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The Tomales Bay Workshops

University of California, Davis Creative Writing Program
October 19-23, 2011


Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Keynote Speaker:
Emmy-winning Jamaican poet, writer and singer Kwame Dawes

Tuition: Early bird tuition is $1,545 ($1,795 if application is postmarked after June 6). Past participant and group discounts are available (see below). Fellowship deadline is May 6.   

The Tomales Bay Workshops bring aspiring writers into close community with nationally known poets and writers, respected editors and agents. Workshops limited to 12 participants ensure an intimate setting. In addition, participants have the opportunity to purchase one-on-one consultations with publishing professionals. Come relax, learn and explore.

The Format

Morning workshops offer participants the opportunity to work closely with an established writer, to receive constructive feedback from peers, to spend four intensive days dedicated to creative work and to generate new material.

Afternoons are devoted to participant readings and panels comprised of conference presenters and visiting editors and agents; panels cover craft topics and publishing.

Evenings feature readings by conference presenters and special guest readers.

Tomales Bay

What Past Participants Are Saying

Download 2011 brochure pdf (1.1 MB)

Download 2011 application pdf (67 KB)

Download 2011 schedule pdf (560 KB)

The Workshops

Choose from one of six workshops, which meet for three hours each morning for four consecutive days. Workshop are:

  • Fiction/Nonfiction:  Getting Words on the Page--the Right Words in the Best Order with Dorothy Allison
  • Poetry: Going to the Edge. Coming Back. with Jon Davis
  • All Genres: The Interior Journey--Reading and Writing as Spiritual Disciplines with Fenton Johnson
  • All Genres: The Imagination to Improvise--Writing the Beginning with Melinda Moustakis
  • Fiction: Suspense and Momentum with Benjamin Percy
  • Memoir: The Artifice of Memory with Danzy Senna

Download complete workshop descriptions. pdf (64 KB)

Please indicate your workshop preference on your application form.

The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Keynote Speaker

Kwame Dawes is an Emmy-winning Jamaican poet, writer and singer, whose work is profoundly influenced by the rhythms and textures of Jamaica. His collections of poetry include Back of Mount Peace and Wisteria; his novels, Bivouac and She’s Gone. Dawes is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Pushcart Prize for his long poem, “Inheritance,” and an Emmy for, an interactive site based on his Pulitzer Center project, HOPE: Living and Loving with AIDS in Jamica. He is the Distinguished Poet in Residence, Louis Frye Scudder Professor of Liberal Arts, at the University of South Carolina. He is also the founder and executive director of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative, and directs the University of South Carolina Arts Institute.

The Tomales Bay Workshops Faculty

Dorothy Allison is the author of Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller (a New York Times Notable Book), Two or Three Things I Know for Sure and the forthcoming She Who. She was awarded the 2007 Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction. Allison lives in Northern California among redwood trees and unpredictable rivers—though she is often to be found on various campuses trying to encourage more people to write down their dreams.

Jon Davis’s most recent collection of poetry is Preliminary Report. His previous book, Scrimmage of Appetite, was honored with a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. He has also received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships and the Lavan Prize from the Academy of American Poets. He has taught in the Institute of American Indian Arts’ Creative Writing program since 1990 and will direct IAIA’s new Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Fenton Johnson is the author of the novels Crossing the River and Scissors, Paper, Rock as well as the memoir Geography of the Heart. His most recent book, Keeping Faith: A Skeptic’s Journey among Christian and Buddhist Monks, received a Kentucky Literary Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Johnson has served as a contributor to Harper’s and the New York Times Magazine and is the recipient of numerous awards, among them a James Michener Fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships for fiction and nonfiction, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Johnson is an associate professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Arizona.

Melinda Moustakis won the 2010 Flannery O'Connor Award in Short Fiction for Bear Down, Bear North, a linked short story collection set in Alaska, which will be published by University of Georgia Press in September 2011. Her stories are published or forthcoming in Conjunctions, New England Review, Kenyon Review online, American Short Fiction, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Massachusetts Review, Cimarron Review and elsewhere. She has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes.

Benjamin Percy has written two novels, the forthcoming Red Moon and The Wilding, as well as two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk. His fiction and nonfiction appear in Esquire (where he is a regular contributor), Outside, Men's Journal, the Wall Street Journal, Paris Review, Tin House, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and many other publications. His honors include the Whiting Writers Award, the Plimpton Prize, the Pushcart Prize and inclusion in Best American Short Stories. He teaches in the MFA program at Iowa State University and at the low-residency MFA program at Oregon’s Pacific University.

Danzy Senna is the author of the bestselling Caucasia, the story of biracial sisters growing up in racially charged Boston during the 1970s, which won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, an Alex Award from the American Library Association, and a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year award. She has also written the psychological thriller Symptomatic, the compelling memoir Where Did You Sleep Last Night?: A Personal History, and most recently You Are Free: Stories. Senna lives in Los Angeles.

Program Director

Pam Houston is the author of two collections of linked short stories, Cowboys are My Weakness, which was the winner of the 1993 Western States Book Award and has been translated into nine languages, and Waltzing the Cat, which won the Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction. Her stories have been selected for volumes of Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize, and her story The Best Girlfriend You Never Had appeared in Best American Short Stories of the Century. Her first novel, Sight Hound, was published in January 2005. She is the Director of Creative Writing at the University of California, Davis, and teaches at many writers conferences and festivals in the U.S. and abroad. When not in Davis, she lives in Colorado at 9,000 feet above sea level near the headwaters of the Rio Grande. For more information on Houston visit Her new novel, Contents May Have Shifted, will be published in early 2012.

Tomales Bay

Location and Lodging

The workshops are held at the Marconi Conference Center on the eastern shore of pristine Tomales Bay, just north of San Francisco in Marin County. The Marconi Center provides comfortable lodging on a wooded hillside that overlooks serence water and mountains beyond. 

The center offers excellent food (with vegetarian meals available upon request) and inviting hiking trails. Double or triple rooms smoke-free rooms are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis and each has a private bath, study desk and wireless Internet access (for a small fee). A limited number of single rooms are available for a supplemental fee of $845. Disability-accessible and equipped rooms are available. Please let us know as soon as possible if you require these accommodations. For additional information, visit

Participants should bring comfortable walking shoes, as many Marconi Center walkways are not paved and run over small hills. Also, please bring warm clothes, in case the fog rolls in, and a rain jacket--just in case.

Tomales Bay

Frequently asked questions


The Tomales Bay Workshops is proud to offer a number of fellowship opportunities every year.

Fellowships are awarded to applicants who submit the strongest writing. Readers and judges are interested in a variety of literary writing, but are especially partial to work that invites the reader into it through a distinctive voice—be it lyric, narrative, etc. We look for poems, stories or stand alone novel sections, personal and lyric essays, and memoir pieces that execute traditional forms engagingly and gracefully and/or confidently nudge the limits of those forms.

Fellowships cover the cost of tuition, room and board but do not cover transportation. To apply for a fellowship, fill out the application form and include a brief cover letter and paper-clip both to your writing sample (please DO NOT INCLUDE YOUR NAME on your writing sample; writing sample consists of 10 pages of fiction or nonfiction/personal essay, or five poems and should be printed on 8.5 x 11 inches white paper, double spaced, size 11 or 12 Times New Roman or similar font, in black ink). Indicate which fellowship you are applying for at the top left of the cover letter and on the application form. Postmark deadline for fellowship consideration is May 6, and awards will be announced by July 1. Please apply in one genre only. 

The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Fellowships

Three Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation Fellowships will be awarded to workshop participants (one each for poetry, fiction and nonfiction/personal essay). Apply as noted in the preceding paragraph. Final judge for The Albert and Elaine Borchard fellowships is Michael Spurgeon. Michael Spurgeon has published two chapbooks of poetry: Prosthetic Breath & Other Poems (3300 Press) and Valente's Delicate Wrist, winner of the Talent House Chapbook Competition. His work has appeared in the North American Review, Sonora Review, Packinghouse Review and elsewhere. He is professor of English at American River College and a member of The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation's Board of Directors. He acts as liaison between the Foundation and the Tomales Bay Workshops and is the designated judge of winners of The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation fellowships.

In addition, The Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation fully funds one Fellowship for the Student Editor-in-Chief of the American River Review. The American River Review, edited and designed entirely by students and showcasing the creative works of American River College students, is among the nation's premier and most highly awarded undergraduate literary and art journals. Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation fellowships are given to the current Editors-in-Chief in recognition of the American River Review's contribution to the literary vibrancy on campus and in the community.  

Other Fellowships

The Tomales Bay Workshops works to provide as many fellowships as possible each year, and we work throughout the year to obtain additional funding for fellowships. Check back here, where we will do our best to post additional fellowships if and as they become available.

Please note that sometimes this funding comes after the close of the fellowship competition; in that case, all fellowship applications originally submitted by the May 6 are reconsidered for additional fellowship awards, should they become available.


The Tomales Bay Workshops is pleased to offer the following ways to receive $250 off your enrollment. Please note: Discounts must be requested on the application form and cannot be combined or applied retroactively. See application form.

  • Early bird discount: Application must be postmarked by June 6.
  • Returning participants.
  • UC Alumni Association members, UC Davis faculty and UC Davis career staff.
  • Writing groups. Attend the Tomales Bay Workshops with your writing group of three or more members and each person will receive $250 off. Names of all group members must be listed on *each* person's individual application. Every effort will be made to allow group members to lodge together, though other conference participants may also be assigned as roommates. Please note that applying as a group does not guarantee admission

Professional Consultations

Participants will have the opportunity to confer privately with publishing industry professionals. Acceptance for these sessions will be determined on a first-come, first-served basis and space is limited. There is a $100 fee for each half-hour consultation.  Accepted participants may sign up for one or more publishing consultation(s) when they submit the required fees and enrollment documents; these documents will contain detailed sign-up and submission instructions. Please note: There are a limited number of consultation sessions available.

The consultants for 2011 are Christina Hutchins of Sixteen Rivers press, Jay Schaefer, independent editor and book publishing consultant, and Danielle Svetcov of the Daniel Greenberg Literary Agency. Consultants' bios.

Dates and Enrollment Fee

October 19-23, 2011. Enrollment fee of $1,545 (early bird discount) or $1,795 (regular tuition) includes one four-day workshop, admittance to all panels and readings, and all meals (dinner on Wednesday; three meals Thursday through Saturday; breakfast and lunch on Sunday) and lodging for four nights.Vegetarian meals are available upon request.

Supplemental fees are due July 15. These include:

  • The single room supplement ($845)
  • A private session with publishing professional ($100)
  • The optional UC Davis fee for 3.5 units of academic credit ($180)

Please note: There are a limited number of consultation sessions and single rooms available, and they will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Please submit any optional fees as early as possible after acceptance into the program to guarantee your request. Full participation in the Tomales Bay Workshops and events is expected. No discounts are available for lodging or meals on your own.

If space is still available after August 1, applications must include the full payment of $1,795. All fees will be fully refunded if applicant is not accepted.

Requirements and Enrollment Process

Acceptance to the program is based upon review of a writing sample (10 pages of fiction or nonfiction/personal essay, or five poems). No application fee is required. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Writing samples must be submitted on 8.5" x 11" white paper, double spaced, using size 11 or 12 Times New Roman or similar font, in black ink. Applications are reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, and you will be notified of acceptance. Please note: Those who have attended the Tomales Bay Writers' Workshops during a prior year do not need to submit a writing sample.

If you are accepted, you will be notified of your workshop placement via email and standard mail and asked to confirm your intention to attend within 10 days by enrolling and submitting a minimum deposit of $900. The remaining balance is due July 15.

Supplemental fees are due July 15. These include private sessions with publishing consultants ($100 each), the optional UC Davis fee ($180) for 3.5 units of academic credit and the single room supplement ($845). 

If space is available after August 1, applications must include full tuition payment. All fees will be fully refunded if applicant is not accepted. 

Tomales Bay

Photos by McComish Photography

Cancellation Policy

If you cancel by August 1, 2011, your tuition will be refunded minus a $150 cancellation fee. Refunds for cancellations made after August 1 are contingent upon filling your place and will be made only if your place is filled. In the unlikely event that we must cancel a workshop and you do not wish to transfer to another workshop, you will receive a full refund.

For more information, call (800) 752-0881 or email us at

Getting to the Marconi Center

For driving directions and a map, visit


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Please notify me the next time this course is offered.



Earn a Certificate

This course is part of these certificate programs:

Creative Writing