Writers’ Center season wraps up with glances into childhood and sonnets



Jennifer Shore | Staff Writer

As the 2012 Season ends, Clara Silverstein, director of the Writers’ Center, is pleased with the variety of writers — novelists, short fiction writers, biographers, memoirists, essayists, poets — who worked with Chautauquans on different forms.

“Through our programs and workshops, our writers-in-residence were able to share with the Chautauqua community their own writing, their perspective on literature as art and their expertise in teaching,” Silverstein said.

This year, the offerings at the Writers’ Center expanded to include writing inspired by art in Chautauqua’s galleries and classes about poetry appreciation taught by award-winning poets, but Silverstein is already looking ahead to the 2013 Season.

“In our 25th season next year, we will continue to ensure that the literary arts are an integral part of the Chautauqua experience,” Silverstein said.

The final prose writer-in-residence for Week Nine, Susan Choi, visited Chautauqua in 2009 when her book, A Person of Interest, was a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection.

This year, Choi will teach a weeklong workshop on “Imitation and Invention: The Twin Pillars of Fiction,” and there is a dynamic relationship between the two, Silverstein said.

“You want it to imitate life, but it’s not,” Silverstein said. “You’re creating characters, but it has to seem real, so there’s this real push-pull between the two.”

Choi plans to have workshop attendees read pieces aloud and discuss the different components of a piece of writing.

Choi, who received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, said picking apart and evaluating other work will help Chautauquans with their own writing.

Her work has been recognized with a number of prestigious honors: A Person of Interest was a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award. American Woman was a finalist for the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. The Foreign Student won the Asian-American Literary Award for fiction.

Choi will present a Brown Bag Lecture, “Reading Independent-Minded, Passionate Readers in the Digital Age,” at 12:15 p.m. Friday on the Alumni Hall porch.

Returning poet-in-residence Rick Hilles is hosting a weeklong class on sonnets instead of a traditional workshop — “Appreciating the Sonnet: The Powerful ‘Little Song.’”

“It’s a chance to delve further into that art form,” Silverstein said. “Rick Hilles is an award-winning poet, and he teaches at Vanderbilt, so he loves poetry so much. He has a great smile when he teaches and goes very, very deeply into poems.”

Even if Chautauquans hated Shakespeare in school or have never written a sonnet, Hilles encourages them to attend his class.

“In my class, I may not enable them to get over the hate, but one thing that they would be able to do, at the very least, is to channel that loathing into a parody of one of those poems or one of those poets,” Hilles said.

Hilles, an assistant professor of English at Vanderbilt University, was awarded a Camargo Fellowship, a Whiting Award and the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship.

He authored two collections of poetry — Brother Salvage, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, and A Map of the Lost World.