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).


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

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

Parody and Satire with Christopher Cerf

We’ll use your submitted work as the springboard for four sessions devoted to the how-tos and what-fors of writing satire and parody – exploring the similarities and differences between the two genres, and how they frequently overlap.  We’ll exchange first drafts (one-to-five pages maximum as a starting point) before our first meeting in Lisbon. You should write in one of these general categories:

  • A pastiche of a famous (or infamous) author or poet;
  • A satiric essay or short story (Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” or Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” are notable examples);
  • A “fake news” article or other spurious document (à la The Onion or Andy Borowitz);
  • A script for a satiric comedy sketch (think Tina Fey skewering Sarah Palin, or the Pythons’ incomparable “Semaphore
  • Version of Wuthering Heights”);
  • A parody or satiric song lyric (there are plenty of excellent models out there, from Tom Lehrer, Randy Newman, and the Muppets, to Weird Al and beyond).

We’ll draw upon some of the most inspired and outrageous works in each of these categories (sharing, I suspect, more than a few laughs as we do so), all in the service of helping your project reach its greatest comic/satirical potential.  (You won’t be confined to your initial category if you decide to change it during the course.  The workshop is designed for you to leave with a second, polished draft that will either continue as a work-in-progress or feel complete.)



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

Structured Writing Time with The Disquiet Staff

Structured writing time is a chance to schedule yourself some time to reflect, revise, or generate new material while in Lisbon. In the middle of a busy program, this is an oasis for you and your writing, complete with writing prompts for anyone looking for extra inspiration. Disquiet provides the time and space; you provide the content.

T/TH, 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

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

Adventures in Form with David Caplan

In this workshop, we will study poetic forms as a means of exploration and adventure. We will try unusual forms and see how more familiar forms might be used in new ways, whether in conjunction with new subjects or in new combinations.  Each session will consist of discussing examples and writing exercises based on what we notice. This workshop is open to poets and non-poets alike.

T / Th, 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM 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.