The Chautauqua Writers’ Center workshops for Week Five will center on heightening emotions, the basics of poetry and playwriting.
Prose writer-in-residence Donna Jo Napoli will lead a workshop called “Twisting the Guts Out of Everything,” and poet-in-residence Andrew Mulvania will lead a workshop called “ ‘Singing School’: Poetry for Beginners.”
Both Napoli and Mulvania will give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Napoli, who’s authored over 75 books in the course of her career, will work with students in her workshop on amplifying the emotions in their writing.
“What I’m going to be doing is working with people on how to bring emotions to a fever pitch,” Napoli said. “So if something’s funny, we try to make it hilarious. If it’s sad, we try to make it tragic. If it’s scary, we try to make it terrifying. We just push, push, push.”
Napoli believes elevating these emotions is important in writing — especially in fiction.
“When you go to the fiction side of the library to choose a book, you’re not going there in order to learn how sharks behave — you’re going there in order to be frightened by sharks,” Napoli said. “If you want to learn how sharks behave, you go to the nonfiction part of the library. So when you go to the fiction side, you’re looking for an emotional ride.”
Napoli said she’s looking forward to being surrounded by other writers for a week.
“When you talk about writing to someone who isn’t writing, sometimes they can think you’re really out of your mind,” Napoli said. “Because you’re worried about the choice of a particular word or where you should break a chapter off, or how far you should push this character. They’re such abstract things, and for many people, they seem foolish.”
Napoli said being around other writers when having these sorts of problems is something she finds “consoling and helpful,” and part of why she loves teaching in the workshop environment.
Mulvania, author of Also in Arcadia, will work with students on the basics of writing poetry.
Mulvania said his students will write poetry through different prompts that will encourage them to utilize different poetic forms, such as the dramatic monologue and the ode.
“The exercises that I’ve designed for this workshop will get them writing quickly and with confidence,” Mulvania said. “Since it’s geared toward beginners, we’ll be able to just jump in right away. Hopefully, what I have laid out will show them that you don’t have to have a lot of experience to put together something you can be proud of and say, ‘Yes, I wrote a poem.’ ”
Mulvania said he is familiar with the particular anxiety that people have about writing poetry, but he hopes his workshop will help alleviate that fear.
“There’s always this intimidation factor,” Mulvania said. “It feels like a language you just can’t understand, almost in the same way as when you’re first trying to speak a foreign language. Learning how that language works, learning its vocabulary and the way it moves will kind of help them.”
Mulvania and Napoli will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall during the week.
Mulvania’s Brown Bag, called “The Kaleidoscopic Self: The Autobiographical Sequence,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Napoli’s Brown Bag, called “The Significance of the Insignificant,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.
Playwright Molly Smith Metzler will also lead a special workshop on playwriting that starts during Week Five.
Metzler wrote The May Queen, which makes its world premiere at Chautauqua at 6 p.m. Saturday. Metzler’s workshop is offered as a collaboration between the Chautauqua Theater Company and the Writers’ Center.
Metzler’s workshop will focus on getting students to start writing their own plays and is similar to workshops she has previously taught at Chautauqua. Metzler has been working as a playwright for 14 years and has been teaching playwriting for almost 11 years.
“I love teaching playwriting, and my approach is really not to teach it as much as just to join them,” Metzler said. “So I treat the room like a real, professional writers’ room where we’re all working on projects. I’m a member of the class.”