TEACHING

In my classes, students, as apprentices acquiring a craft, read and discuss writing by master authors. Practicing with prompts and exercises, they discover by doing. In work-shopping, they learn from each other. At the end, they are equipped with skills to continue working on their projects.

 

A Writing Prompt for Members of the Loft Literary Center, May, 2020:

Stars of One World: Together At Home concert; Andrea Bocelli and Ashley McBryde singing “Amazing Grace” in the empty Duomo in Milan and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville—in this particular time in our world, heeding an intense call for communication and connection, music, always an essential form of human expression, is having a day. Let’s give ourselves a little time today to explore what music can do for our own creative selves. Choose some favorite songs that center you. Let your mind and body relax, reach out. When you’re ready, write down something you take from this experience: maybe where you journeyed, what you sensed along the way (saw, heard, smelled, touched, tasted), what insistent thoughts kept looping through. Decide if you want to delve into deeper depths, or to play another piece—as William Shakespeare says, “If music be the food of love, play on.”

WORKSHOPS: An experienced leader, I enjoy directing seminars or workshops for students of all ages, writing groups of all types, and book clubs of all styles.

WORKSHOP EXPERIENCES: Marine Mills Folk School (ongoing) Marine on St. Croix, MN; Rosemount Writing Festival (three years); Writing Group, Menomonie, WI; Writer’s Digest’s Minnesota Writing Workshop; Wholly Writers, Sullivan’s Island, SC and Charlotte, NC; Jackpine Writers’ Bloc, Nimrod, MN (six years); Collegeville Institute, Woodstock, VT and Collegeville, MN (three years); Washington County Libraries, Stillwater, MN (three years); ArtReach St. Croix, Stillwater, MN (two years);  Dakota County Libraries, Lakeville, MN; Artability, People Incorporated, St. Paul, MN (five years); University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chaska, MN;  Bloomington Writers’ Festival and Book Fair, Bloomington, MN; History Department, St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN.

EDITING AND CONSULTATION: I edit and critique manuscripts for writers of all levels. Working in consultation with the author, I offer feedback and suggestions for changes to craft and structure, charging $50 – $75 hour, depending on specific needs and time constraints.

Podcast of the Loft’s first Short-Short Salon: https://writersblock.loft.org/2013/01/28/1928/short_short_recap_with_audio

Blog on The Writers’ Block of The Loft Literary Center: Why Write Creative Nonfiction? Posted on Fri, Aug 28 2015 9:00 am by Marge Barrett

Creative nonfiction is a difficult but rewarding genre. It’s a challenge to find a topic that grabs your attention and then to write about it in a way that engages your readers. After a number of drafts, you need to make decisions whether to do further research or to seek interviews in order to support or enliven your story with more or different facts. And always there are the big questions: What to put in? What to leave out? When is it finished?

The reward is in the telling of thoughts and experiences that enchant and change readers, stories that instruct and strike empathetic chords, following in the footsteps of master storytellers, Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, Meghan Daum, James Baldwin, Dave Eggers, David Sedaris. There’s a great sense of accomplishment in becoming the writer who creates a personal essay or a memoir combining story and fact, blending the two into an enthralling harmony.

There’s a mixing of genres too. Like the fiction writer, you develop character and setting, plot and point of view. A compelling voice “sings,” using detail, description, and dialogue.

The creative nonfiction writer also utilizes elements of poetry—particularly in meditative and lyrical essays—focusing on image and metaphor, the diction of words and the rhythm of sentences. All braid together.

You create like a painter: find your writing idea (the artist in search of a subject); use your voice (choosing a medium); discover the joys of observation and imagination (beginning to sketch); focus on people and places (portraits and landscapes); shape the writing (blocking out the space with lights and darks); add finishing touches (filling in the details); revise and polish (putting the work in a frame).

You conduct like a musician, deciding how to begin, where to add notes and tones, when to crescendo or to soften, and how to affectively end, leaving your reader satisfied, grateful for your expression.

You present a piece of art for others to enjoy, esteem, emulate. A great feat, worthy of time and effort.