Writers-in-residence to lead writing connections with culture, silver screen



Jennifer Shore | Staff Writer

Week Five writers-in-residence Jim Daniels and Kashmira Sheth will offer writers at all levels insight on  making connections among different cultures and art forms.

Sheth, who grew up in Mumbai, will talk about India’s struggles during her week at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center. She said India and Pakistan, the focus of Week Five’s morning and afternoon lectures, hold many similarities.

Her workshop, “The Perpetual Immigrant: How to Weave Life Changes into our Stories,” will allow Chautauquans to examine pivotal moments of change in their own lives and use them in their writing.

The United States is a country of immigrants, and Sheth said that Americans still have roots and certain feelings that connect to faraway places.

“We all have different experiences with different cultural traditions, and all the details are very specific in different cultures, but the emotions are powerful,” she said.

Sheth said she hopes her workshop attendees will take away a sense of unity in everyone’s journeys and how they converge on the sensory and emotional level — as well as a connection to the power of storytelling.

Sheth teaches in the creative writing program at Pine Manor College and has published books for older readers, younger readers and children’s picture books.

She will present a Brown Bag lecture, “Cultural Writing,” at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the Alumni Hall porch and discuss writing from a different tradition but still create an emotional response for readers.

An emotional response is something Daniels will try to channel into his students this week through ekphrastic writing, which is typically described as a response to a painting. Daniels believes it to be a response to visual art.

For his weeklong workshop, “Writing and Art: Shared Inspiration,” he will lead participants to the art galleries on the grounds to see what inspires writing.

“I’m always looking for new approaches to try something different, and this has been a really productive way of furthering my writing,” Daniels said. “I’m hoping people who attend this workshop will have some fun with it.”

The technique allowed him to “tap into something new,” and he said it breaks him out of his normal writing habits and allows him to write in a different way. When writers stare at a blank sheet of paper or a computer screen, they are overly conscious that they are supposed to be writing.

“I think that good writing can sneak up on you, so that you can be looking at somebody else’s artwork and you can tap into your subconscious mind and something filters in that is sort of lingering beneath the surface,” Daniels said.

While looking through a gallery, certain paintings speak to certain people, and sometimes you don’t know why one has caught your eye, so the workshop will help evaluate and explore a question: “Well, what is it about this piece that stopped me and made me look at it more closely and think about it?”

Daniels also uses another form of visual art to tell stories — film. He transformed two of his stories, “Mr. Pleasant” and “Dumpster,” into films, which he will discuss at in a Brown Bag lecture, “Adaptation: From Stage to Film,” at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the Alumni Hall porch.

Although Daniels has visited the Writers’ Center a few times in the past 20 years, he looks forward to teaching something completely new at Chautauqua.

“I think the more collaboration among the people in the different art forms, the better,” Daniels said. “There’s so many creative people in one place at Chautauqua. There’s a great energy, and I’m hoping to tap into that.”