Sandra Jensen has coached writers and led writing retreats in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S.A. She taught creative writing at The Galle Literary Festival, Sri Lanka and for the British Council in Colombo. Her particular interest is in encouraging writers to bypass the critical mind and discover the exhilaration and power of writing without preconceived ideas about the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of writing, and so access their imagination in a way that inspires the words to flow. Sandra’s own work is widely published in literary magazines including AGNI, World Literature Today and Sou’wester. Awards include first place for the bosque Fiction Competition, highly commended for the Bridport Prize and honourable mentions from Glimmer Train. She won the J.G. Farrell award for best novel-in-progress and her short story manuscript, A Sort of Walking Miracle, was shortlisted for Salt Publishing’s Scott Prize. She is a recipient of literature bursary awards from Arts Council Ireland, Arts Council England and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Sandra’s background is eclectic, including having triple citizenship in South Africa, Canada and the UK. She has a BA (Hons) in Classical Studies and Ancient Greek. Before committing to her writing she pursued careers in weaving, performance art, Jeet Kune Do, graphic design and IT. She taught Photoshop to refugee monks and nuns in Dharamsala and fly-shuttle weaving to school children in Ireland. She has exhibited her photography in London and Toronto. Her interests include animal welfare and in 2012 she founded AWABosnia, raising awareness and funds to stop animal suffering in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Robin McLean was a lawyer and then a potter for 15 years in the woods of Alaska before receiving her MFA at UMass Amherst in Massachusetts. Her first short story collection Reptile House, twice a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award, won the BOA Fiction Prize and was named as one of the best books of 2015 in The Paris Review. Her short stories have appeared in Cincinnati Review, Carve, Green Mountains Review among many others. A figure skater first—having learned to skate and walk at the same time—she believes that crashing on ice prepared her for writing fiction. Besides writing, her careers and interests have been diverse: pushcart hotdog sales, lawyer and mediator, potter and tile maker, political activist, union organizer, sculptor, haunted corn maze manager as well as zombie trainer.

Robin has taught writing for the last ten years at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Montana Western, currently at Clark University, and also at retreats and intensive workshops from Vermont to Seattle at the high school, college and community level. She will lead a workshop this summer at the International Conference for the Short Story in Lisbon, Portugal.  She approaches teaching writing as she approached pottery and skating: believing there are skills we can learn that open new pathways to proficiency in our crafts, that practice practice practice is central, and that a little coaching can save a lot of time. She is a veteran of many workshops herself from her years as an MFA to workshops at Tin House, Sirenland, Skidmore many others in the US. She lives in the high plains desert of central Nevada, but hangs out in New England a lot.

The Phaistos Disk