New podcast and online summer workshops!

Hello friends,

Wow, what a year. Is that even possible to say, since we’re only halfway through? All the everything happening around us and to us, the swirl of life in 2020. It feels as if we’re at a breaking point, a breaking point that’s necessary, scary, exhilarating, exhausting.

Some days I’m filled with fear, some days with fury, and every day a kind of wonder and hope for the future world we can make together. A world we can all breathe in. With that better, kinder world in mind, I’ve created a new podcast and moved all my one-day workshops to Zoom, on a pay-what-you’re able basis. I’d love to see you in one!


Welcome to my new podcast, Words by Winter

Words by Winter: Conversations, reflections, and poems about the passages of life. Because it’s rough out there, and we have to help each other through. Each brief episode includes a story or conversation or letter from a listener, along with a poem. Words by Winter can be found anywhere you listen to your podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Apple Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Google Podcasts.

Click here for Words by Winter on Spotify.

I’d love to hear from you about what you’re going through, what uncertainties or troubles you’re dealing with, maybe in the silence of your own mind and heart. Let me know, and I’ll go in search of a poem to help you through, one that might help all of us through, in the way that poems have been helping me ever since I was a little girl.

Sometimes life feels too hard, too intense, just too much, and if that’s where you are right now, reach out. Whoever you are, whatever age, whatever place in life, you can drop me a line or send a voice memo to 

Note: Music-free episodes are available upon request to listeners with hearing difficulties.

Introducing the Summer Session Workshops! 

9C805922-3A4B-4E42-8B12-B14912EDB00ECome join me on my (virtual) porch this summer! All my three-hour workshops are now taught via Zoom and designed for writers of any and all experience. No preparation required. Each workshop is intensive, exhilarating, and fun. Consider them a recharge of your creative spirit. I regularly update my class offerings (and I’d also be happy to design one specifically for your group, whatever that group is). 

NOTE: I welcome everyone and respect everyone’s individual financial circumstances. Sometimes, when under great duress, it’s even more important to feed your creative soul.

Therefore, all my classes are pay-as-you’re-able (truly, no questions asked), from free to a maximum of $75. Payment can be made via Venmo to Alison-McGhee-1, or via my Paypal account, which is Personal checks are also fine.

All workshops are strictly limited to ten participants. To register for one or more, please email me.  


Creative Writing Kickstart!

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 4, 10-1 pm, CST

Have you always wanted to write but aren’t sure how to begin? Or, are you a writer in need of an energy boost and a fresh start? This three-hour intensive Kickstart workshop will recharge your writing energy and help you develop a regular writing practice. We’ll do several brief writings and talk about various aspects of craft and process –maybe language, maybe flow, maybe dialogue, maybe tense and point of view, maybe some other things– in terms of what makes great writing great. 

The class is designed for writers of all abilities, experience levels and genres – so I forbid you to worry if you’ve never written before! Whether you’re a longtime writer in need of a boost or someone who’s always had an interest in writing but never known how to sit down and get started, the class is designed for you. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class. 


The Art of Writing Picture Books

Date and Time: Saturday, August 8, 10-1 pm CST

Do you love picture books? Have you ever wanted to write one? Are you curious how to go about it? Welcome to my one-day picture book writing workshop! In our intensive, fun class, we’ll deconstruct some classic picture books, talk about ideas for new ones, and go through all the nuts and bolts, such as how long can a picture book be? What’s the relationship between writer and artist? How do you write a picture book that children will love and adults won’t mind reading ten thousand times in a row?

We’ll come up with ideas, draft a basic outline for one or more picture books, read aloud some favorite passages, and provide instant feedback on anything you come up with. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun.


The Freedom of Form

Date and Time: Friday, August 14, 10-1 pm CST

When you’re stuck in a piece of writing, feeling lifeless, what do you do? Grind through, hoping desperately that a window will open? Give up? Take a break? Declare yourself a failure and slink off to drown your sorrows? I’ve taken a shot at all these methods, and none of them work as well for me as re-framing the work itself. I give myself seemingly arbitrary rules to work within, e.g., Write this scene as a series of text messages, or, Write this novel as a series of one-hundred-word passages. 
The freedom of assigned form is real, people, and it’s why novels usually have chapters, and picture books are usually under 500 words. It’s why enduring forms of poetry like haiku and sonnets and sestinas are still alive and thriving. In this workshop, which is designed for writers in all genres, we will play with form as a way to open up your writing, your mind and your heart to the freedom and creativity inherent in all art. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


Memoir in Moments: Writing Your Life

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 18, 5-8 pm CST

Maybe you’re at a new stage of life, looking back. Maybe you’re thinking about your family, or your children, and all the stories they might not know about you. Maybe you’re looking back on your childhood, the things you wondered about back then, the conversations you had, the places you went, how all of them were pieces of a much larger life puzzle. Think about that T-shirt you wore all the time in seventh grade. Think about your favorite dessert when you were five years old. Your favorite song as a senior in high school. The secret you’ve never told anyone. The dream that came true, and the one that didn’t. The unexpected turns your life has taken, and how they placed pattern to everything that came after. 
This class is for anyone interested in writing out some of their own life stories. We’ll focus on memoir moments in this class, brief, specific writing prompts that shine up from the page and give readers a perhaps unexpected window into who you are. This class is designed for people of any writing ability or experience – all are welcome. Guaranteed to be illuminating, exhilarating and fun. Enrollment is limited. 
Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.


A Novel Idea: Ways to Coax that Book Into Reality 

Date and Time: Saturday, August 23, 10-1 CST

Is there a book within you that wants to be written? Stories that want to be told? Do ideas and an urge to write them out come to you at work, while walking the dog, cooking dinner, folding laundry, and in dreams? Are you frustrated because you don’t know how to begin, or how to keep going once you’ve begun? Welcome to this workshop, drawn from my own experience as a novelist, in which every single book presents its own specific building-block challenges. 

Through a series of in-class prompts, discussion of creative process –both general and specific to you– and intuitive and practical analysis, we’ll come up with an individual book-writing practice plan for each participant. Note: This class will be helpful for anyone who wants to write a book, regardless of genre or subject matter. 

Bonus: Weekly writing prompts will be emailed to you for one month following the end of class.

Poem of the Week, by Philip Larkin

Never done before, Mary OliverOnce, at the end of a book club discussion held in the library of a women’s prison, the women (who are addressed as “offenders” on the prison P.A. system, as in, “Offenders, cell check in fifteen minutes”) took turns asking me personal questions from a list they had prepared. I remember only one of them: “If you had to choose one word to complete the sentence ‘She was ____’ on your tombstone, what would you want it to be?” “Kind,” I said. “That I was kind.”

The Mower, by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found   
a hedgehog jammed up against the blades,   
killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.   
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world   
unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence   
is always the same; we should be careful

of each other, we should be kind   
while there is still time.

For more information about Philip Larkin, please click here.

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Poem of the Week, by I Wrote This For You

img_5605I’ve been teaching a few free creative writing workshops in various Minneapolis neighborhoods over the last week. It’s a small thing, but it’s something that I can do. In one of the workshops yesterday, fourteen participants sat around a big conference table at a library, each with a name sign propped in front of their notebook. They wrote about someone they knew very well, and then they wrote about a moment in their past, and then they jumped off the fictional cliff and wrote a scene between a conjured person and a conjured object. Everyone read everything they wrote out loud, and we clapped after each reading. Why? Because each reading was beautiful, or funny, or hauntingly sad, or made us catch our breaths in some unexplainable way. In the room was an older gentleman with cerebral palsy; an E.R. nurse from Somalia; a middle-aged man with his young wife, who was in the later stages of early-onset Alzheimer’s and whose three writings were each about her love for her husband; a military veteran; a trans activist; a born-again former felon; a burkha-wearing mother of three; a million-dollar realtor, and more. Everything that the world needs to be better was in that room yesterday, among those disparate people: the willingness to share, the willingness to listen, and the willingness to imagine. Don’t ever tell me we can’t get along. Don’t ever tell me we can’t be generous with each other. Don’t ever tell me we can’t celebrate someone whose life is fundamentally different from ours. I have seen with my own eyes in hundreds of classrooms over dozens of years that Yes, we can.

The Light That Shines When Things End
     – I Wrote This For You

I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.

And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, “It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.”

And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin. Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, “This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.”


For more information on I Wrote This For You, please click here.

Another Picture Book Writing Workshop, Saturday, April 7


Greetings, writers!

Any of you picture book writers out there still feeling isolated? I’m offering another one-day picture book manuscript workshop on Saturday, April 7.

We’ll talk about the fascinating/fiendish (take your pick) specific challenges of writing these fabulous little books, including the essential elements of picture book writing: characters, story arc, language, beginnings and endings, voice and tension.

If you wish, you can bring in copies of a manuscript of your own (no more than 400 words) and we’ll read it aloud and discuss it. Or, just come and absorb whatever’s useful to you and your current or future work. Workshop is limited to a maximum of eleven.

Date: Saturday, April 7, 12:30-4:30 p.m.
Place: my house in Uptown Minneapolis.
Cost: $50 (payable by check or Paypal), including hand-outs and some kind of tasty homemade treat. Please email me at if you have questions or would like to sign up, and please feel free to forward this notice to any interested friends.