June 22-24, 2023

David R. Collins Writers’ Conference
Augustana College – Rock Island, IL
June 22, 23, and 24, 2023
(all times CDT)

The Quad City’s Longest Running Writing Event Returns to Augustana College!

After twenty-plus years, the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference (formerly known as the Mississippi Valley Writers’ Conference) will return to the campus of Augustana College this summer, June 22-24. Featuring our stellar Conference Faculty (Kali White VanBaale, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister, Jesus “Chuy” Renteria, and Rebecca Wee) leading three-day workshops, participating in a Community Conversation keynote event, and holding a public reading. We’ll also be hosting community book fair on Saturday, 6/24 for local/regional authors, publishers, booksellers, and more.

Click here for online registration for the 2023 David R. Collins Writers’ Conference!

We will continue to offer scholarships to students, veterans/active duty service members, and those with financial need. Download a scholarship application for the DRC Writers’ Conference here. We offer scholarships to students, veterans/active duty service members, and those with financial need.

For more information please email MWC, or to register via phone,
please call MWC at 309-732-7330.


2023 David R. Collins Writers’ Conference
Course Descriptions, Faculty Bios, and Schedule 

Where Is the Language Coming From? Point of View in Novels
Olin Hall, June 22-24, 8:45 – 10:15 a.m. each day

This workshop will focus on point of view, tense, and modes of character thought in novels, and the interconnected relationship between the three. Point of view is arguably the most important element of fiction. Every story element orbits around and is dictated by the narrative point-of-view: detail, imagery, conflict, characterization, voice, and ultimately plot. But most writers struggle with point of view at some point. What exactly is third person omniscient? What is Direct and Indirect Interior Monologue? How does tense affect the narrative voice? In this course, we’ll examine all forms of point of view and modes of character thought, their definitions, functions, and nuances, and experiment with targeted, in-class writing exercises to help enhance your own work. All levels and novel genres welcome.

Instructor Bio:

Photo: Robert Delsol

Kali White VanBaale is the author of the novels The Monsters We Make (as Kali White) and The Good Divide and The Space Between (as Kali VanBaale). She’s the recipient of an American Book Award, an Eric Hoffer Book Award, an Independent Publisher’s silver medal for fiction, two State of Iowa major artist grants, and was a finalist for the 2022 All Iowa Reads. She’s a regular contributor to the A&E Network True Crime blog series, and her short stories and essays have appeared in The Coachella Review, The Chaffey Review, Midwestern Gothic, Nowhere Magazine, Poets&Writers, and The Writers’ Chronicle among others. Kali holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a core faculty member of the Lindenwood University MFA in writing program where she was named adjunct professor of the year in 2022. She lives in Iowa with her family. www.kaliwhite.com


Half-Court Offense, Full-Court Press—A Generative Short Fiction Workshop
Olin Hall, June 22-24, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. each day

A short story, like a basketball game, is built on rhythm and structure, fundamentals and creativity. It is, in other words, a game of ups and downs, a game of runs, a game of momentum, a game that relies on both individual and team play. So, too, the short story is an amalgamation of rhythm and structure (language, point of view, sentence variety, verbs, tense) along with a balance of fundamentals and creativity (character development, conflict, setting, dialogue). In this generative workshop, we’ll spend time on the court and on the page, both individually and as a team. We’ll warm up with a series of writing prompts, work individually and in small groups, and lastly, we’ll develop a long-term game plan for a first draft of a short story.

Instructor Bio: 

Keith Pilapil Lesmeister is the author of Mississippi River Museum and We Could’ve Been Happy Here. He also serves as series editor for the EastOver Anthology of Rural Stories: writers of color. His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, New Stories from the Midwest, North American Review, Redivider, SLICE, Terrain.org, and many others. His nonfiction has appeared in the Good Men Project, River Teeth, Sycamore Review, Tin House Open Bar, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. He received his M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars and serves as editor of Cutleaf. He lives in Iowa’s Driftless region.


Mapping our Memories for Storytelling – Memoir Workshop
Olin Hall, June 22-24, 1:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. each day

In this memoir workshop we’ll go over a process for mapping our memories, blending physical landscapes with emotional ones, to find moments that get past the “truth” and arrive at the music of storytelling.

Instructor Bio: 

Photo: Tony Frausto

Jesus “Chuy” Renteria is from West Liberty; Iowa’s first majority hispanic town. Chuy’s writing explores the spaces between cultures. Their memoir, “We Heard it When We Were Young,” released in 2021 with The University of Iowa Press. He spends his free time with his wife Darcy and daughter Marisol Alana.



“Inside there is this ______: On Finding and Making Poems” – Poetry Workshop 
Olin Hall, June 22-24, 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. each day

Where do poems come from? And when they don’t come, can they be summoned?

Poets, artists, and makers of all stripes, are observant, and fueled by the world’s largesse. We call this daydreaming; moodiness; being “too sensitive.” Strangely, we also call it not paying attention or being unfocused and disorganized, but it’s about amazement, isn’t it? Sensory engagement, a love of words, and that ache to understand more than we do.

If we’re lucky, we discover that daydreamyness is not disorganization. For writers, reverie, disquiet, and unknowing can be critical for the generative practices that take us to places, emotions, memories and wisdom we might not have accessed otherwise. Freewriting is one way to do this. When I came to see poetry as a calling rather than a private hobby, the discovery of freewriting’s potential for knowledge and surprise was as thrilling as learning the history and structure of a sonnet or abecedarian. Over the years, I’ve come to trust what happens when writers work with the strange immediacy of prompts because that aleatory energy can be wholly complementary to, say, the study of meter or line breaks.

What fuels a “generative poetry workshop” then, varies for each writer. In these sessions, we’ll work with poems that I hope will take you through a range of emotional landscapes and energies. We’ll work with some structured forms as well. Who knows what it is that makes us inconveniently contemplative or suddenly-lit-from-within and searching for a pen, keyboard, or someone’s ear? That’s what we’ll spend this workshop exploring, and in that spirit, I offer these words by the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado: “Walker, there is no path. You make the path by walking.”

And by writing. Feeling. Chasing words.

Instructor Bio: 

Rebecca Wee has been a professor at Augustana College long enough to have participated in the development of a Creative Writing major within the English curriculum. She is the author of an award-winning collection of poems, Uncertain Grace (Copper Canyon Press) and a manuscript titled Instead. In 2003-05 she served as the second Quad Cities poet laureate and has led workshops three times for the David R. Collins Writers Conference. These days she herds 4 carbon units through their days: son Rohan, daughter Maren, Norwegian Buhund Karana, and American Eskimo Suka – this is her full-time and most demanding poetry.


Keynote Event, Readings, Community Book Fair, and Book Pitches

Keynote Event: Community Conversation featuring Writers’ Conference Faculty 
   Thursday, June 22, 6pm – 8pm at Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd St. Davenport, IA)
   Public Reception at 6pm, Keynote Event at 7pm

For this year’s keynote event, the Conference faculty will start a conversation MWC will be continuing in a series of events thought the year by responding to a simple question: Why is writing important?

They will give their individual responses, to begin a conversation among themselves, and then we’ll invite attendees to join via Q & A. The event will start with a reception from 6-7pm, and the Community Conversation will start at 7pm.



Conference Faculty Reading and Participant Open Mic
   Friday, June 23 at Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Ave. Rock Island, IL)
   Social at 6pm, Faculty Reading at 7pm, Participant Open Mic at 8pm

Join us at Rozz-Tox to hear Conference faculty reading their work. Followed by an open mic for Conference participants. Free and open to the public.



Community Book Fair
   Saturday, June 24, 10am-4pm at Gävle Hall (in the Gerber Center for Student Life,
   Augustana College, 3435 9 1/2 Ave. Rock Island, IL)

Book fair for local/regional authors, publishers, booksellers, and more. Conference registration fee not required to participate in the books fair. Tables for participants are $10, or two for $20.

Free information tables are available for libraries, community organizations, etc. Please contact MWC for more information.

The Community Book Fair is free and open to the public.

If you are interested in participating in the Community Book Fair, please follow this link to register: https://forms.gle/4WEkHXzMZKc8qT298

Or, call MWC at 309-732-7330 or email mwc@mwcqc.org to register and to get more information.


Book Pitches – Friday, June 23 or by appointment

Ten minutes to pitch your book to a panel from MWC Press. Pitch times will be scheduled with authors in advance of the Conference. Cost is $15, and pre-registration is required.


MWC Press: The panel requests each author bring a one-page summary of their pitch—brief synopsis of the manuscript, brief author bio/other publications, brief outline of marketing ideas/strategy, etc. The panel will take these summaries and their input from the pitch sessions back to the MWC Board of Directors and related committees to make a final decision. Authors whose work advances through this process may be asked to provide more detailed information.



Concluding Luncheon
   Saturday 6/24, 12-1 p.m. at Gävle Hall, Augustana College

Conference sponsors will be recognized, and the faculty will reflect on their workshops over a catered lunch. Cost is included with your Conference Registration fee, or $15 for MWC members without paid registration fee, and $20 for non-MWC members without paid registration fee. Please confirm or register on or before June 20


Please call Ryan Collins at (309) 732-7330 to register over the phone today, or email him at mwc@midwestwritingcenter.org for more information.


fell poetry wrkshp_CWC14


Conference Sponsors:

Modern Woodman of America,
Founding Sponsor of the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference

The Figge Art Museum

Augstana College


Illinois Arts Council Agency



Illinois Humanities


Rock Island Public Library