The Eleventh Hour Lecture Series is comprised of hour-long presentations at 11:00 a.m. each weekday of the Festival. The Eleventh Hour Series is free and open to the public. No registration necessary. The series is held in Phillips Hall, Room 100

The series features issues of special interest to writers, including aspects of craft, process, the writing life, and publishing. Fridays in the Eleventh Hour are reserved for a faculty reading.

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Eleventh Hour Podcast

Featuring recordings of illuminative craft talks from the renowned writers, novelists, poets, essayists who present at the Eleventh Hour Lecture Series during the University of Iowa's Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

Recent Lectures in the Eleventh Hour Series

Author Kelly Link says in a Fail Safe podcast interview, “The really terrible ideas are much, much closer to interesting ideas than ideas which are good enough.” With this in mind, we'll take a look at the revision process and how to deploy what may seem like terrible ideas to your advantage, among other revision strategies. In addition to looking at the creative processes of a number of authors—examining their first and final drafts, the changes they made, and their thinking behind the process—we'll go over the basics of line editing. At the end of the lecture, you'll have some revision techniques to try out with your own writing as well as a better understanding of what works for your own creative process. To fully take advantage of this lecture, participants should have a completed short story draft in hand to use during exercises.

You’ve written and revised a novel, memoir, story, flash fiction, or poem, and now you want to submit it for publication. As she navigates the publication of her third novel, Ghost Mother (Union Square & Co., 2024), author Kelly Dwyer will take us through the process. We’ll discuss where you might consider sending your shorter works and how to send a novel or memoir to an agent. Kelly will provide tips on how to write an appealing query letter and synopsis, as well as touch on contemporary issues around self-publishing and AI. This presentation is for writers at all stages, from beginning writers who have never submitted their work, to published authors who are looking to finetune their submission process. By the end of the hour, we’ll all be this much closer to seeing our writings in print!

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We should require of prose what we expect of poetry: vividness, compression, and good sound. The last of these is often neglected by prose writers, as though they were working in a silent genre, or sound was merely a decorative concern. Wrong. What Duke Ellington said of music—“If it sounds good it is good”—holds true for writing. So does the converse: if it isn’t music, it can’t be wisdom. This Eleventh Hour talk will present how central good sound is to fiction and nonfiction writing—providing examples and techniques for improving sound in prose.

For this talk, we—together, you and I, audience and speaker—will explore maximalist writing as an aesthetics of excess that, according to Will Hertel, strives to “submerge readers with informational deluges, utilizing a variety of subject material and literary techniques and genres to maintain attention.” However, chief among our discussion will be the question: what if one is a writer who only wants to use this technique occasionally, and elsewhere engage in a less elaborative style? Can this be achieved by crafting excess—that is, attending deliberately to pacing, use of figurative language, and/or a robust narrative voice? I believe so. Writers of any genre and experience can benefit from our discussions, which will include examinations of prose works from Richard Wright, Gloria Naylor, Don DeLillo, and Maxine Hong Kingston.

One of the key elements in successful writing is imagery—the word-pictures that directly transmit what the writer sees. But while fiction and nonfiction students typically get a lot of help with things like plot and structure, imagery often goes unmentioned, in part because it is so very hard to talk about how to make better images. Therein lies the value of haiku for prose writers. The super-short, imagistic form of poetry imported from Japan offers a strikingly clear (and very fun) way to practice making images. Over the course of the hour, we will read and write haiku together, using the experience to deepen our understanding of the role of imagery in our own writing, and to enrich our visual imaginations.

Part-lecture, part-artist-talk, this session will unveil one writer’s process in, through, and about grief. Poet Juliet Patterson, author of Sinkhole: A Legacy of Suicide (Milkweed Editions, September 2022), will discuss the challenges and pitfalls of writing memoir connected to ancestral trauma, considering methods of research, creating scenes, and crafting a narrative. How do we integrate research and history into our work? How can we use form as a method of inspiration? How can we embody our memories more authentically? And how do we manage our emotional body in the process of writing? These are some of the questions we’ll address in this talk through a variety of short exercises and discussion.

In the years between 1980 and her death at age thirty-nine in an automobile accident in 1994, the late Lynda Hull composed a body of work that marks her as one of the great lyric poets of our generation, including two prize-winning collections, Ghost Money (1986) and Star Ledger (1991), and a posthumous third collection, The Only World (1995). In 2006, all three collections were brought together in a single volume, Lynda Hull: Collected, in Graywolf’s RE/VIEW series edited by Mark Doty. During her life, Hull was teacher and mentor to many poets, one whose devotion to her students and to the art of poetry demonstrates, as Mark Doty has written of her, “how transformative the exchanges between teacher and student might be.” In this Eleventh Hour, we’ll remember Lynda Hull and celebrate her enduring legacy as both a brilliant poet and a generous and remarkable teacher.

With the shuttering of publications like Tin House, Astra, Catapult, Bookforum, and The Believer (albeit briefly), it’s a strange time to cut your teeth as a writer. Midsized journals are abandoning experimentation and innovation in order to secure funding. Meanwhile, massive journals like The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic have shifted toward fleeting think-pieces, celebrity clickbait, and hate-reads to attract corporate advertisers. It feels like the floor could drop out at any moment, and yet, whenever we look around a room full of writers, we know there’s still so much brilliant art being created. So where’s this art to go? Good news is: for every sad headline, there are two or three working editors who’ve carved out new venues and are opening doors—these opportunities just might be a bit trickier to find. Join editors Lynne Nugent, Nina Lohman, and Hannah Bonner as they provide an insider look into the present, past, and future of literary journals. Yes, we’ll cover tips and tricks for pitching your work (as well locating the right places to pitch), but we’ll also explore how to cultivate a community of readers and collaborators in an ever-changing landscape. Hope can be a dangerous word, but where’s the fun in art without a little risk?