Writers-in-residence to make the most out of writing and reading

Jabbeh Wesley


Jennifer Shore |Staff Writer

Week Four brings Patricia Jabbeh Wesley and Joe Kita to the Writers’ Center as writers-in-residence, and their topics will heal — mentally, anyway.

Poet-in-residence Jabbeh Wesley, an associate professor of English and creative writing at Pennsylvania State University Altoona, will begin the week with a “Poetry and Healing” workshop.

“The workshop is a creative writing class in which writers will write poetry that helps them explore past feelings of hurt, pain or trauma in a way that writing about these become a powerful healing instrument,” Jabbeh Wesley said.

During the class, Jabbeh Wesley said she will discuss poetry as art and explore how writers can improve their writing about pain or their past experiences without being sentimental. It will cover topics such as “Power & Significance of Writing and Telling Our Stories,” “The Connection Between Writing & Admitting that Something has happened to Us” and how that process in writing “Restores and Heals” because of the process of emptying painful feelings on to paper.

This week’s morning platform theme is “Water Matters,” and Jabbeh Wesley will keep that in mind during the workshop because water, which is a “preserver and restorer of life,” she said, can influence attendees while they write.

“I hope this will be a two-way learning experience,” she said. “Most of my students at my last Chautauqua participation were themselves so good, I learned a lot from them.”

Jabbeh Wesley is a Liberian civil war survivor, and she said her job is to focus on her students’ writing, but she will inform her teaching with her success in using “the images of pain, death, loss, exile and trauma to create a language in poetry that many around the poetry world can relate to.”

She will host a Brown Bag lecture, “Writing as a Tool in Healing: A Living Experience,” at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the Alumni Hall porch.

“I truly believe that many of my students have even greater stories of survival, of overcoming life’s troubles than I have, therefore, I hope that I can help inspire them to feel free to write their own stories in poetry,” she said.

Jabbeh Wesley has written four books of poetry, and she was recently awarded a grant to complete her civil war memoirs through Pennsylvania State University’s Institute of the Arts and Humanities.

Joe Kita, prose writer-in-residence this week, isn’t a stranger to memoir writing — he has had numerous successful books, teaches writing around the world and will lead a week-long workshop on “Memoir Writing for Fun, Profit and Immortality.”

“Who cares if you ever make any money off of this?” Kita said. “Immortality, hey, after you’re dead, you aren’t going to know it or be able to appreciate it, so the important thing is to have fun telling this story.”

Kita’s Another Shot: How I Relived My Life in Less Than a Year memoir chronicles the 40-something revisiting his 20 biggest regrets — including trying out for his high-school team and finding his college crush.

Kita said the workshop will be “pretty intensive,” but he believes that everyone has a story to tell — they just don’t know how to tell it, or they don’t believe it’s a great story.

“If you are creating this as a legacy for your family, there’s no way you can lose,” Kita said. “Your descendants will cherish this, no matter how it’s done.”

He will inspire confidence in workshop attendees by laying out, step by step, how they can write a memoir and will use examples from his own memoirs.

In addition to his Brown Bag lecture “Have a Regret-Free Life” at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the Alumni Hall porch, Kita and his wife will teach a yoga class through Chautauqua’s Special Studies program.

“I think yoga puts me in a place where I can be a better writer, because it connects you with yourself, and to be a good writer especially when it comes to memoir, good writing is personal writing,” Kita said. “The more personal you can be, the more powerful your writing is going to be.”

Kita is a former six-figure salaried international editorial development vice president who gave it all up to travel around the world and teach writing on a cruise ship. And when he’s not at sea, he’s a freelance writer.