Writers' Workshop Program

—Robert Antoni—

“Writing in the Vernacular: How to Get it Down on the Page”

“Writing in the Vernacular: How to Get it Down on the Page”
By application, $550
January 16–20, 2017

Workshop Description

The vernacular is generally heard rather than written. It’s territory on the street corner and the schoolyard, not the court or classroom. It is decidedly improper and impure; it commands its own authenticity, contains its own history; it is open, malleable, subversive, aggressively multi, and alive. Indeed, there is no stronger declaration of personal identity than the act of speaking out in one’s own language.

Conversely, there is no more humanizing or empathizing endeavor than that of truly inhabiting the language of the other. These characteristics have made the vernacular attractive to writers from Shakespeare and Chaucer, to our most popular mainstream authors. It may just be the writing of the moment. The project for these authors, then, is how to give the spoken language a written form—call it textspeak.

In this workshop we’ll address these and other questions: How much should standard spelling or usage be altered? How successful is the written language in capturing the vernacular as it is heard? Additionally, each participant will compose and have workshopped a short-story or a self-contained chapter written (partially or entirely) in an English-based vernacular of the writer’s choosing, or of their invention.


Click here to apply via Submittable

•    Admission to this workshop will be based upon an application including the first five or more pages of a short story, or the self-contained chapter of a novel, written partially or entirely in a vernacular of the writer’s choosing, or of their invention.

•    The cost of the workshop is $550. If you are accepted, a $100 deposit will be required to hold your place within a week of acceptance, with full payment due by September 30.

•    Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full.

•    Confirmed participants will be expected to complete their piece of writing (twenty-five double-spaced pages maximum) before the workshop commences, and to distribute hard copies of it to all participants and the instructor at our first meeting (to be workshopped by the group later on).

•    Participants will be expected to purchase and explore (not read cover-to-cover) the anthology Rotten English, edited by Dohra Ahmad. Numerous other texts written in English-based vernaculars from around the world will be recommended by the instructor for later perusal.

Financial Assistance is available to those who would not otherwise be able to attend—click here for guidelines and application.

About Robert Antoni

Robert Antoni is the author of five novels, from Divina Trace, written in seven identifiable West Indian vernaculars, each representing a different ethnic group (winner of an NEA and the Commonwealth Writers Prize), to his latest, As Flies to Whatless Boys, which includes the emails of the notorious director of the Trinidad and Tobago National Archives, written to the “author” in a Trini-vernacular-cellphone-textspeak (this novel garnering him a Guggenheim Fellowship and the BOCAS prizes for Best Novel, and Best Overall Book of the Caribbean 2014). His short-stories have appeared in Conjunctions, the Paris Review (winner of the Aga Kahn Prize), Editor’s Choice, and in the Oxford Book of Caribbean Short Stories.

Robert has taught in MFA writing programs at the University of Miami, Columbia University, The New School, and he is currently an instructor in the low-residency Pan-European MFA Program (Barcelona-Vienna-Dublin). He is equal parts Trinidadian, Bahamian, and U.S. citizen, and he presently lives in Manhattan. Visit him at

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