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Creative Writing Collaboratorium

April 15, 2023 - 9:00am


Lee Herrick Poetry Reading

Date: Friday, April 14, 2023 

Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

Location: Sentinel Room, El Capitan Hotel

609 W Main St. 

Merced, CA 95340

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Collaboratorium Workshops 

Date: Saturday, April 15, 2023

Time: 9:00 AM - 4:30 PM

Check In: 9:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Location: UC Merced, COB2-290

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Workshops Details:

Morning Workshops (10:00 AM - 11:45 AM):

Building a Rich, Dynamic World 

Leader: Samantha Tetangco Ocena, MFA

How can you build a world that is as rich and dynamic as your characters? Can the stories and history of a place move your story forward or deepen its meaning? In role playing games, the game master's sole purpose is to build a world full of characters, tensions, and histories in order for player characters (the main characters) to become immersed in a compelling story. In this workshop, we'll delve into place through a game master's lens as a way to consider how to develop tension, solve mysteries, or plant important story seeds. The workshop will be friendly to those working on novels, short stories, or pieces of creative nonfiction. No experience with role playing games required.

Bio: Samantha Tetangco Ocena is a Filipino-American writer and teacher. Her short stories, creative nonfiction, and poetry have appeared and/or are forthcoming in dozens of literary magazines, most notably The Sun, Tri-Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Zone 3, Gertrude, Cimmaron Review, and others. In her past, she has served as editor-in-chief for Blue Mesa Review, been president of the Association of Writers and Writing Program's LGBTQ Writer's Caucus, and was an artist-in-residence in The Studios at MassMOCA. Sam has an MFA from the University of New Mexico and is currently the Associate Director of Writing at the University of California Merced.

Editorials Without Editors: Writing Solid Opinion Essays in Today’s Media Landscape

Leader: Lora Burnett, PhD 

Today’s media landscape offers more opportunities than ever before for anyone to publish anything they think, at any time, in almost any format.  Writers have never had more opportunity to put our own thoughts out into the world…but, thanks to the very structural and economic changes that have seen a boom in self-publishing outlets even as legacy media outlets downsize, we have fewer and fewer opportunities to write for or work with paid, professional editors. This workshop will explore some tips and techniques for composition, collaboration, and/or revision to help writers overcome some of the disadvantages of publishing without editorial input.

Bio: Lora Burnett, a writer and American intellectual historian, was born and raised in the central San Joaquin Valley, where she teaches in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.  Her essays have appeared in The Washington Post, The Chronicle Review, Public Seminar, Arc Digital, and other publications.  She has a BA in English from Stanford University and a PhD in the Humanities/History of Ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas.  Her book on the history of culture wars debates focused on “Western Civilization” and the college curriculum is under contract with UNC press. 

From Jotting Notes in Your Journal to Jumpstarting Your Page

Leader: Michelle Greenwood, PhD

Journals are a great place to jot down ideas but sometimes we need help seeing the patterns that emerge. We will explore several journal strategies that can help you make sense out of nonsense. We will look at some examples of successful journal writers and the strategies they used to turn their ideas into writing sensations.

Bio: Michelle Greenwood is a UC Merced alum with a PhD in Cognitive & Information Science. She has taught classes at UC Merced and Merced College. She is currently serving as the Assistant Director for the Rising Scholars at Merced College.

The Magic of Picture Books

Leader: Randi Ocena

Some of us remember the look and feel of our first favorite books as clearly as we do our childhood homes or earliest friendships. They hold a special kind of magic and writing them is an artform unique unto itself in many ways. For anyone who loves kids’ books and especially those interested in writing them, this hands-on workshop will include writing and visioning exercises, discussion of children’s books from past and present, as well as first-step guidance for those looking to publish.

Bio: Randi Beck Ocena is a writer, artist, and children’s book enthusiast who currently works in children’s publishing as an editorial fellow at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. She has served as a resident poet with California Poets in the Schools for over two years, is a summer writing instructor at Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, and has published fiction, non-fiction, poetry in various literary journals over the past two decades.

The Power of Fear: Tapping into Emotion(s) to Drive Your Story

Leader: Rebeca Antoine, MFA

If one listens to Aristotle, the function of tragedy is to arouse pity and fear in an audience so that they might experience a catharsis or be purged of those troubling emotions. At the same time, the power of a story is how effective it might be at making a reader feel something with or for its characters; the reader has to sit in those feelings for a while. Whether we pity our characters or if they are to be feared or are afraid, they have to be believable.

This workshop will focus on fear: What makes us scared? How does fear feel in the body? How do we get that on the page? Come ready to explore and write!

Bio: Rebeca Antoine earned an MFA from the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans and is the editor of Voices Rising Vols. I and II: Stories from the Katrina Narrative Project. Her fiction has appeared in Upstreet, The Briar Cliff Review, Gulf Stream and other publications. She currently teaches at UC Merced in the Merritt Writing Program.


Afternoon Workshops (1:00 PM - 2:45 PM):

Deep Diving: Writing Beyond Grief

Leader: Dawn Trook, MFA

How can we use writing to grapple with the death of loved ones. We will work on creating booklets or panels that celebrate the person we have lost, capture memories, articulate your version of grief, engage in conversations with those we have lost by creating a fairy tale or story about your loved one’s post-earth life. This workshop is based on Dawn’s children’s book, Man in the Moon, a story about her brother’s sudden death and why he was called off the earth.

Bio: TBD

Making a Scene (Creative Nonfiction)

Leader: Paula Treick DeBoard, MFA 

In both fiction and creative nonfiction, summary and scene are woven together to create a story. In this workshop, we’ll look at different uses for summary and scene, study the elements of a scene (from its launch to its landing), and produce a narrative nonfiction scene using a story from your own life.

Bio: Paula Treick DeBoard is a fiction writer by trade who accidentally began writing creative nonfiction. Her fourth novel, Here We Lie (Park Row Books, 2018), was praised as a contribution to the #MeToo movement. She teaches writing at the University of California, Merced and spends her free time accumulating pets.

Deep Listening

Leader: Matthew Nye, PhD, MFA, M.Arch

This workshop will invite us to pay closer attention. As readers, we often turn to prose and poetry for the singular way an author observes and translates experience. As writers, we can enliven our own creative projects by tuning in to the world around us in all its webbed complexities. In this workshop, we’ll practice listening more closely to ourselves and to the world at hand. We’ll then use our observations to craft original creative experiments.

Bio: Matthew Nye is the author of the novel Pike and Bloom (&NOW Books 2016). His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, Chicago Review, The Iowa Review, Mid-American Review, and Hotel Amerika. He teaches in the Merritt Writing Program at the University of California, Merced.

Alternating Perspectives: Juxtaposing Ultra-limited & Fully Omniscient First-Person Points of View (POVs) 

Leader: Christa Fraser, MFA 

In this workshop, we will read several examples of claustrophobically close and limited first-person POV, including the opening chapter of Room by Emma Donoghue, and zoomed-out first-person mythical, distant, and omniscient POV examples, such as The Famished Road by Ben Okri. Then, we will write and juxtapose two to four related passages in response to prompts encouraging us to illustrate and intertwine the singular (“I”) or plural (“we”) ultra-close first-person POV with the ultra-distant and omniscient mythical first-person POV.

Bio: Christa Fraser currently teaches with the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been a fiction fellow at both the MacDowell Colony and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. From 2014 to 2020, she was a fiction and creative nonfiction instructor for the International Writing Program's (IWP) six-week Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), which typically include between 5,000 and 12,000 participants from around the globe. She has also taught six-week young writers' Fiction and Creative Nonfiction courses for several U.S. Embassies. Her work has been published in The Missouri Review and Shankpainter. Currently, she is working on a novel. Like her ancestors for many generations, she was born and raised in the Central Valley and Central Foothills of California, where she has deep roots and a mixed ancestry. She also calls the state's Central Coast home.

Sonnets & Odes of the Body

Leader: Susan Varnot, MFA 

In this workshop, we’ll look at some sonnets and odes that pay attention to, honor, and celebrate the body and its outer and inner workings. We will imagine and re-imagine the perspectives through which we understand ourselves uniquely. We will compose original work that empowers us to claim or reclaim our bodies, our relationships with them, and their experiences.

Bio: Since joining UC Merced in 2007, Susan has been active in the Writing Studies Minor, including founding the UC Merced Creative Writing Collaboratorium and curating the Write! Look! Listen! reading and workshop series. These areas of engagement stem from her teaching and research interests in collaborative, integrative, antiracist, and empowering pedagogy and praxis, creative writing, interdisciplinarity, poetry, and creativity studies. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including journals such as Arts and Letters, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and in the anthology, A Face to Meet the Faces: Contemporary Persona Poetry.


Afternoon Readings (3:00 - 4:00 PM)

Workshop attendees are encouraged to share the work generated during their workshops. Depending on the number who wish to participate, readers will be given 5-7 minutes to read.

To register for this event, visit:


University Main Campus

COB2 - 290

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