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Further Past Events

Further Past Events

Less is More: Explorations in Flash Fiction and Flash Non-Fiction

with Michelle Valois

December 6, 2014

This workshop explored the tremendous possibilities inherent in brevity.  We read published works of flash fiction and flash non-fiction, experimented with prompts to generate new work, and discussed where to send finished products.

Michelle Valois teaches writing and humanities at Mount Wachusett Community College.  Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, Tri-Quarterly, Brevity, Fourth Genre, The Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Florida Review, Sleet Magazine, Anderbo, Verse, The North American Review, The Baltimore  Review, and others.  Her chapbook My Found Vocabularywill be published at the end of 2014.  She lives in western Massachusetts with her partner and their three children. Her website is here.

Writers Night Out – December

Featured Reader: Joe Gannon

December 2, 2014

The rebirth of our popular First-Tuesday-of-the-month Writers Night Out! is going well.  This is our opportunity to schmooze and hang out, to read our work and listen to each other.  The new venue is The Basement, 21 Center Street in Northampton (formerly Bishop’s Lounge, find the sandwich board across the street from the Iron House for detailed directions).  Admission is free but please buy a drink to support the venue. Sign-ups are for five minutes each.  Please join us. 
 
Joe Gannon, writer and spoken word artist, was a freelance journalist in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution.  He also covered the civil war in El Salvador and the U.S. invasion of Panama.  His recently published novel is entitled Night of the Jaguar.
 
Since then his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Independent (London), the Valley Advocate and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  He spent three years in the army, graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and earned his MFA from Pine Manor College.  After a stint teaching high school in Abu Dhabi, he now lives in Northampton and is at work on his second installment of the Ajax Montoya Series.  

Writers Night Out – November

Featured Reader: Karen Skolfield

November 4, 2014

Karen Skolfield’s book Frost in the Low Areas (2013) won the 2014 PEN New England Award in poetry and the First Book Award from Zone 3 Press, and is a Massachusetts “Must Read” selection for 2014. She is a 2014 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellow and winner of the 2014 Split This Rock poetry prize. Skolfield is the poetry editor for Amherst Live and an editor at SundressPublications, and she teaches writing to engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she earned her Master of Fine Arts. More here

Steam Cleaning Your Poetry or Prose Manuscript –

Take It Up a Notch with Ten Easy Fixes

with Diana Gordon

November 1, 2014

Little words, sprinkled throughout a text, can be signals for larger problems or opportunities. We all have habits that sneak into our work, even Mark Twain, who suggested, “substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” The list of habits is long, and some might surprise you. Come see if you can identify your own habits, and find out what to do with them. The answer isn’t always “delete.” We tracked tautologies, transformed adverbs, talked about what to do with “would” and “had” and diagramed a sentence or two.

D M Gordon is the author of two collections of poetry, Fourth World, and Nightly, at the Institute of the Possible, which was a 2012 “Must Read” selection by The Massachusetts Center For The Book, and a finalist for The International Book Award. Her stories have been published in Glimmer Train (winning a first prize), and in such journals as the The Massachusetts Review. For her website, click here.

Building a Novel with Good Bones: Steps for Structure

with Randy Susan Meyers

September 20

Whether writing the first novel or the fifth, writers can get lost in the morass of researching and sketching their novels. For those beginning a novel (or those who have begun many a book, but have never finished), this session will provide an approach for building the framework for your novel, using the “how do you eat an elephant” approach: one bite at a time.
 
Participants moved step-by-step from initial idea to “what if,” to concept paper, characterization, and building a spine, which led to a skeleton on which to construct one’s novel. 
Randy Susan Meyers is the author of two novels. The Murderer’s Daughters was named a Must Read Book and one of the 2011 Ten Best Works of Fiction by the Massachusetts Center for the Book. Her second novel, The Comfort of Lies, is “sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny when the author skewers Boston’s class and neighborhood dividing lines, but it has a lot of heart, too” (Boston Globe). Randy is a founding member of Beyond The Margins, a multi-writer site dedicated to the craft of writing and the business of publishing. She is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Postand has recently co-authored the guide What To Do Before Your Book Launch with writer MJ Rose.
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Straw Dog Treats…!

A Celebration of  Members’ Books

June 14, 2014

A celebration of literary successes with brief readings from newly published poetry and prose by members of Straw Dog Writers Guild and our new Advisory Board. Readers included:

Michele Barker, Dick Bentley, Ellen Hopman, Terry S. Johnson, Rich Michelson, Bill Newman, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, and Jane Yolen.

This was the first of what we hope will be an annual opportunity to celebrate and hear excerpts from the literary successes of our members, to buy their books and have them signed. We hope you can join us; please consider bringing a snack and/or (nonalcoholic) beverage to share, to help make this a festive event.

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What’s Your Story? Memoir and the Memoirist

with Celia Jeffries

May 13, 2014

Memoir is about memory, which is inextricably linked to emotion—what we remember is continually colored by how we remember it. Ask any two people to recall a common event and you will get at least two, if not three, different accounts. This workshop was a short introduction to the craft of memoir. We looked at various definitions of memoir and explored a number of ways to write our own individual stories.
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Celia Jeffries holds an MA from Brandeis University and an MFA from Lesley University. Her short stories, interviews and memoir pieces have appeared in various publications, including: Westview, Writer’s Chronicle, Solsticelit.mag, Puerto del Sol and the anthology Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper.
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The Straw Dog Writers Room

with Ellen Meeropol

January 6 – March 31, 2014

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Straw Dog Writers Guild hosted a drop-in writing room at the newly purchased Northampton Community Arts Trust space, from January through March of 2014. Participants were invited to bring their current project, their imagination, and their notebook or laptop.  For three months, participants enjoyed a quiet space, warmth, bathrooms, ample free parking, no wifi, and the supportive companionship of other writers.

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Fact into Fiction – Using Research to Fire the Imagination

with  Michael White

March 15, 2014

Michael White talked about the importance of doing research; how and what to research; and knowing when, as Hemingway advised, to leave stuff out. He talked about how research can ground your story, develop your characters, lend credibility to your setting, and use your historical context to its fullest extent.

Michael White is the author of six novels: Soul Catcher, which was a Booksense and Historical Novels Review selection, as well as a finalist for the Connecticut Book Award; A Brother’s Blood, which was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers nominee; The Blind Side of the Heart, an Alternate Book-of-the-Month Club selection; A Dream of Wolves, which received starred reviews from Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly, and is under option by Miracle Pictures; and The Garden of Martyrs, also a Connecticut Book Award finalist. His latest novel (William Morrow, 2010) is Beautiful Assassin. A collection of his short stories, Marked Men, was published by the University of Missouri Press. He has also published over 45 short stories in national magazines and journals, and has won the Advocate Newspapers Fiction Award and been nominated for both a National Magazine Award and a Pushcart.

Michael is the founder and director of Fairfield University’s low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program. He lives on a lake in Guilford, CT, with his black lab Henry.

 

 The Digital Writing Life

with Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser & Avital Norman Nathman

February 2, 2014

With the proliferation of social media, writers now have even more tools at their immediate disposal to not only research, write, and edit their work, but to promote it as well. Two local writers discussed their own personal journeys into their digital writing lives. Their presentation focused on the various ways you can use digital platforms to write, revise and share their work. Sarah and Avital talked about specific ways different types of social media have helped them open doors, plant some writing-roots, and cultivate publication options. They also delved into how to use these online platforms to maximize marketing efforts, and discuss the benefits and challenges of creating an online community.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, SalonBrain, Child Magazine, the Massachusetts Review, and the Southwest Review, among many others. Locally, she writes for Preview, Massachusetts and has a blog at the Valley Advocate entitled Standing in the Shadows. Her essays have also appeared in anthologies, including The Maternal is Political and the Good Mother Mother Myth, edited by Avital Norman Nathman and published by Seal Press.  Sarah’s website is here.

Avital Norman Nathman is a former teacher and lifelong-learner turned freelance writer. Her work, which places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights, has been featured in Bitch magazine, Bamboo Family MagazineEvery Mother CountsKveller, The New York Times, CNN, HLNtv.com, RH Reality Check, Offbeat Mama, and more. In addition to her blog, The Mamafesto, Avital has a regular series, “The Femisphere,” for Ms. Magazine’s site, as well as a regular feminist parenting column, “Mommie Dearest,” for The Frisky. Her first book, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality, will be out in January 2014 from Seal Press.

Based in Western Massachusetts with her husband and six-year old son, Avital also considers herself a play-at-home mama who enjoys digging in her urban garden, hosting dance parties in her kitchen, tweeting (follow her at @TheMamafesto), and searching for the perfect cup of Chai. Her website is here.

Amy Dryansky Feb 2014

Rich Michelson December 2013

30 Poems in November!

Thanks to all Straw Dog members who acted as poet/fundraisers or contributors to the fifth annual 30 Poems in November! a fundraiser for the Center for New Americans. As of the Reading and Celebration on December 10th at Smith College, over $23,000 was raised and still counting!

Our efforts continue to help our newest immigrants learn English, study for the citizenship test, apply for jobs, learn technology and acquire family literacy tips. This is a wonderful gift to our community. I am proud that Straw Dog Writers Guild chooses to sponsor this outreach event.

                                  —  Terry S. Johnson, Event Chair 2013

Grammar for Dummies and/or Writers

with Jean Zimmer

November 14 and 21

Haven’t studied grammar since eighth-grade composition class? Published a few books, but live in fear of your copy editor? Relax. By applying a handful of simple grammatical rules, you can make your writing more clear, polished, and professional – and help it survive the hostile environment of an acquisition editor’s inbox.

Jean Zimmer made two presentations. The first taught the use of punctuation for power and precision. What is an en dash, and what is an em? How many dots make up an ellipsis? Does the darn comma belong inside or outside of the quotation marks? The second explored deeper details – word choices, publishing industry standards, and appropriate levels of edit. What’s the difference between “that” and “which”? When should you spell out a number, and when do you use a numeral? Does your book manuscript need the same treatment as your blog post? Jean offered grammatical examples, exercises, caveats, and a perhaps a few laughs. Participants gained a better understanding of grammatical conventions – and when it’s okay to break them.

Jean Zimmer is an editorial insider. A freelance editor/writer, she has honed more than 100 published works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, and short stories. Her clients include National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Addison-Wesley, Palgrave Macmillan, John Muir Publications, Sinauer Associates, Microsoft Press, and numerous independent and academic presses. Jean is a graduate of Smith College and holds advanced certifications in journalism, technical communications, marketing communications, and biology.

MFA or Not? Building Craft and Community as a Writer

Panelists: Jen Mar, Enzo Silon Surin, Linda McCullough Moore, Pam Petro

Moderator: Robin Barber

November 10, 2013

        

Considering an MFA?  Four dynamic writers (of different genres and at different points in their careers) discussed paths to develop craft and community:  traditional MFA, low-residency MFA, and do-it-yourself strategies.

Jenn Mar writes about art, culture and food.  Her essays and reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Common, and Farmer General: An Epicurean Review.  She has an MFA in fiction from the Poets and Writers Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Enzo Silon Surin is a Haitian-born poet and social advocate. He earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University and is currently Assistant Professor in English at Bunker Hill Community College and Visiting Instructor in English at Salem State University. He is the author of the chapbook, Higher Ground (Finishing Line Press, 2006), and his poetry, appearing in numerous publications, has won the David L. Osgood Poetry Prize, received the Boston Mayor’s Poetry and Prose Competition. and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Linda McCullough Moore is the author of a literary novel, The Distance Between, and a collection of linked stories heralded by Alice Munro (Moore’s favorite writer), This Road Will Take Us Closer to the Moon, as well as more than 300 shorter published pieces. She is a frequent contributor to The Sun, O Magazine, and Books and Culture. The Book of Not So Common Prayer will be released in June, 2014. Moore is the winner and finalist of many fiction awards including The Pushcart Prize XXXV.

Pamela Petro is an author, artist, and educator. She is the author of three books of place-based creative non-fiction, focused on Wales, the American South, and Southwest France, and has written for many publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, Granta, and The Paris Review. She is also a photographer, and creates environmental installations. Pamela teaches creative writing at Smith College and at the National Writing Centre in Wales, and is on the creative nonfiction faculty of Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program.

Robin Barber , program moderator, was educated at Putney School, Indiana University and the University of British Columbia. He has worked as a photographer, carpenter, furniture maker, mental health program administrator, high school teacher, videographer – and since his retirement from Northampton High School, leads two writing groups on the Amherst Writers and Artists model. He also serves as managing editor of Gallery of Readers Press.

A reception followed, with presenters’ books for sale.

Writers Night Out – November

Featured Reader: Harriet Rogers

November 5, 2013

While she was driving taxi, Harriet Rogers began writing a 10-book series about …a taxi driver. She will soon publish book two. Harriet maintains that she has no mission with her writing, save to make people laugh: “Laughter is the soul of the human machine.”  More  here.  

 

Poetry Prompt Extravaganza:  Using Prompts to Develop Craft 

with Terry S. Johnson 

October 19, 2013 

Just what is a poetry prompt?  Are there advantages and disadvantages of using them? Is a poetry prompt different from a fiction or creative non-fiction prompt?  How can a prompt be used to strengthen a particular skill in a poet’s repertoire?  These are several of the topics which will be discussed in this workshop.  Terry suggested a framework to enable poets to deepen the use of prompts in a writer’s practice. Terry provided time for generative writing and sharing, as well as handouts with a list of prompts, a framework to deepen the use of prompts, and a bibliography of pertinent websites and craft books.

Terry is serving as this year’s Event Chair for 30 Poems in November! – a fundraiser for the Center for New Americans. She has explored careers as a newspaper advertising clerk, a reference library assistant and a professional harpsichordist before serving as a public school teacher for over twenty-five years. Terry earned her M.F.A in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.  Her work has appeared or is upcoming in many journals including PeregrineBerkshire ReviewNew Verse NewsTheodate, Slipstream, the Chest Journal and Naugatuck Review. Her first poetry book entitled Coalescence will be published in June, 2014 by WordTech Communications.

Writers Night Out – October

Featured Reader: Sally Bellerose

October 1, 2013

 

Sally Bellerose is author of the prizewinning novel, The Girls Club. Her current project is a short story collection,Fishwives, which features old women behaving badly. Bellerose writes about class, sex, illness, absurdity, and lately, growing old. In her work, she loves to mess with rhythm, rhyme, and awkward emotion.

 

Read more here

 

Creative Writing: Taking the Next Step

with Ellen Meeropol

September 18, 2013

Maybe you have always wanted to write fiction, but didn’t know how to get started. Or perhaps you’ve been writing for years, but are still reluctant to share your work. In this program, we talked about ways to connect with other writers for feedback, support, and forward movement. We discussed peer writing and manuscript critiques, and compared the benefits of workshops, conferences and MFA programs.

Ellen Meeropol’s characters balance on the fault lines of political turmoil and human connection. Publishers Weekly gave her debut novel, House Arrest, a starred review, calling it “thoughtful and tightly composed, unflinching in taking on challenging subjects and deliberating uneasy ethical conundrums.” Her short fiction and essays have been published in Bridges, DoveTales, Pedestal, Rumpus, Portland Magazine, Beyond the Margins, Women’s Times, The Writers Chronicle and others. Ellen is fascinated by political issues in contemporary literary fiction and leads workshops on writing fiction of social justice. She is a founding board member of the Rosenberg Fund for Children and author of their dramatic program “Carry it Forward.” Ellen lives in western Massachusetts. Visit her online at www.ellenmeeropol.com.

Peer-Led Groups: Creating and Sustaining

Generative Writing and Manuscript Groups

June 22, 2013

There are many excellent writing groups that charge a fee and are well worth the price. But for writers who want to start a peer-led writing group, where does one begin? What is the key to a safe and productive group? Marianne Banks and Jacqueline Sheehan, who have been in a generative group an a manuscript critique group together for ten years, offered a formula for forming these two different types of groups.  They discussed:

  • the benefits of both types of groups
  • ways to find members and stay together, and
  • pitfalls, and ways to avoid them

A question answer session followed, with opportunities for participants to meet and talk.

Small Presses – Big Ideas  

with Three Local Publishers

April 13, 2013

Three local publishers – Jan Freeman, Steve Strimer, and Susan Kan– discussed the world of small press publishing.  A Question and Answer session followed. Topics included:

  • founding and mission of the presses and the types of literature they publish
  • submission and selection processes
  • working with the writer during editing and production
  • advantages and disadvantages of “print-on-demand”
  • marketing issues and the interface between publishers, storefront retail outlets, online web store and bookstores
  • author compensation and the contract template

Susan Kan is founder and director of Perugia Press, a nonprofit, independent literary press located in Florence, Massachusetts.  Prior to starting the press in 1997, Susan earned her MFA in creative writing from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Susan also offers private manuscript reviews. www.perugiapress.com.

Steve Strimer graduated from Amherst College. In 1977 he co-founded the worker cooperative Aldebaran Press, which in 1982 became Common Wealth Printing. In 1990, Steve was appointed by Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis as the worker cooperative representative on the Employee Involvement and Ownership advisory board. In 1997, he joined Collective Copies in Amherst. He has spearheaded the establishment of Collective Copies’ publishing wing, Levellers Press, which now has over 33 titles in print. www.levellerspress.org

Jan Freeman is the author of Hyena, Autumn Sequence, and Simon Says – which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry. Her poems have been published The Southern Review, Bloom, Prairie Schooner, APR, The Massachusetts Review, The Alaska Review, The Women’s Review of Books, and other literary journals as well as several anthologies. Her new manuscript, Proximity, was finalist at Four Way Books, and her chapbook, Blue Structure, was finalist with Black Lawrence Press. Freeman founded Paris Press in 1995 in order to bring into print Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry. www.parispress.org

  
Meditation as Muse: Finding Inspiration From Silence

with Brian Leaf

March 23, 2013

Brian Leaf examined creativity, silence, meditation, and the writing process. He spoke about his own creative process using meditation, answered questions, and then lead participants through a guided meditation and writing exercise.

Brian Leaf, M.A., is the Director of the New Leaf Learning Center in Northampton, Massachusetts and author of eleven books, including his most recent, Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. Brian graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in Business, English, and Theology; in 1999, he completed a Masters through Lesley College specializing in Yoga, Meditation, and Ayurveda for Attention Deficit Disorder. Brian is a certified Yoga Instructor, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Massage Therapist, Energyworker, and Holistic Educator. www.brianleaf.com

One Writer’s Way In:  How I Learned to Write a Play

with Tanyss Martula

February 23, 2013

Playwright Tanyss Rhea Martula took a sometimes-playful look at what brought her to playwriting and what she found there. Basic nuts and bolts of the craft were covered, as she invited participants to explore a craft that has the audacity of “taking up a Saturday night” in someone’s life. A play, Tanyss suggested, does not truly happen until it is off the page: it must eventually happen communally and in the moment.

Tanyss Rhea Martula, originally from Texas, has been active in Western Mass. theater for many years. She has worked as an actor, producer, arts advocate and playwright, and is currently exploring solo performance. Tanyss has an MFA in Creative Writing and is a past recipient of an MCC Individual Artists Grant in Playwriting. She founded The Northampton 24-Hour Theater Project which has been produced annually since 2002. Her plays include: Whoops! ; Two Women from Waldo, Arkansas; Fresh Air; Just Too Crazed to Go Completely Biodegradable at This Point in Time; and Safe Lodging.
Quitting Your Day Job? 
 Writing and publishing books during hard times

with Lesléa Newman & Barry Werth

January 13, 2013

Working writers Barry Werth and Lesléa Newman shared their journeys through the contemporary literary clash of art and commerce. Their conversation – with each other and the audience – addressed the challenges of making a literary career in the changing environment of the publishing industry.

Lesléa Newman is the author of 65 books for readers of all ages. Northampton Poet Laureate in 2008-2010, she is a faculty member of Spalding University’s brief residency MFA in Writing program.  www.lesleanewman.com

Barry Werth worked as a public school teacher, newspaper reporter and editor before publishing his first nonfiction book, The Billion Dollar Molecule, named to Fortune‘s list of “The 75 Smartest Books We Know.” Recipient of several honors and awards, Barry has taught Journalism and the Art of Narrative Nonfiction Writing at Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Boston University.   http://www.barrywerth.com

Writing Personal Narrative in an Impersonal World

with Maddy Blais

December 2, 2012

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Madeleine Blais gave practical tips about writing personal narrative in an impersonal world, and then shape the rest of the presentation as a conversation based on the concerns of audience members as they grapple with the challenges of writing memoir.

Madeleine Blais is a professor in the Journalism Department at UMASS. She has written for the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Hartford Courant, Trenton Times, and Tropic Magazine of the Miami Herald. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing while at the Miami Herald. Madeleine is the author of In These Girls, Hope Is a Muscle, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in nonfiction, and named one of the Top 100 sports books of the 20th Century by ESPN. She has also written The Heart Is an Instrument; Portraits in Journalism; and Uphill Walkers: Memoir of a Family – which was honored with a Massachusetts Book Award.

Mix It Up: Writing from the Shuffled Self

with Jedediah Berry

November 3, 2012

Sequencing is vital to any work of narrative prose, but what happens when we allow the order of things to get out of hand-on purpose? This craft talk and workshop with author Jedediah Berry explored writing techniques designed to get our ideas onto the page, loosen up our writing practice, and allow us to surprise ourselves.

Jedediah Berry’s first novel, The Manual of Detection, won the Crawford Award and the Dashiell Hammett Prize. His work has been translated into over a dozen languages, and his stories have appeared in journals and anthologies including Best New American Voices and Best American Fantasy. He has served as an editor for numerous literary journals and presses, and currently teaches fiction writing at the MFA Program for Poets & Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  www.thirdarchive.net  

How to Find and Shape a Poem 
 
with Carol Edelstein 
 
October 13, 2012
Carol read a selection of poems she enjoys – the work of others along with a few of her own. She spoke about the ways she enters into the poem-making process and her revision strategies.
 
For over twenty years, Carol Edelstein has been leading writing workshops in her hometown of Northampton. With her husband Robin Barber she organizes A Gallery of Readers, a reading series and publishing venture. She is the author of two books of poems, The World Is Round (Amherst Writers and Artists Press, 1994) and The Disappearing Letters (Perugia Press, 2005). Her poetry and fiction have been published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines, including The Massachusetts Review, The Georgia Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review. www.galleryofreaders.org

Writing Fantasy: Reflections on Craft

with Robert V.S. Redick

September 15, 2012

How does writing a fantasy novel differ from writing a mainstream (“literary”) book?  Does the writer of fantasy bring different skills to the effort, or merely different priorities? Robert V.S. Redick offered insights from his own experience as the author of four epic fantasy novels and additional works outside the genre. He provided both esthetic and practical suggestions for writers interested in fantasy, and will discuss the unstable border between fantasy and mainstream writing. 

Robert V.S. Redick is the author of The Chathrand Voyage Quartet, including The Red Wolf Conspiracy (2007), The Rats and the Ruling Sea (2009) and The River of Shadows (2011). The final book, The Night of the Swarm, will be published in October in Great Britain and January in the United States.   Redick is also the author of an unpublished mainstream novel, Conquistadors, an excerpt of which appeared in the 25th anniversary issue of Puerto del Sol. His essay “Uncrossed River” won the New Millennium Writings Award, and his short story “Palpable” was a finalist for the Glimmer Train Award for New Writers. Redick has fantasy short stories appearing in various forthcoming anthologies, and is a regular panelist at science fiction and fantasy conventions on both sides of the Atlantic. He holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, N.C. Among his former mentors are Jim Shepard, John Casey, Pat Schneider and Judith Grossman. Redick has also worked in the international development field, most recently as an editor with Oxfam America. Author websites: robertvsredick.comredwolfconspiracy.com,  robertvsredick.blogspot.com  

Writing Novels – Five Journeys 

with Roger King 

April 29, 2012 

Roger King looked back over five novels, to see how they got to be the way they are. Starting from brief readings from each book, Roger discussed the original impulse, and seek to discover how this led to the final nature of the book including decisions about voice, form and content, and how the books relate to each other. The first two novels are mainly set in West Africa, the third, in Pakistan and Polynesia, the fourth in Zanzibar, London and Vermont, and the new novel, Love and Fatigue in America, is set entirely in the United States. The books vary widely in point of view and writing style and the choices made include decisions about writing close to experience or far from it, points of view, dealing with time, and breaking the rules – the pros and cons of conventional and experimental forms.  

Roger King grew up in London and is the author of five novels: Horizontal Hotel, Written on a Stranger’s Map, Sea Level, A Girl From Zanzibar, and Love and Fatigue in America. He has worked widely in Asia and Africa, mainly addressing rural poverty for UN agencies, and has held university posts in Nigeria, England and the US, in both international development and creative writing. He had received mutiple fellowships from the MacDowell Colony for the Arts, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Yaddo, and was a Breadloaf Writing Fellow and an Amherst College Copeland Fellow. A Girl from Zanzibar won the BABRA award for the best novel of the year, and his books have been nominated for the Booker prize. He produced, with Mira Nair, the feature documentary film, Still the Children are Here. For the last twenty years he has suffered from ME disease, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome, and this forms part of the background to his newly published autobiographical novel, Love and Fatigue in America. His website is www.rogerking.org

Creating Memorable Characters 

with Jacqueline Sheehan 

April 7, 2012 

Our favorite stories let us step fully into characters and experience their world as we keep turning the pages. But as writers, getting our characters down on the page with the same intensity can be daunting. Jacqueline offered tips for things that help amplify and deepen a character and a few things that are guaranteed not to help.  

Jacqueline Sheehan, Ph.D., is a New York Times bestselling fiction writer and essayist. She is also a practicing psychologist. Her first novel, Truth, was published in 2003 by Free Press of Simon and Schuster. Her second novel, Lost & Found, was published 2007 by Harper Collins and optioned for film. Her third novel, Now & Then, was published in 2009 by Harper Collins. She has published travel articles, short stories, and numerous essays and radio pieces. In 2005, she was the editor of the anthology Women Writing in Prison. Her 4th novel, Picture This, will be published in May, 2012. Jacqueline has been awarded residencies at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland and Jentel Arts Colony in Wyoming. She teaches workshops at Grub Street in Boston and Writers in Progress in Florence, Massachusetts. She teaches at international writing retreats in Jamaica, Guatemala, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Her website is www.jacquelinesheehan.com

Fiction or Memoir – Working Imaginatively with your Life’s Material 

with Dori Ostermiller 

March 3, 2012 You have a story to tell, but how do you know if you are writing memoir or a novel? What are some of the potential landmines you have to tiptoe around when writing about your life’s material? Is it better to write what you know, to make things up, or some combination of the two? And what’s the best way to deal with family members and friends who may see themselves in your work?Dori Ostermiller talked about the sometimes tenuous line between memoir and fiction, and the choices and challenges she encountered in writing a semi-autobiographical novel. She will offer a question and answer period and will have books for sale and signing.  

Dori Ostermiller’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Spin, Playgirl, The Bellingham Review, Calliope, The Roanoke Review, the MA Review, Alligator Juniper and Chautauqua Literary Journal. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Outside the Ordinary World was an Indie-Next Notable pick, and was long-listed for the Richard and Judy Bookclub in the UK. She is the founder and director of Writers in Progress, and has been teaching creative writing and literature since the late 1990’s. Her website is www.doriostermiller.com 

“The Joys and Despairs of Writing Young Adult Literature” 

with Ann Turner  

February 18, 2012 

Ann Turner discussed her experiences in writing four works for Young Adults, with one still being created. This particular market is wide-open at this point in time. Some writers of adult fiction have switched to the YA market, finding it easier to sell as well as having better publicity for their work. The lines which used to separate books for YA from books for adults have blurred over the years, although there are still some particular characteristics to keep in mind when writing for this audience. 

Ann Turner is a native of the Pioneer Valley educated at Bates College, UMASS Graduate School, and a year abroad at Oxford University. She has been writing for forty-three years, has spoken at many schools and writing events, and lives in Williamsburg with her family in an owner-built house. She has written around 50 books, including picture books for the very young, historical picture books for the Middle Grades, Middle Grade novels, and narrative poetry as well as fiction for YA readers. Her books relevant to this workshop include: Lion’s Hunger (Poems of First Love); Learning to Swim, A memoir (about being sexually abused as a young girl, a novel in poems); Hard Hit (about a boy whose dad is dying of cancer and the strengths he finds to bear him up, also a novel in poems); and The Father of Lies (a historical novel about a bipolar girl at the time of the Salem witch trials who knows the girls are making false accusations). In progress is another collection of poems for YA called How to be Normal – Poems of Exclusion. Her website is www.annwturner.com  

Making an Artful Life and the Limits of Self-Creation:  The Exceptional Lives of Anaïs Nin & Virginia Woolf 

with Daniel Bullen and Michele Wick 

January 8, 2012 

How do artists use creativity in their lives – in their unconventional lifestyles, in their marriages, in maintaining their emotional health? What can creativity change, and what are the limits beyond which creativity is powerless? Daniel Bullen and Michele Wick discussed the lives of Anaïs Nin and Virginia Woolf, two independent women who lived in the gray area where they and their husbands had to define ‘marriage’ and ‘mental health’ in terms that could accommodate their creativity. 

Daniel Bullen is the author of The Love Lives of the Artists: Five Stories of Creative Intimacy, published in the fall of 2011 by Counterpoint Press. www.danielbullen.com 

Michele Wick is a Research Associate in the Smith College Psychology Department and producer of the website Woolf, Creativity, and Madness: from Freud to fMRI. http://www.smith.edu/woolf

Experiments in Poetry: a Straw Dog Writers Guild Craft Workshop 

with Diana Gordon & Patricia Lee Lewis 

Sunday, November 13, 2011 

Diana Gordon and Patricia Lee Lewis, both poets with new book releases, hosted a conversation about the role of playfulness in a serious writer’s toolbox. They shared poems in which chance had played a role, and talked about ways to introduce the unexpected into poems. A question and answer period followed. 

Diana Gordon publishes as D.M. Gordon. Her prizewinning short stories and poems have appeared widely in literary journals; she is an MCC Artist Fellow, and facilitates an open door discussion of contemporary poetry for Forbes Library. She has a Masters in Music, and is a freelance editor in multiple genres. Her most recent book is Nightly, at the Institute of the Possible (Hedgerow Books, 2011).

Patricia Lee Lewis (aka Pat Sackrey) was born and raised in Texas and has spent much of her life in Western Massachusetts as an advocate for women, civil rights, peace, the environment, rural communities, and the arts. She leads retreats internationally, and at Patchwork Farm in Westhampton. With an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College, Patricia’s poetry, fiction and feature articles have appeared in journals and anthologies. Her chapbook of poems, A Kind of Yellow won first prize in a Writer’s Digest international competition. Her most recent book is High Lonesome (Hedgerow Books, 2011). Website: http://www.writingretreats.org

From Pen to Periodical: How to sell your writing and become famous (if not rich) 

Linda McCullough Moore 

October 8, 2011 

Linda McCullough Moore read from her new collection of stories, This Road will Take Us Closer to the Moon. She offered a tutorial on preparing and submitting writing for publication in journals and magazines. 

Linda McCullough Moore is the author of The Distance Between, and more than 300 shorter works published in The Sun and the Boston Globe as well as in literary journals. Her short stories have been winners and finalists in national contests including the Pushcart Prize XXXV. Linda teaches creative writing workshops and mentors aspiring writers. Website: http://www.lindamcculloughmoore.com

 

In It for the Long Haul: Writing the Novel 

Ellen Meeropol September

18th, 2011 

There’s no GPS for writing a novel; it can take years and it’s easy to lose your way. Novelist Ellen Meeropol talked about focusing on craft to keep the story going and enjoy the adventure. 

Ellen Meeropol works at the Odyssey Bookshop and blogs about reading, writing, and political activism on her website: www.ellenmeeropol.com. Her first novel, House Arrest (Red Hen, 2011) was given a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

 

Two Writers Under One Roof 

with Suzanne Strempek Shea and Tom Shea 

June 26, 2011  

Local authors Suzanne Strempek Shea and Tom Shea, nationally known and recognized for their fiction and nonfiction works, interviewed each other about writing while living under one roof. Author Jacqueline Sheehan moderated. 

Suzanne Strempek Shea won the 2000 New England Book Award, and is the author of five novels: Selling the Light of Heaven, Hoopi Shoopi Donna, Lily of the Valley, Around Again, and Becoming Finola. She has also written three memoirs: Songs From a Lead-lined Room: Notes – High and Low – From My Journey Through Breast Cancer and Radiation; Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore; and Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith. Website: http://www.suzannestrempekshea.com  

Tom Shea is the son of Irish immigrants, raised on Springfield’s Hungry Hill. Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, he was awarded the New England Associated Press News Executive Award for the best local column in 2004. The year 2011 marks his 39th year writing for Springfield Newspapers. He started as a sports writer and eventually covered the Boston Red Sox – in his own words, a pretty good job for a Yankee fan.

The ABC’s of Writing Groups: A Panel Discussion 

with Celia Jeffries, Becky Jones and Terry S. Johnson 

April 30, 2011 

Panelists discussed a topic of interest to writers everywhere – the writing workshop, both leader-led and peer-led writing groups. They examined issues such as choosing a leader-led writing group appropriate to a writer’s personal goals, and the various structures that are possible within such groups.  The panel also explored how to form, structure, and maintain peer-led groups, including how to handle difficult situations. A question and answer period followed. Mary Ann Scognamigli served as moderator.  

Celia Jeffries has an extensive background in education, journalism, and publishing. She received her M.F.A. from Lesley University and is an Amherst Writers and Artists Affiliate. Her work has appeared in the anthology Beyond the Yellow Wallpaper, and Westview, Writer’s Chronicle, Solsticelitmag.com, and PinionJournal.org. Website: http://www.celiajeffries.com 

 Becky Jones writes essays, poetry and memoir and has been published in Peregrine and Patchwork Journal. She serves as a chaplain at the Cooley Dickinson Hospital. Becky is an Amherst Writers and Artists trained facilitator who runs bereavement writing groups. She has also participated for many years in peer-led workshops including peer groups via Skype.

Terry S. Johnson writes poetry, short fiction and essays. After twenty-five years in the elementary school classroom teaching fifth and sixth graders, she received her M.F.A. in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in Peregrine, The Berkshire Review, The Women’s Times and The New Verse News.

Telling Taller Tales: 12 Best-Kept Secrets of the Story Writer 

Linda McCullough Moore 

February 26, 2011 

While our stories spring from a deep well of inspiration, there are in fact things that we can learn about the art and craft of writing short fiction. Participants joined seasoned story writer Linda McCullough Moore to learn some tricks of the trade and have some fun in the process. 

Linda McCullough Moore is the author of The Distance Between, and more than 300 shorter works published in The Sun and the Boston Globe as well as in literary journals. Her short stories have been winners and finalists in national contests including the Pushcart Prize XXXV. Linda teaches creative writing workshops and mentors aspiring writers. Website: http://www.lindamcculloughmoore.com

Writing Despite Life’s Interruptions

with Jane Yolen and Corinne Demas

January 9, 2011

Local authors Jane Yolen and Corinne Demas, both prolific and successful in multiple literary genres, discussed how they keep writing year after year despite life’s interruptions, with moderator Patricia Lee Lewis and audience participation.

Jane Yolen is the author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl Moon, The Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. Her books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others. Website: http://janeyolen.com

Corinne Demas is the author of three novels including the recent The Writing Circle; two short story collections; a memoir; a poetry collection (The Donkeys Postpone Gratification); a play; more than 40 short stories; and numerous books for children. She is Professor of English at Mount Holyoke College. A Fiction Editor of The Massachusetts Review, she is a member of The Authors Guild, PEN, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her awards include two National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowships and an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. She’s the winner of a Lawrence Foundation Prize, the University of Missouri Press’s Breakthrough Contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Competition. Website: http://www.corinnedemas.com  

 

 

 

   

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