DISQUIET offers core writing workshops in Fiction, Poetry, and Memoir and Nonfiction, as well as the Writing the Luso Experience workshop. These core workshops meet three times per week (M/W/F). In addition, each year we offer unique workshops such as The Fernando Pessoa Game, Performance and Storytelling, and others. These workshops meet formally twice per week (T/R).


Short-short Forms with Sally Ashton

This cross-genre workshop will focus on writing in the short-short forms, whether lyric essay, prose poem, flash fiction, or happy combinations. Are the boundaries distinct? Are they even important? We’ll talk about this as we critique new work written in response to your Lisbon experience. Writers who prefer may choose to focus on works in progress.


M/W/F, 10:00 AM -12:30 PM

Fiction with Garth Greenwell, Maaza Mengiste, Robert Olmstead, Ru Freeman

These workshops will follow the traditional creative writing workshop model in which students discuss, and critique each other’s work in small groups led by the instructor.

Writing the Intangibles in Fiction with Ru Freeman

Good first drafts tell a story; they capture character and theme, usually have a definable arc, and are told in a voice that is clear. Yet there is a difference between telling a story and immersing a reader in a sustained narrative. The one is closer to anecdote, easily forgotten, the other is transcendental. To make the leap between the details of a story and the lingering impression of an experience, the writer must use their words to evoke the elements of a story that aren’t as easily set down: empathy for the characters, an atmosphere particular to the events that take place, and the sense of inhabiting a specific place/setting. We will address each of these aspects of writing fiction, using both your own work and assigned texts. We will read a variety of work, engage in constructive critique of your novel-openings/short-stories, and do some impromptu writing.

Style in Fiction with Garth Greenwell

“Style” is something we talk about a great deal, but sometimes without a clear sense of what it means. In this class we’ll try to be as concrete as possible, examining the elements that make up style in order to see how they contribute to other aspects of fiction: character, atmosphere, incident, theme. While our primary focus will be workshopping student manuscripts, we’ll also look at a few short examples of published work by writers with strong and interesting styles, and I’ll offer exercises and strategies for further developing your own distinctive and effective style.

Fiction with Maaza Mengiste

If we inhabit more than one world at a time and we’re capable of both good and questionable emotions at once, why should the  characters we write be any less complicated? This is a workshop focused on character development. We will consider ways to move beyond the simple paradigm of good vs. bad. We will discuss the differences between “likeable” and “realistic” characters. We will also look at some of the other most pertinent aspects of fiction: pacing, POV, voice, and apply lessons learned to the stories we write. Incorporated into our time together will be strategies for revision, as well as some exercises to help you produce new work. With each draft, we will ask each other what it is about this story that demanded writing? What is at stake? Why this story, now?

Fiction with Robert Olmstead

…a murder of crows…a skulk of foxes…an ostentation of peacocks…a wisdom of wombats…a company of fiction writers…

Our company of writers will gather for reasons of FICTION. With generosity, sympathy, honesty and idea we will thoughtfully discuss the pages you offer, be they short story, chapter, excerpt, fragment or shard. Our best conversations will be serious and funny. We will say smart, wise, helpful and dumb things. We will respect freedom of art and discourse. We will share tips and techniques, tactics and strategies. We will spontaneously recommend to each other great and influential books, film, poetry, art, music. We will devise new terms of venery for our collected selves. We will change each others’ minds in big and small ways. We will come away feeling not so alone.


M/W/F, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

Poetry with Denise Duhamel

Laying the Foundation: Concrete Imagery in Poetry

Using Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to things” (“Oda a las cosas”) as our maxim, this workshop will explore arrivals to the sublime via naming and detail. William Carlos Williams wrote, “No ideas but in things,” and Pound applied “imagism” to H.D. who was influenced by Sappho’s compressed lyrics. This is just to say there are many ways to achieve what Mark Doty calls “metaphor meaning—and meaning intensely.” Poems about any subject are welcome with the understanding that this class will do its best to veer away from abstraction. In addition to workshop, we will generate new poems and seedlings for poems via prompts that oblige us to pay attention to precision. Participants should be open to the explosive, cathartic, heartbreaking and hilarious effects of symbolism.

M/W/F, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

Memoir & Nonfiction with Chanan Tigay, Molly Antopol

The majority of time in this Creative Nonfiction workshop will be dedicated to discussing participants’ work, with an eye toward drawing connections between craft principles and your own writing practice. In a focused but informal setting, we will examine elements in the submissions such as structure, tension, arc and character, paying particular attention to the ways in which conventions of craft are applied and understood—and oftentimes reinterpreted or subverted. We’ll further hone these skills through a series of in-class exercises. We’ll also be reading and discussing the occasional piece of published work to see how the best in the business do what they do–and what we can steal (um, borrow) from them to take our work to the next level. Leaving Lisbon, participants will know what questions to ask themselves as they write new works of nonfiction, leading them to create first drafts that are more complete and polished than those they were producing upon entering the workshop.

M/W/F, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

Playwriting with Elaine Avila

Playwriting is open to playwrights of all experience levels and to writers seeking to write a play for the first time. Playwriting meets six times for 2.5 hours per day each MWF of the program. Students have the option of submitting up to 30 pages of original work a month before the program to be workshopped during the program. However, students are not required to submit pages. During the program, we will critique pre-conference submitted work, discuss the elements of playwriting, do writing exercises and give students the opportunity to write their own short play or begin a new full-length piece.

T/Th, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

Writing the Luso Experience with Katherine Vaz

Writing the Luso Experience will be a multi-genre workshop with an emphasis on exploring how Lusitanian influences might inform and expand our creative energies. How to write from cultural or immigrant experience is one aspect that’s welcome, but all narrative approaches are invited. We’ll help one another hone in on the heart of the material in order to figure how to best open and render that, making it memorable in an emotionally resonant way for readers. A mini-course on “plot for poets” is included, along with a special section on magical realism. This is a unique workshop to share Portuguese (or Brazilian or African) sensibilities, or bicultural ones, in a city that can truly be a fount of inspiration for Lusos in particular. We’ll work in detail on each other’s manuscripts with a mind toward good pacing, character detailing, shading and color, textured backdrops, poetic impact, and strong storytelling.

M/W/F, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

The Fernando Pessoa Game with Terri Witek, Cyriaco Lopes

The Fernando Pessoa Game is composed of a series of creative prompts that invite participants to engage their own practice (in writing, visual arts, performance, etc.) along with their sensitive and physical surroundings. We will examine text in terms of site-specificity, the body, its sensorial reception–and the production of art as a response to scores, to maps, to sets of open-ended instructions.  Encounters will be anchored in brief historical overviews of transdisciplinary and contemporary experimental art. This is an opportunity to expand your artistic vocabulary, to try strategies outside your routine, to adventure yourself into a wonderful world of creative possibilities, all  in the spirit of Fernando Pessoa and in his beloved city.

T/TH, 10 am - 12:30 pm Centro Nacional de Cultura

Lisbon is our Muse: Writing for Stage and Screen with Elaine Avila

From the café to the miradouro, the spires of churches to the dance club, we will visit sites throughout Lisbon to inspire scenes or short plays/films. We will then workshop and develop our pieces, exploring what makes writing for stage and screen unique.  We will delve into adaptation, the site inspired and the site specific, the power of the ancient and the ultra modern, such as the pod play/phone theatre/multi platform online diary. On our last class, we will return to our sites of inspiration to perform staged readings for each other and to make multi phone camera recordings.
 Please bring about $20 US/Canadian or 15 Euros for a café beverage/admission to a historic site, and if you have them, your phones/cameras/i pads/recording devices.

T/R, 10 am - 12:30 pm

Performance and Storytelling: The Oral Tradition on the Stage and the Page with Arthur Flowers

Storytelling. From the dawn of humanity to the Nobel Prize, storytelling as cultural narrative has been one of the primal functions of the human condition; gathering folk around the sacred fire and passing on essential cultural knowledge. It is through narrative, through storytelling, that we make sense of our lives and our world – and the primal principles of storytelling are still central to literary achievement. From doing dramatic readings to performance poetry and narrative innovation, this seminar will explore the dynamics of effective presentation and performance, the relationship between performer and audience, and the role of storytelling on the stage and in the text.

T/TH, 10AM to 12:30PM Centro Nacional de Cultura

* All workshops are subject to enrollment considerations. Workshops may be canceled if adequate enrollment is not reached.

** Instructors sometimes drop out or reschedule, and, in this unlikely scenario, DISQUIET will replace them and notify participants.