The Sundress Academy for the Arts hosts the several focused retreats a year that provide focused, personalized instruction to writers of all skill levels. Participants are treated to guidance from advanced instructors who help them to not only hone their craft but also find suitable venues for their work. These two-day events are run online or in-person, depending on the event.


Retreat for Survival and Healing
March 22-23, 2024

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is hosting its fourth generative writing retreat celebrating survival and healing on March 22-23, 2024. This two-day retreat for sexual assault survivors will be held in Oak Ridge, TN and will be a safe space for creativity, generative writing exercises, discussions on ways to write trauma, advice on publishing, and more. Come join us in mutual support for a weekend of writing time for healing, safety, and comfort.

The event will be open to writers of all backgrounds and provide an opportunity to work with many talented poets and writers from around the country including Monica Prince, [sarah] Cavar, Najya Williams, Karo Ska, Aly Tadros, Beth Couture, Krista Cox, and Erin Elizabeth Smith.

Session topics include the following:

    • Labor of Delight
    • Speculative F(r)iction: Writing Mad, Unruly Trauma-Truths
    • The Pleasure Principle: Writing Erotic Poetry after Trauma
    • From Inside the Margins: Using Narrative to Facilitate Intercommunal Healing
    • Giving Voice to Our Emotions: Writing Through Difficult Feelings

The weekend event runs from 12PM on Friday through 8PM on Saturday and includes group instruction, a reading by workshop leaders, an open mic, writing supplies, and meals. Writers will need to provide their own overnight accommodations.

To sign up for this retreat, you will need to make a $50 refundable deposit here. Spaces are limited so don’t wait to sign up for this year’s event.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Academy of American Poets, all fees for selected applicants will be waived. We will require a small, refundable deposit to hold your space. Attendees will be required to show proof of Covid vaccination and a negative Covid test before the retreat.


Labor of Delight with Aly Tadros

We all know too well the arduous work of healing from harm. But what does it mean to intentionally create room for the good? In this therapeutic writing workshop, drawing inspiration from Ross Gay’s Book of Delights, we will meditate on the instances of small but profound joy we encounter along the path toward resilience and healing. Together, we will explore the art of noticing and mining our moments of delight—individually, and as a collective.

Giving Voice to Our Emotions: Writing Through Feeling with Karo Ska

Giving Voice to Our Emotions: Writing Through Feeling is a generative workshop that invites you to pay attention to your body and to write guided by your somatic sensations. Sexual trauma disconnects us from our bodies, and our healing journey often involves re-engaging with this part of ourselves, specifically with our emotions. If emotions aren’t processed and released, they’ll stagnate and resurface. The workshop will focus on how you can befriend your feelings and see them as helpful guides, not something to resist. You will be provided with a feelings wheel to reflect on various emotional states beyond happy, angry, and sad. You will be encouraged to share what you wrote, but this will be optional. For anyone who chooses to share the facilitator will provide warm and affirmative feedback so that the person feels heard and seen.

From Inside the Margins: Using Narrative to Facilitate Intercommunal Healing with Najya Williams

This 90-minute session will be a seminar-style writing workshop where we will discuss critical texts from bell hooks, Ntozake Shange and Tourmaline, and how we can utilize them to access our healing. This workshop aims to provide participants with additional tools to communicate, process, and explore emotions related to experience with trauma, grief and sexual assault. Moreover, it’s an opportunity to reclaim personal narrative and construct the audience who will bear witness to this art. As expressed in the retreat’s mission, this workshop intends to be a safe space for all participants to carve their own path forward unapologetically, with an abundance of community care behind them.

The Pleasure Principle: Writing Erotic Poetry after Trauma with Monica Prince

After sexual violence, writers can recoil from writing sexual work to avoid activating traumatic memories. To help survivor-writers reignite their power through language, erotic writing acts as a soothing practice, allowing one to entertain fantasy and sensuality in a consensual space. This generative poetry workshop incorporates pleasure activism, sex magic, and trauma-informed pedagogy to create a safe environment to make erotic poems.

Participants will approach erotic poetry by focusing less on graphic details and more on personal definitions of sensuality, pleasure, and self-love. Defining eroticism beyond sex and using language as a tool for healing, writers will receive prompts for creation and revision.

Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” and adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, as well as other mentors, serve as foundations for this work. Writers of all experience levels and genres are welcome.

Speculative F(r)iction: Writing Mad, Unruly Trauma-Truths with [sarah] Cavar

What if the very forms of unreasonability, opacity, and “delusion,” pathologized in Mad people was also the locus of creative possibility? In this workshop, we will look to hybrid, experimental, speculative forms of life-storytelling as mentally/psychiatrically disabled people, and in particular, as disabled people who have survived sexual violence.With attention to the ways our experiences defy linear time and consensus “reality”, we will discuss examples of Mad speculative trauma-writing and craft, identifying the techniques and technologies authors use to manage difference, unknowability, and intimacy. We will practice writing our own fragments using the strategies of opacity, fantasy, and concealment we read in others’ texts, with the opportunity to share and process together. Authors we will engage include Johanna Hedva, Akwaeke Emezi, Kai Cheng Thom, and Hannah Weiner.

Workshop Leaders

[sarah] Cavar is a PhD candidate, writer, editor, and occupant of the space between the “creative” and the “scholarly. Their debut novel, Failure to Comply, is forthcoming with featherproof books (2024). Cavar is editor-in-chief of manywor(l) and has had work published in The Offing, Split Lip Magazine, Electric Lit, and elsewhere. More at, @cavar on BlueSky, and @cavarsarah on twitter.

A laughing Black woman with Marley twists held back in a bun wearing a black and white patterned dress outside

Monica Prince teaches activist and performance writing and serves as Director of Africana Studies at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Roadmap: A Choreopoem, How to Exterminate the Black Woman: A Choreopoem, Instructions for Temporary Survival, and Letters from the Other Woman. Her work appears in numerous journals and anthologies across the world, and she studies, writes, and performs choreopoems throughout the United States.

A gender-fluid femme with a purple headband smiling at the camera with green leaves in the background

Karo Ska (she/they) is a South Asian and Eastern European gender-fluid writer living on unceded Tongva land. Their writing focuses on identity, mental health, survivorship, and the intersections of trauma and politics. Anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist, they find joy where they can. They are a teaching artist for Community Literature Initiative’s Poetry Publishing class, author of loving my salt-drenched bones (World Stage Press, 2022), and are currently working on a memoir. They have taught on multiple college campuses, including Mt. Saint Mary’s University and Pasadena Community College. They believe that writing is a craft and a restorative tool for well-being. Their classes focus on utilizing poetry to rejuvenate ourselves while improving our practice of language through the use of lyrical and literary elements.

Photograph of a brunette woman touching her face.

Aly Tadros (she/her) is a proud Texan-turned-New Yorker, former touring songwriter, and trauma-informed facilitator. As the Community Programs Coordinator of the Crime Victims Treatment Center, she mentored over 400 rape crisis and domestic violence counselors. In 2020, she designed CVTC’s first Therapeutic Writing Group for trauma survivors, drawing on 15 years of experience as a group facilitator and storyteller. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from The New School and is pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Queens College, where she also teaches writing. Her work has appeared in the The New York Times, Interview Magazine, Narratively, The Modern Love Podcast, and elsewhere.

Najya is a brown-skinned woman, with blue-black curly hair and light makeup, staring straight into the camera.
Najya Williams (she/her) is a multidisciplinary artist and third-year medical student at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. Najya is an advocate for self-care and self-preservation, especially within the Black community, and this passion is reflected in many of her projects, service efforts and literary works. Her poetry, essays and other writings have been accepted by and/or published by a number of organizations, including POETRY MagazineBlack Youth Project and Healing Points. Currently, she is also a Board Member of Girls Health Ed, a health education nonprofit, and a Managing Editor for the Katz Journal of Medicine.
Najya is a 2016 graduate from The George Washington University (A.A. in General Studies) and a 2020 graduate from Harvard College (A.B. in Sociology with high honors). Upon completion of her doctoral degree and Graduate Certificate in Narrative Medicine, Najya intends to match into a full-spectrum Family Medicine residency.

Workshop Facilitators

Close-up of femme-ish presenting middle-aged woman with asymmetrical, short dark hair, nose piercings, and intense eyebrows in front of hanging plant. She is smiling slightly.

Beth Couture is the Director of the Counseling Center at University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. Her clinical interests include grief and loss, LGBTQIA+ concerns, neurodivergence, existential issues, transitions, and creative concerns. Before working at UArts, she worked in community mental health and with adults with autism. Beth is also a fiction writer. Her novella Women Born with Fur was published by Jaded Ibis Press in 2014, and she has stories in Gargoyle, Drunken Boat, The Yalobusha Review, and other print and online journals. She is currently under supervision for her PTR (Poetry Therapy Registration).

Femme-presenting middle-aged woman with short blonde hair, large light blue glasses, and floral arm tattoo looks wistfully at the camera

Krista Cox is a poet, teacher, and freelancer. She’s Managing Editor at Doubleback Review and The Wardrobe, and an Associate Poetry Editor at Stirring: A Literary Collection. Her free time is spent reading nonfiction and volunteering on the Board of the LGBTQ Center of South Bend, Indiana. Her poetry has appeared in Columbia Journal, Salt Hill, South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. On the web at

Erin Elizabeth Smith

Erin Elizabeth Smith (she/her) is the Executive Director of Sundress Publications and the Sundress Academy for the Arts and a 2023 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. She is the author of three full-length collections of poetry, most recently DOWN (SFASU 2020) and the founder of the Best of the Net Anthology. Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Guernica, Ecotone, Crab Orchard, and Mid-American. Smith is a Distinguished Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and the Poet Laureate of Oak Ridge, TN.

Poetry Retreat
June 1st-2nd, 2024

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is thrilled to announce its 2024 Poetry Retreat, which runs from June 1-2, 2024. For the first time ever, this event will be entirely virtual held via Zoom.  All SAFTA retreats focus on generative writing, and this year’s retreat will also include the following craft talk sessions: “Let’s Talk About Prose Poems” and “Third Space Grief: The (Written) Performance of Intersectional Mourning.”

The event will be open to poets of all backgrounds and experience levels and provide an opportunity to work with many talented authors and poets from around the country, including workshop leaders Amorak Huey, Sarah A. Chavez, and keynote speaker Barbara Fant.

The total cost of attendance is $75. To apply for a fellowship, please send a packet of 5-8 pages of poetry along with a brief statement on why you would like to attend this workshop no later than March 30, 2024. Winners will be contacted mid-April.

Space at this workshop may be limited, so please reserve your place today at:



Let’s Talk About Prose Poems

Prose poems have leaped from literary oddity to everywhere. Like the sonnet, the prose poem is having a moment. So let’s talk about the prose poem. What are the origins of this form? What defines the prose poem as, well, a poem and not simply prose? What considerations should one keep in mind when sitting down to write a prose poem? From Baudelaire to Tate to Nin Andrews to more contemporary examples, this talk will explore the history and possibilities of this deceptively simple form.

Third Space Grief: The (Written) Performance of Intersectional Mourning

Feminist, queer, Chicana poet and scholar Gloria Anzaldúa wrote, “I am an act of kneading, of uniting and joining that not only has produced both a creature of darkness and a creature of light, but also a creature that questions the definitions of light and dark and gives them new meanings.” Traditional expectations of grief writing often have lived in the performance of light (positivity about the grieved, expressions of gratitude, “moving forward,” acceptance) or darkness (depression, sadness, inexplicable loss), when the experience of grief that honors our intersectional identities is more complex and fluid—a third space in which to explore a relationship not only with who/what is being grieved, but who/what we become as that grief becomes another interstice in identity. Through looking at modern uses of mourning forms which reframe the relationship between speaker/audience/object of grief by writers such as Victoria Chang, Kevin Young, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, together we will explore the act of “kneading and uniting” toward new meaning in expressions of mourning.

Workshop Leaders

Black female with curly hair afro, wearing a bright yellow shirt, jeans, and tan heels, facing the camera and smiling at the camera, her hand is pressed up against her chin and she is sitting on a stool

Barbara Fant has been writing and performing for over 15 years. She competed in 9 National  Poetry Slam competitions, and she is a World Poetry Slam finalist. She is the author of two  poetry collections, Paint, Inside Out (2010) and Mouths of Garden (2022). Her work has been featured in the Academy of American Poets, Electric Literature, McNeese Review, The Ohio  State University Press, Button Poetry, and Def Poetry Jam, amongst others. She has received  residencies in Havana, Cuba and Senegal, West Africa. For over 12 years, she had led healing informed poetry workshops for both youth and adults who are incarcerated, those in community,  adults in recovery, and survivors of human trafficking and domestic violence. She is certified as  a Healing Centered Engagement specialist and holds both an MFA in Poetry and a Master of  Theology. She is the founder of the Black Women Rise Poetry Collective and co-founder of The Senghor Project, West African International Artist Residency, and co-founder of We THRIVE Healing and Arts Collective.

Black and white headshot of a white male with a beard in a black T-shirt. Photo courtesy of Amorak Huey.

Amorak Huey is author of four books of poems including Dad Jokes from Late in the Patriarchy (Sundress Publications, 2021). Co-founder with Han VanderHart of River River Books, Huey teaches at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. He also is co-author with W. Todd Kaneko of the textbook Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury, 2024) and Slash/Slash (2021), winner of the Diode Editions Chapbook Prize. Huey is a recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, and his poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, and many other print and online journals.

Chavez in an urban environment, sitting on the bottom steps of a concrete staircase with metal railing. Shoulder-length dark hair, wearing make-up, plaid black and white flannel over a Frida Kahlo sugar skull t-shirt, green pants, and black Doc Martens.

Sarah A. Chavez, a California mestiza living in the PNW, is the author of the poetry collections, Hands That Break & Scar (Sundress Publications), All Day, Talking (dancing girl press), like everything else we loved, (Porkbelly Press) and Halfbreed Helene Navigates the Whole (Ravenna Press’ Triple Series). Recent writing projects have received a 2019-2020 Tacoma Artists Initiative Award, as well as residencies at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony, the Macondo Writers Workshop, and The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow. Her new project, In the Face of Mourning was awarded a 2023 Scholarship & Research grant from the University of Washington Tacoma’s (UWT) School for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Chavez teaches creative writing and Latinx/Chicanx-focused courses and serves as the poetry coordinator for Best of the Net Anthology.

Trans/Nonbinary Writers Retreat
June 7th-8th, 2024

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is thrilled to announce its Trans/Nonbinary Retreat, which runs from Friday, June 7th, 2024 through Saturday June 8th, 2024. This event will be entirely virtual held via Zoom.  All SAFTA retreats focus on generative writing, and this year’s retreat will also include the following craft talk sessions: “Elegies for Past Selves” and “Writing Together: On the Poetics of Citation.”

The event will be open to trans and nonbinary writers of all backgrounds and experience levels and provide an opportunity to work with many talented authors and poets from around the country, including workshop leaders Evelyn Berry and Aerik Francis, and keynote speaker Ching-In Chen.

The total cost of attendance is $75. To apply for a fellowship, please upload a packet of 5-12 pages of writing (poetry, fiction, or nonfiction) along with a brief statement here by later than March 30, 2024. Winners will be contacted mid-April.

Space at this workshop may be limited, so please reserve your place today here.



Elegies For Past Selves

How can queer writers celebrate, mourn, and complicate literary depictions of our past selves? How do we contend with writing about bodies, self-conceptions, and attitudes that are in transition? How do we hold space in our work for continuing to evolve, stylistically, emotionally, and physically?

In this craft talk, we’ll explore the concept of self-elegy, an act of grieving, understanding, and letting go of our pasts. We’ll chat about the dangers of nostalgia, the urge to revise the past, and the challenges of writing about and through gender transition. We’ll read queer poets who have invented poetic forms (burning haibun, footnote poems, erasures, revisions) that approach these difficult questions. And we’ll discuss strategies, on and off the page, to write about the trans self.

Writing Together: On the Poetics of Citation

“Citations can be feminist bricks: they are the materials through which, from which, we create our dwellings… we can hope to create a crisis around citation, even just a hesitation, a wondering, that might help us not to follow the well-trodden citational paths.”
– Sara Ahmed, Living a Feminist Life

In our current social-political climate where books are being banned, people are being censored, and labor is being replaced by artificial intelligence, cultivating ways to come together and craft lasting sustainable bonds in our work is as urgent as ever. Pushing against the infamous quotation that “creativity is hiding your sources,” this craft talk will explore creative ways to cite our sources and highlight our interlocutors in our poetry. Especially as people with sexual and gender identities that are marginalized, how can we effectively acknowledge the peoples and histories that come together in our writing and art? In this way, citation can be an intimate practice, an artistic endeavor, and/or an open field that combines play and study. In this exploration we will consider the device of allusion, the form of the after poem, methods of poetic annotation and redaction, and the creative approaches to notes and acknowledgments sections of projects. In this exploration we will read work from writers like Danez Smith, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Morgan Parker, Christina Sharpe, Solmaz Sharif, Eve Ewing, Mai Der Vang, Anthony Cody, and Ocean Vuong.

Workshop Leaders

An Asian American person wearing a dark shirt stands in front of a brick wall and smiles.

Descended from ocean dwellers, Ching-In Chen is a genderqueer Chinese American writer, community organizer and teacher. They are author of The Heart’s Traffic: a novel in poems (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2018 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Poetry) as well as chapbooks to make black paper sing (speCt! Books) and Kundiman for Kin :: Information Retrieval for Monsters (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Leslie Scalapino Finalist). Chen is co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 1st edition; AK Press, 2nd edition) and currently a core member of the Massage Parlor Outreach Project. They are also a Kelsey Street Press collective member and an Airlie Press editor. They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Can Serrat, Imagining America, Jack Straw Cultural Center and the Intercultural Leadership Institute as well as the Judith A. Markowitz Award for Exceptional New LGBTQ Writers. They are currently collaborating with Cassie Mira and others on Breathing in a Time of Disaster, a performance, installation and speculative writing project exploring breath through meditation, health and environmental justice. They teach in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and the MFA program in Creative Writing and Poetics at University of Washington Bothell and serve as the Poet Laureate of the City of Redmond.

The subject of the photo is Evelyn Berry standing on an elevated boardwalk in a park. She is surrounded by greenery. She is wearing a tulle dress off the shoulders, oversized earrings shaped like strawberries, a headband, and glitter.

Evelyn Berry is a trans, Southern writer, editor, and educator. She’s the author of Grief Slut (Sundress Publications, 2023) and a recipient of a 2023 National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship.

Photo of Aerik Francis standing outside with green leaves of trees in the background. They are smiling and wearing a blue denim jacket with a white floral patterned t-shirt underneath. The portrait is illuminated with afternoon sunlight.

Aerik Francis is a Queer Black & Latinx poet based in Denver, CO. They are the author of the poetry chapbook Miseducation (NDR 2023), named the winner of the 2022 New Delta Review Chapbook Prize, and poetry chapbook BodyElectronic (Trouble Department 2022). Check out their website for more fun poetry stuff & things.

Workshop Facilitators

Person with green and blue hair is shown from the shoulders up. They have makeup on, gold and orange eyeshadow, and eyeliner. They have a black star under the eye on the left. They have a hand behind their head and their elbow is bent in the air. They are wearing a black and white shirt.
Emory Dinsmore-Night is queer author from East Tennessee. They are currently a senior at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and are working on getting their bachelor’s in creative writing. They have worked as an intern for both Sundress Publications and SAFTA. They have been published in The Phoenix, a literary magazine at the University of Tennessee. During their free time you’ll find them hanging out with their cats, playing Dungeons and Dragons, or playing video games.