Pre-conference Workshops

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In October 2016 the Carver College of Medicine will again sponsor several long-format workshops. These opportunities are oriented toward building skills in writing and general enjoyment of life.

All workshops are on Wednesday, 10/5, 9 to 4 pm

Poetry and Medicine: Politics, Policy-makers, Poems

Serena J. Fox, MD
2240 MERF

Serena J. Fox is an intensive care physician at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, NYC. She believes deeply that poetry and the Humanities have essential roles in the teaching of medicine, ethics, human rights and care-giving. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the Western Humanities Review. Her book, Night Shift, is the basis for a series of poetry and medicine seminars that she facilitated in the NYU School of Medicine Master Scholars Program.

The destination of this pre-conference workshop is a first draft of a poem that dares to advocate for change or scrutinize our leaders. You give the people what they want, Bobby,/ someone they can’t help loving…/Break a leg, kid, I say to myself/Give ‘em a miracle/Give ‘em Hollywood./ Give ‘em Saint Jack prescribes Ai in her poem ‘Two Brothers, a fiction’ (Sin, 1986).

Last workshop, we examined freedom engendered by restraint embodied in the villanelle form. This election year we will give our usually non-judgmental medical selves permission to take sides, to call for change or stop for a moment and preserve small heroisms or defeats that otherwise may have gone unnoticed. We will read poems that speak to us in a political sense and discuss the positives and negatives of voicing the political from a medical stance. A significant amount of time will then be devoted to writing drafts of our own poems.  Lastly, we will share our discoveries constructively. This workshop is offered as a gift of protected time and space. Inexperienced writers are welcome. Everyone please try to bring a poem to share that strikes you as brave politically.


  1. Work on a first draft of a poem
  2. Share first drafts and comment on them constructively
  3. Discuss the pros and cons of writing poems about politics, policy and leadership from the medical perspective.

Five Stories: A Short-Short Prose Workshop

Margaret Reges, MFA
2166 MERF

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Margaret Reges’ honors include a 2015 “Discovery”/ Boston Review prize from the 92nd Street Y, the 2012 Page Davidson Clayton Prize for Emerging Poets from Michigan Quarterly Review, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, the MacDowell Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared in The Boston Review, The Iowa Review, jubilat, B O D YMichigan Quarterly Review, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere.

She teaches undergraduate writing courses at the University of Iowa, and regularly teaches courses overseas (lately in India and South America) as an instructor for Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies.

If you’re a medical professional or student, chances are you don’t have a lot of free-time on your hands for anything, let alone writing. Does this mean you have to give up your desire to write?. Poet Laureate Robert Hass once offered this advice to time-crunched writers: “Take the time to write. You can do your life’s work in half an hour a day.” In this generative prose workshop, you will take Hass’ words to heart, pushing yourself to generate five new short-short (~1-page) prose pieces (fiction and nonfiction) in just short of six hours. You will also share and discuss your work with your peers, read micro-fiction that will broaden your understanding of the story, and come away with techniques that will help you better understand how to fit writing time into your busy schedule.

Shaping the Short Story

Carol Scott-Conner MD, PhD
5181 MERF

Carol Scott-Conner MD PhD is author or editor of 12 surgical textbooks and numerous surgical papers. In more recent years, she has written two books of short stories. Around 15 of these stories were first published in small literary journals, ranging from North Dakota Quarterly through The Healing Muse. She serves on the editorial board of The Examined Life Journal, and is past editor-in-chief of that journal. Her most recent book, Medical Writing: Creative Writing for Clinicians, is meant to serve as a bridge from technical to creative writing. She is professor emeritus of surgery at the University of Iowa.

How do you transform the spark of an idea into a short story? The events of daily life are rich in anecdote – short little humorous or poignant happenings that we might jot down in our journals. A story has structure – a beginning, middle, and end; a hero (protagonist) and a plot. The reader of a short story brings certain tacit assumptions to the form.

This workshop will explore techniques for expanding an anecdote into a story, with particular reference to the medical environment. During the first half of the day, we will discuss the elements of fiction, with specific attention to techniques used by skilled writers. We’ll read and analyze a story written by a clinician. During the remainder of the workshop, you will expand your own anecdote (or a writing prompt) into the outline of a story.

While the workshop will deal primarily with fiction, most of the concepts discussed are transferrable to short literary nonfiction as well. Problems unique to the medical environment (such as confidentiality, and objectivity for narratives of illness) will be explored.

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