – 10:30 Session 5
10:30 – 11:00 Break
11:00 – 12:30 Session 6
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 17:00 Panel discussion (Included for those who are registering for Susan or Jill’s workshop. Writers not attending Susan or Jill’s workshop can register for this panel separately.)

To register, click here.