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2 responses to “Professional Practices: Part 3”

  1. Ann Stewart

    Thank you, Eric, for your astute thoughts about the future of education as it relates to creative writing.
    For eleven years, I have facilitated a creative writing workshop in Camp Hill, PA, at a gorgeous library (Fredricksen Library). The workshop is free to the public, with a limit of 15 participants. I receive a modest stipend. In the early 00’s, I founded and published a literary magazine for central PA authors and artists, entitled PHASE, and the workshop grew from that as a way to publicize it as well as to mine for good work. (The magazine was funded with a fellowship grant I had received in literature/fiction from the PA Council on the Arts, a fellowship no longer in existence.) Last year, we just published an anthology of short stories, all of which originated from the workshop. Proceeds benefit the library.
    As you mentioned, my workshop is delivered in an honest, direct, but softer style than the brutality often associated with these literary gatherings. What’s the point of crushing souls, particularly in today’s upended publishing world? We are all struggling to sell our work, to be heard.
    I have adapted this workshop style to a creative writing class of high school students who attend an arts magnet school in Harrisburg, PA. I am continually amazed by what my kids accomplish in a school year. Not just the quantity of work, but the breadth of accomplishment. When you feel you are being heard, that your voice matters, you tend to deliver.
    So, thank you for writing this. You have given me a new idea: to incorporate the business of writing into a workshop offering. God knows I have lots of experience in that!!

  2. Eric

    Ann, thanks for your thoughts. Your experience with the creative writing class and the importance to a young writer of being heard, points to how important it is for a writer to be part of a community. The Iowa Writers’ Workshop had a reputation for being cut-throat, and I suppose it was at times, but what most of those I interviewed recall is being part of a community. As Sandra Cisneros put it, “As writers, we’re required to write alone. But I like to use the metaphor of writing being like cutting your own hair; there’s only so much you can do yourself, then you need someone to help you with the back. That’s what we do at the workshop; we cover each other’s back. So you don’t walk out with a bad haircut, so someone doesn’t say, Damn, where’d you get that bad haircut?”

    Better yet, a community with a course or two in the business of writing!

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