Desk in East window

"Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it."

Hanna Arendt

The Porches

56 Pine Hill Lane

Norwood, VA 24581

Tel: 434-2634135

Workshops Offered:



led by

Nancy Zafris, Greg Michalson, or Man Martin

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                         Workshop FAQ   

How long is the workshop?

2 1/2 days.

Am I the only writer you work with?


How do I apply? 

Contact Porches about your interest.

You'll then be directed to submit approximately 30 pages of your novel. If it seems to be something that will benefit from a collaborative analysis then you'll submit a hard copy of your novel. I'll have read through your novel thoroughly, more than once, by the time we meet.


How do the novel sessions work?

The sessions are one-on-one and they are intense and focused. We work and think hard!

Usually there are structural issues and so a lot of time is spent on charting and brainstorming and figuring out the novel. I usually do a brainstorming exercise outside the novel itself to get us going and to illuminate 1) how plot works, and 2) how plot can release literary writing and themes. Toward the end of the workshop we move toward editing individual chapters and evaluating sentence placement for most effective scene development.

You mention plot development in your answer. What if my plot is already quite elaborate but I'm thin on character?

If you don't have well-developed characters, then that's what we'll work on. Each novel has its strengths and weaknesses. We address what needs to be fixed. My experience is that weaknesses usually arise because of plot/forward movement issues or point of view inconsistencies or a miscued point of entry or troubles with chronological management. But I won't know for certain until I read your novel.

How long are the sessions?

We go from 9 to 12 for the morning session (10-12 the first day). Then there's an hour or two-hour break, and then we go again for at least 3 hours. Sessions are usually around 5 or 6 hours per day. We're pretty casual, but the thing you need to know is that I will do what it takes. If we have to spend 8 or 9 hours on the manuscript that day, that's what we'll do. On the third day, there is a 9-12 session to close out the one-on-one part of the workshop.

When should I arrive for the workshop?

The workshop begins at 10 a.m. on the first day (9 a.m. thereafter).  Check-in the day before.

How far along should my manuscript be?

You will get much more out of the workshop if you are well into your novel.

How polished should my manuscript be?

Keep in mind that you are doing this kind of workshop because you are already a good writer, a serious writer. You've probably written many stories and you may have published some of them. You may have already published a novel or another kind of book. We are workshopping this particular manuscript because you are having some kind of trouble with it. Trouble is fine. It's good, in fact. Your manuscript should be a good mess. And out of this mess will come somthing much better than if there hadn't been a mess--because true creativity is messy when it starts out.

Is there a page limit?

Yes. 400 pages.

Do you help me to get the novel published or find an agent?

Unfortunately, this workshop can't address that issue for you.

Will you reread the manuscript if I rewrite it according to what I've gained in the workshop?

The workshop does not include going over  future revisions.

I still don't know if the workshop is right for me or I'm right for the workshop.

Feel free to call Trudy at Porches and talk it over.

Could you tell me a little bit about your qualifications as an editor and teacher?

Nancy Zafris: Currently the series editor of the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction. You can read more about this at

For nine years she was the fiction editor of The Kenyon Review.  Each June she teaches at The Kenyon Review Adult Summer Workshop for which she is the associate coordinator.  Many stories from the workshop have subsequently been published. She taught at the University of Pittsburgh, The Ohio State University, Centre College, West Virginia University, and Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Rebuplic (where I was a Senior Fulbright Fellow). She published over two dozen short stories. Her books include The People I Know, collection of short stories that won the Flannery O'Connor award for short fiction as well as the Ohioana Library Association award for best fiction; The Metal Shredders, a novel that was a New York Times notable book of the year; and another novel, Lucky Strike, that was a BookSense notable and most recently, The Home Jar Stories. She's won several awards and grants, including two National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grants.

Man Martin has been twice named Georgia Author of the Year for his novels Days of the Endless Corvette (Perseus Books 2007) and Paradise Dogs (Thomas Dunne 2011). The work has been called "hilarious" (Publishers Weekly) and "simply brilliant" (Booklist). Along with Nancy Zafris and Geeta Kothari, he co-teaches novel workshops at Kenyon College, in Ohio. He lives, teaches, and writes in Atlanta, Georgia.


The New York Post says Paradise Dogs is "required reading".

Georgia Writers Association Author of the Year 2008





Greg Michalson is the co-publisher of Unbridled Books. Previously he was a founder of BlueHen, an imprint of Penguin Putnam, and the general editor of fiction at MacMurray & Beck where he developed an award-winning novel series. He also spent twenty years with the Missouri Review. He is the author of short stories and articles, with work mentioned in both Best American Short Stories and Pushcart, and the co-editor of multiple collections. He’s published the first books of many prize-winning authors who have won or been finalists for numerous awards, including National Book Awards, PEN Hemingway and PEN Faulkner, and many regional book awards, Indie Lit Awards for fiction.


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Tag-Team Workshop

by Greg Michalson and Nancy Zafris

The co-publisher of UnBridled Books, Greg Michalson, and writer and editor, Nancy Zafris, are teaming up to give you an intensive two and a half day individual workshop that will analyze in depth the first 100-125 pages of your novel. The workshop includes:

  • One full day with Greg Michalson
  • One full day with Nancy Zafris
  • Three hours with Greg and Nancy together on the third day.

The setting is rural and peaceful, the atmosphere relaxed, and the work intense. They touch on all aspects of your manuscript: concept and material; voice and point of view; character development, plot, structure and dynamic tension; the prose itself, line by line. Because you and the workshop leaders are living in the same house, you will always have full access and a ready ear.

To prepare for your tag-team workshop, read the one-on-one workshop FAQ above.

Includes 4 nights at The Porches.

This Porches workshop has already been successful with writers like Virginia Pye, whose novel River of Dust was brainstormed at The Porches and subsequently published by Unbridled Books.

 "I arrived at the Porches with a formless manuscript and left three days later with the draft of a novel. Nancy Zafris discoverd the form that I had been struggling to uncover and breathed life into it. Nancy is simply the best editor and teacher I know: challenging, supportive, creative beyond measure. To enjoy such indivdiual attention from an artist of her caliber is an experience I recommend without reservation to any writer. I have been to lots of writers' workshops--many very good workshops--but none can compare to my experience at the Porches."                     

~Ted Obourn

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Full Weekend Manuscript Consultation


Mary Caroll-Hackett

A three-day, intensive one-on-one weekend totally focused on your manuscript at the beautiful and inspiring writers retreat, The Porches, in Norwood, Va. $750 includes in-depth, line-edited full consultation, food and lodging for two nights at The Porches.




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Tarot Tools Workshop for Faster, Better Writing

Exploring Tarot to jumpstart intuitive & creative writing.

During this fun-filled weekend, you'll learn how to: begin reading Tarot quickly and easily, without boring, tedious memorizing; forge and strengthen the connection between you and your intuition; jumpstart and increase your creativity through journaling and meditation; Use all these skills to help you write faster and easier!
If you’ve ever:
  • been curious about Tarot and how it can help you;
  • bought a Tarot deck but gave up on teaching yourself because you aren't good at memorizing and remembering the dozens of keywords and meanings the books said were necessary
Then this fun and interactive Tarot workshop is for you!

October 28th-30th, 2016.

Who Am I?

I’m Carol Powers, a long time repeat visitor and writer in residence at Porches. I have been studying, reading, and teaching Tarot since my teens in the 1970's, through college, law school, and through a 25 plus years long career in the military. I’m now a retired attorney and a retired USAFR officer. I spent 12 years as a homeschooling mom, so teaching is another of my passions and skills.

In my current work, I use the cards both in the writing process and as a part of the novel’s plot. My first paragraph of Through a Tarot Wormhole: The Tower (my working title) won a Bronze award in Fall 2014’s First Paragraph contest (fiction section) at

Why Choose This Course?
Workshop attendee Mariflo Stephens, whose essays and fiction have appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review and the Washington Post, had this to say about her experience: "Carol Powers' Tarot workshop was very valuable not only to my writing, but to my life as a writer--I learned to trust my instincts and go with my gut. Her use of the cards in plotting gave me a jumpstart and fresh new project." Jessica Wiseman Lawrence wrote, " was one of my favorite writing workshops this year. Powers is an excellent instructor and uses her knowledge to help relate Tarot readings to writing. I will definitely use the cards for inspiration and outlining in my future creative works."
Workshop: Arrive Friday, October 28th. We'll start right in having fun and learning at 7 pm Friday night, and continue on Saturday at 9 am with breaks for lunch and dinner. Depart Sunday noon. Workshop costs including 2 nights accommodation at Porches: $229. (Participants responsible for their own meals). Contact Trudy Hale,, for more information.

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