2017 Summer Fiction Writing Retreat Sign-Ups Open

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is thrilled to announce its Summer Fiction Writing Retreat, which runs from Friday, June 2nd to June 4th, 2017.  The three-day, two-night camping retreat will be held at SAFTA’s own Firefly Farms in Knoxville, Tennessee.  This year’s retreat will focus on generative fiction writing and include two break-out sessions “Transmogrification: Magic and the Body” and “The Most Weird and Practical Dream: Advice on How to Communicate With Strangers, or, Everything I’ve Learned in the Last 20 Years Cut Down to 2 Hours,” plus discussions on kicking writer’s block, publishing, and more.

A weekend pass includes one-on-one and group instruction, writing supplies, food, drinks, transportation to and from the airport, and all on-site amenities for $250.  Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are available to rent for $25.  Payment plans are available if you reserve by March 31, 2017; inquire via email for details.

The event will be open to writers of all backgrounds and provide an opportunity to work with many talented, published fiction writers from around the country, including Chen Chen and Emilia Phillips.

M.O. Walsh


M.O. Walsh is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He is the author of the short story collection The Prospect of Magic and the novel My Sunshine Away, which was a New York Times Bestseller, an Amazon Featured Debut, and won the Pat Conroy Book Award for Southern Fiction.  His stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, The Guardian, Oxford American, The Southern Review, and others. He currently lives in New Orleans, LA, where he is the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans.


tessa-mellas-for-gristTessa Mellas received the 2013 Iowa Short Fiction Award for her collection, Lungs Full of Noise. She holds an MFA from Bowling Green State University and a PhD from the University of Cincinnati. She teaches writing at the University of Maine at Machias, a college so far east it is the first in the nation each morning to see the sun. Figure skater, vermicomposter, vegan, and tender of a fierce feline twosome, she relates to soil and snow.

We have one full scholarship available for the retreat as well as limited 20% scholarships for those with financial need. To apply for a scholarship, send a packet of no more than (8) pages of poetry along with a brief statement on why you would like to attend this workshop to Erin Elizabeth Smith at erin@sundresspublications.com no later than March 31, 2017. Winners will be announced in April.


Space at this workshop is limited to 15 writers, so reserve your place today!

Sundress Academy 2016 Poetry Retreat


The Sundress Academy for the Arts is thrilled to announce its Summer Poetry Writing Retreat, which runs from Friday, May 27th to Sunday, May 29th, 2016. The three-day, two-night camping retreat will be held on SAFTA’s own Firefly Farms in Knoxville, Tennessee. This year’s retreat will focus on generative poetry writing and include break-out sessions on publishing, kicking writer’s block, and much more!

A weekend pass includes one-on-one and group instruction, writing supplies, food, drinks, transportation to and from the airport, and all on-site amenities for $200. Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are available to rent. Payment plans are also available!

The event will be open to writers of all backgrounds and provide an opportunity to work with many talented, published fiction writers from around the country, including Gerry LaFemina and Karyna McGlynn.

Gerry LaFemina
Gerry LaFemina

Gerry LaFemina is the author of nine collections of poetry and prose poetry, numerous chapbooks, two books of fiction, and Palpable Magic: Essays on Poetry and Prosody. A new collection, The Story of Ash, will be released in 2017. Among his awards and honors are a Pushcart Prize as well as fellowships from the Irving Gilmore Emerging Artist Foundation and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. A distinguished literary arts activist, he directs the Frostburg Center for Literary Arts at Frostburg State University, where he is an associate professor of English. He also serves as a poetry mentor in the Carlow University low residency MFA Program.



Karyna McGlynn
Karyna McGlynn

Karyna McGlynn is the author of Hothouse (Sarabande Books 2017), I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl (Sarabande Books 2009), and three chapbooks: Scorpionica (New Michigan Press 2007), Alabama Steve (Sundress Publications 2014), and The 9-Day Queen Gets Lost on Her Way to the Execution, forthcoming from Willow Springs Editions. Her poems have recently appeared in The Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, Black Warrior Review, AGNI, Ninth Letter, Witness, and The Academy of American Poet’s Poem-A-Day. Karyna’s honors include the Hopwood Award, the Verlaine Prize, and the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. She holds an MFA from the University of Michigan, and recently earned her PhD in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston where she served as poetry editor and managing editor for Gulf Coast.  She is currently the Diane Middlebrook Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin where she serves as the senior poetry editor for Devil’s Lake.



Space at this workshop is limited to 15 writers, so reserve your place today at


SAFTA to Pair with VIDA for Fall Residency Contest


Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is excited to announce that they are now accepting applications for short-term artists’ residencies in creative writing, visual art, film/theater, music, and more. Each residency includes a room of one’s own, access to a communal kitchen, bathroom, office, and living space, plus wireless internet.

The length of a residency can run from one to three weeks. SAFTA is currently accepting applications for our fall residency period, which runs from August 29th 2016 to January 1, 2017.  The deadline for fall residency applications is June 15th, 2016.

For the fall residency period, SAFTA will be pairing with VIDA to offer two fellowships (one full fellowship and one 50% fellowship) for a week-long residency to two women writers of any genre. VIDA’s mission as a research-driven organization is to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture. Fellowships will be chosen by guest judge, Matthea Harvey. Harvey is the author of five books of poetry (most recently If the Tabloids are True What are You) and two books for children. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College.  (Please note if you are applying for one of these scholarships in the financial need section of your application.)

The SAFTA farmhouse is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,000 in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities. 

The residency bedrooms are 130 sq. ft. with queen-size platform bed, closet, dresser, and desk. There is also a communal kitchen supplied with stove, refrigerator, and microwave plus plenty of cook- and dining-ware. The office and library have two working computers—one Mac, one PC—with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud.  The library contains over 700 books with a particularly large contemporary poetry section and, thanks to the Wardrobe, many recent titles by women writers. The facility also includes a full-size working 19th century full-size letterpress with type, woodworking tools, and a 1930’s drafting table.

To apply for the Sundress Academy for the Arts residency, you will need the following: 

-Application form (including artist’s statement and contact information for two references)

-CV or artist’s resume (optional)

-Artist sample (see website for more details on genre specifications)

-Application fee of $25 or $15 for current students (with student email) payable online*

For more information, visit our website: http://www.sundressacademyforthearts.com/

or find us on Facebook, under Sundress Academy for the Arts

or on Twitter, @SundressPub

*Application fee will be waived for those applying for the VIDA scholarship who demonstrate financial need. Please state this in your application under the financial need section.

Scott C. Fynboe On SAFTA’s Inaugural Writers’ Retreat

ImageIn May, I had decided to quit writing poetry; told both my wife and Erin Elizabeth Smith that I was “out of the game.” Over the last two years, my focus was on pedagogy, a tenure portfolio and an endless stream of freshman comp papers. My creative energies were centered on finding new ways to scribble “thesis,” “I’m not sure what you mean here” and “citation needed” into the margins of student essays. At the end of the workday, there was nothing in the tank to make me sit down and think about drafting new work, let alone sending out any submissions.

And yet, because I would be in Knoxville on vacation anyway, I found myself going to SAFTA’s first undergraduate poetry retreat and camping trip. At the very least, I could offer an extra pair of arms to tote food, gear and supplies up from the farmhouse to the mountain-top campground. I could make runs to the nearby Ingles grocery store. That sort of stuff. My participation was going to be limited, and I liked that.

Then, two nights before it began, Erin sent out a copy of the weekend’s schedule; the 9:30am Saturday slot read “Writing Exercise with Dr. Scott Fynboe.” I protested the next day, as we worked on straightening up the farmhouse. “I told you, I’m out. I quit writing.” Her response was a one-note laugh, followed by “Tough. You’re doing it.”

So I sketched out an exercise that night and promptly turned my efforts to lending a hand at every turn. I met our guests on Friday evening, worked to make them feel welcome, helped give tours of the farm, and drove my SUV into the hills loaded down with three people’s camping gear – all the things I’d promised. But when the group settled in with their first writing prompts, just before dinner, I sat away from the campfire, not participating.

When the sun came out Saturday morning, I did my thing and led the group in a discussion of narrative poetry. Then I gave them two sets of prompts, and, for appearances sake more than anything else, drafted poems alongside them. My first piece was just okay. It felt stilted and dull. The second one was better. Its ending was more punchline than gut punch, but the rust was beginning to break off. I looked down at the legal pad, thinking “okay, this can be reworked. It has potential.”

Something snapped after lunch, though and as the day progressed, I felt invigorated. Prompted by Dr. Darren Jackson to write about “your mother’s tits” (taking after Robert Haas), I filled two pages, exploring deep fears about my parents’ advancing ages. Later, while I did not actively write during Dr. T.A. Noonan’s exercise that evening, I made a note on my phone of ways to crack open a piece I first drafted fifteen months prior. And come sundown, I found myself longing by the fire with a bottle of Mexican Coke, offering submissions advice and giving one-on-one thoughts about how to streamline a sci-fi novel. I was a part, not apart.

*   *   *

Before camp broke the next morning, Erin gathered all of us around the fire one last time to write about our weekend experience. “What is one thing you learned from this?” she asked and I set to compose my own “Ashokan Farewell.”* Last to read, I wrote that all of us – the SAFTA staff and the guests – should learn the words of John Denver’s “Poems, Prayers and Promises”** as he described, in four minutes, everything that had occurred over the weekend. Campfires, personal reflection, deep thoughts, gathering with friends (old or new), it’s all in there.

And that’s one way to think about the retreat. Campfires, tents and sleeping bags mixed with conversations, talk and s’mores. Another way is to think of it as meeting new people, learning new skills. Still another is the more traditional idea of the “writer’s getaway” – a chance to change surroundings and find some privacy to write.

The weekend with SAFTA was all of these things, sure, but for me, the “retreat” was a return. A return to something I had forgotten in the stacks of 500 to 750 word, double-spaced, MLA formatted pages and I deal with in sixteen-week bursts twice a year – that feeling of being back in grad school, drinking and smoking unhealthy amounts with a group of writing friends, sharing our work in dank bars and discussing how each of us would set the literary world ablaze.

Suffice to say, I’ve stopped telling people that I’ve quit.


* Best known as the theme music to Ken Bruns’ The Civil War, “Ashokan Farewell” was originally composed as a musical “goodbye” to campers at the annual Ashokan Fiddle and Dance camp in New Paltz, New York.

** And here’s the song:



Scott Fynboe is the Host and Coordinator of the weekly SAFTAcast.

Things Scott C has done:

– DJed at WHRW-Binghamton for seven years, hosting a variety of music, game, and talk shows
– Mobile DJed weddings, proms, reunions, karaoke nights, and at least one bar mitzvah
– Performed improv comedy as a member of The Pappy Parker Players
– Acted in both musical and not-musical theater
– Written and published some poems– Shopped for a futon
– Taught English at a Florida college



Things Scott C has not done:
– Visited Europe
– Worn denim to a black-tie event
– Owned a hammock or a gazebo
– Studied dentistry
– Vomited on a retired postal worker
– Woken up before he go-go’d
– Some other stuff