Chautauquans bring innovation to Writers’ Center as Week Three writers-in-residence

Jennifer Shore | Staff Writer

The writers-in-residence for Week Three both have been to Chautauqua before, but this year, they will bring their experiences as Chautauquans to the Writers’ Center.

Marjorie Maddox is the first poet-in-residence who will also be working with the Young Readers program, according to Clara Silverstein, program director of the Writers’ Center. Prose writer Josh Rolnick will return to Chautauqua for the fourth or fifth time with his family but for the first time with the Writers’ Center.

They will start Week Three with a reading of their work at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the Alumni Hall porch.


Place and power to inspire

Maddox knows her place in the world — literally, her physical, emotional and spiritual place — and she uses it in her writing.

Her great uncle, Branch Rickey, was general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and she currently lives in Williamsport, Pa., the home of Little League baseball. When she first married her husband, they lived in a duplex that overlooked a baseball field, and while watching the players from her backyard, she wrote baseball poems.

“I was drawn into it more because of my family history than anything else,” Maddox said. “I was really interested in the history of baseball and my personal family history.”

She eventually authored a children’s book about baseball, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems. Although she has written other collections of poetry, essays and stories, she always uses one important element: place.

Maddox, director of creative writing and professor at Lock Haven University, will focus her weeklong workshop on “Poetry in Its Place(s).”

“When I talk in the workshop, I want to give people a chance to write about the importance of place in our lives — how landscape, tradition, heritage and culture are all connected to where we live or where we visit,” Maddox said.

One of the more important places for reading, she said, is in elementary schools, and she will discuss bringing poetry into curriculum during her Brown Bag lecture, “The Power to Inspire: Bringing Poetry to the People,” at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the Alumni Hall porch.


Begin your writing move

There are four roles in the writing process: the madman/woman, the carpenter, the architect and the judge, according to Rolnick. The order is essential. The madman/woman must write like a bandit before the carpenter can chop it up, the architect can evaluate the foundation or the judge can voice his or her opinion.

Rolnick will present the “Stop Thinking, Start Writing” workshop during Week Three and encourage writers to “just go” with their writing.

“The worst thing you can do while facing the blank page, or really at any stage, is to let that critical voice come into that process,” Rolnick said. “The most beautiful and powerful writing comes from the subconscious — it comes from that madman, that impulse to just create.”

Rolnick is an award-winning short story writer, and his stories have been published in a variety of publications including Harvard Review, Storyville and Gulf Coast. He is the editor of an independent literary annual, Unstuck, and the publisher of a Jewish ideas journal, Sh’ma.

Rolnick has read stories that have given him such emotional reactions that they pushed his life in different directions. That is one reason he wanted to be a fiction writer, which he will discuss in a Brown Bag lecture, “The Tug of Stories,” at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the Alumni Hall porch.