The Conference

August 15 – 18, 2018

Short forms, long weekend.


In a world in which heft often rules the day, Iota inspires an suzanne_in_group_beconomy of words. It’s a celebration of the small, the brief, the miniature. Short essays, flash fiction, short stories, prose poems: short forms deserve their own long weekend.

Iota faculty members guide participants through the crafting of short forms. Is a micro essay really a prose poem? Is a prose poem really a piece of flash fiction? Prepare to challenge your own assumptions.

“The short personal epiphany – which keeps exposition to a minimum, and puts a high premium on compression, association, and rhythmic precision –is kin to both prose-poem and lyric poem,” writes renowned essayist and former Iota faculty member Sven Birkerts.

Iota students study with both faculty members, exposing them all to multiple points of view on their work. Bring your laptop, your pen, your ideas, your eagerness, and get ready to spend some luxuriously long days examining little things.

FACULTY FOR 2018: Sven birkerts and beth ann fennelley

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi, teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Mississippi, where she was named Outstanding Teacher of the Year. Her newest prose book is Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, published in October 2017 with W.W. Norton, and she published Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother, a collection of essays with Norton in 2006. Beth Ann is the author of three poetry books: Open HouseTender Hooks, and Unmentionables, all with W. W. Norton. Beth Ann’s poetry has been in over fifty anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1996, 2005, and 2006.

A contributing editor to The Oxford American, she also writes freelance on travel, culture, and design for many magazines. Recent nonfiction awards include the Orlando Award in Nonfiction from A Room of Her Own, the Lamar York Prize from The Chattachoochee Review and the Porter Fleming Award for Excellence in the Essay. She’s the first woman honored with the University of Notre Dame’s Distinguished Alumni in the Arts Award.

Sven Birkerts

Sven Birkerts is the author of nine books and has been editor of AGNI since July 2002. He has received grants from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was winner of the Spielvogel-Diamonstein Award from PEN for the best book of essays in 1990.

He has reviewed regularly for The New York Times Book ReviewThe New RepublicEsquireThe Washington PostThe Atlantic, and other publications. He has taught writing at Harvard University, Emerson College, Amherst College, and Mt. Holyoke College, and is director of the graduate Bennington Writing Seminars.



Here’s what past Iota participants had to say:

“I’ve been to other conferences and retreats, but there is no comparison: the attention to every detail really couldn’t be improved upon.”

“Iota  was not merely helpful in terms of insights gained, it was helpful in terms of revitalizing me before I head back home to write alone. When the interactions at a conference are so consistently positive, and the overall dynamic the same, it can make one feel they are one member of a big community.”

“I feel liberated and encouraged as a fiction writer making a jump to non-fiction. It was thrilling to find out how many options are available.”

“Living and learning in a tranquil environment surrounded by nature was very peaceful, and allowed me to focus on my writing and not worry about work and other responsibilities.”

“I came away with two revised pieces of work and still had time to go hiking twice a day!”

Stonecoast Logo Image 2014 (full size)Iota is supported by a partnership with Stonecoast MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. To learn about the Stonecoast Iota Scholarship (offered to a rural writer in Washington County Maine), visit the scholarships page.