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Summer Writing Retreat 2022: “Beginnings, Middles, and Endings: Fiction at Every Stage” with Stacey Swann

July 11, 2022 - August 1, 2022

$269.00 – $389.00


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Level 1 (Class Only): $269 for Members, $329 for Non-Members

Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation): $329 for Members, $389 for Non-Members

This July, join us for our virtual 2022 Summer Writing Retreat featuring three classes on memoir, fiction, and revision plus lots of special events throughout the month, including two Saturday Craft Seminars, meet-ups, and dedicated writing time.

Each class will meet weekly for four weeks, starting the week of July 11, ending the week of August 1. Our fiction class with Stacey Swann will meet every Monday (July 11, 18, 25, August 1) from 6:30 PM CDT to 9:30 PM CDT via Zoom. A recording of each class session will be shared with all class registrants the day after – so you won’t miss anything even if you need to skip a session. Class details are below.

Registration for this class will close at 5:00 PM CDT on Monday, July 11.

“Life is very nice, but it lacks form. It’s the aim of art to give it some.” – Jean Anouilh

Whether we’re writing novels or short stories, fiction writers have to grapple with structuring beginnings, middles, and endings. Each of these sections of a larger work has its own specific needs. In this class, we’ll take a close look at successful strategies – and potential pitfalls – for each stage of the narrative. 

Over the course of the four class sessions, we’ll gain skills in crafting openings that ground the reader and draw them in, middles that escalate tension and add to character development, and endings that satisfy and yet still surprise. We’ll do this through in-depth discussions of essential craft topics and hands on experimentation through writing exercises. Throughout, there will be plenty of space for discussion as well as giving and receiving informal feedback.

As the month progresses, we’ll read two short stories and a short novel – Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore – to evaluate their success at each stage of the narrative.

About each session: 

Week 1 (July 11): Give the reader a place to stand… and then suck them in: In this first session, we’ll discuss the importance of a first page in a short story and the first scene in a novel. What information does the reader need immediately and what can be developed later? What does the opening say about the emotional and intellectual promise of your work, and how does that promise relate to atmosphere and tone? We’ll dig into these topics by looking at published examples as well as our own opening paragraphs.

Week 2 (July 18): A further examination of openings: In our second session, we’ll move further into openings to examine inciting incidents, scene versus summary, introducing characters, and the other important work a successful opening accomplishes.

Week 3 (July 25): The dreaded long middle: In this third session, we’ll tackle the part of a work that often gives writers the most trouble: everything that comes after the beginning and before the end! Topics will include pacing, subplots, and the wide variety of plot structures available to us.

Week 4 (August 1): And then we came to the end: In the final session, we’ll take a close look at endings. How successful at sticking their endings are the published works we’ve read throughout the month? As a reader, what kinds of endings delight you the most? We’ll also compare the different expectations for short story endings versus novel endings and how best to meet those expectations while still surprising the reader.

Take this class if…:

The class is geared to all fiction writers at any stage of a project, whether you are just getting started or have already finished a draft. Beginning writers will gain a clearer understanding of the structural expectations of fiction, and more experienced writers will learn tactics for looking at their work in fresh ways.

Preparation for the first day of class: 

Over the course of the month, students will read two short stories and a short novel, but there will be no required reading prior to the first class session. Ahead of the first class session, students will be expected to purchase (or check out from the library) a copy of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore.

Registration details: 

Choose your registration level:

Level 1 (Class Only) or

Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation)

The difference: Level 2 (Class + Private Consultation) registrations include one 20-minute meeting with Stacey Swann sometime during the month (via Zoom). If you’d like, you can also share 10 pages of your work for feedback ahead of the meeting.


Stacey Swann HeadshotStacey Swann’s debut novel Olympus, Texas (Doubleday) was a Good Morning America Book Club selection, an Indie Next Pick, and was longlisted for The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Swann holds an M.F.A. from Texas State University and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her writing has appeared in LitHub, Electric Literature, Texas Highways, Epoch, and other journals. She splits her time between Austin and Lampasas, Texas.

Before purchasing, please read all policies as noted below and on our Classes page.

If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click here for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it. If you prefer this option, please email wlt@writersleague.org with a copy of the form as well to ensure we add you to the class roster as soon as possible.

Expecting to see the member price, but it’s not appearing?

Confirm you are logged into your account first and foremost. The member price will only appear when you are logged into your account and have an active membership on file. If you are having trouble accessing your account, please email member@writersleague.org and explain the situation.

Class & Event Registration Policy

Once a purchase has been made, registrations are not refundable and cannot be transferred to a different class or event. No exceptions will be made. If you purchase a registration and then find you cannot attend the class or event, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at wlt@writersleague.org and let us know the name and contact information for the person who will be using the registration so that we can update the class or event roster.

Accessibility Policy

Closed captioning is available for all online classes and special events.

The WLT is committed to making its programs & services accessible to all writers. Please contact us at wlt@writersleague.org or at 512-499-8914 for more information or to discuss accommodations you may need.

Credit Card Transaction Handling Fee Policy

All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. If you’d prefer to pay by check for membership, a class, or an event, you can use the provided forms on the membership or event pages and mail to: WLT, P.O. Box 14355, Austin, TX, 78704.


Our classes offer a combination of lecture and practical exercises, determined by the individual instructor, on focused aspects of the craft and business of writing. Your fellow participants will come from a range of writing experience, from beginners to people with MFA degrees and published books. WLT instructors, participants, and administrators all work together to create a welcoming, supportive environment.

If you haven’t taken a class with us in recent years, feel free to email the WLT staff at wlt@writersleague.org if you’d like to discuss whether our programming is the right fit for your needs.


Once you register for the class, you’ll receive an email with detailed instructions no later than 48 hours before the class date. You should expect 2-2.5 hours of direct teaching and 30 minutes of Q&A (for three hours total). If you need to leave the class early or can’t attend the class on that date, all registrants will have access to the recording for one month after the class date. No microphone or camera required, just an Internet connection capable of streaming video. All online classes are hosted on Zoom. To learn more about how Zoom works, click HERE. 

Plan to log in to the online platform an hour before the class so that you can update your software or any other settings required to access the platform. (Updates usually only take a few minutes, but you don’t want to wait until the beginning of class.) Questions? Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Cultural Arts City of Austin

This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department. Visit Austin at NowPlayingAustin.com.

Texas Commission on the Arts

Writers’ League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts – Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to www.arts.texas.gov.

National Endowment for the Arts

This project is also supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit www.arts.gov.

Mid-America Arts Alliance

This project is supported in part by the Mid-America Arts Alliance. For more information, go to www.maaa.org.


July 11, 2022
August 1, 2022
$269.00 – $389.00
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Online via Zoom