The Chautauqua Writers’ Center workshops for Week Seven will center on the impact that travel has on writing and the importance of preserving moments.
Prose writers-in-residence, Jim Hunt and Linda Lawrence Hunt, will lead a workshop called “Transformative Travel: A Wellspring for Growth,” and poet-in-residence Charlotte Matthews will lead a workshop called “Keeping the Moment Alive.” Hunt, Lawrence Hunt and Matthews will also give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Husband and wife Jim Hunt and Linda Lawrence Hunt have had separate careers, but Lawrence Hunt said that they do enjoy collaborating, especially when it comes to teaching about travel.
“We’re very different in our styles,” she said. “It’s kind of fun.”
Hunt and Lawrence Hunt co-founded the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship, which they established after the death of their daughter, who was killed at age 25 while volunteering in Bolivia. Lawrence Hunt said one of the goals of the Krista Foundation is to teach others about the impact travel can have on their lives, something she hopes their workshop will do as well.
“What we’re going to be working with is the travel experiences that the people who come to the workshop have had,” she said. “Travel can be defined in lots of ways. It does not mean that you have to take a huge, exotic trip.”
Lawrence Hunt said that the class will examine a wide range of travel writing so they can see the effect it can have on the writing of others. She noted Cheryl Strayed and Maya Angelou as authors who both write about travel, just in different ways.
“We’ll be pulling from a lot of different pieces and places,” she said.
She said that if people can begin to put meaning to their travel experiences, it allows them to more deeply understand how those experiences have impacted them. Lawrence Hunt said she hopes getting students to write about these experiences will empower them.
“What I’ve learned is that often, students don’t have confidence in their writing,” she said. “They’ve been given some pretty negative messages and they just repeat those to themselves. But everyone has stories to give.”
Matthews, author of Still Enough to be Dreaming and Green Stars, will work with her students on honing their skills when it comes to preserving moments in their writing.
“I’m talking about how once something of substance happens — an eclipse, a moment in the woods where you see a deer — once that moment passes, how do you keep that moment alive through writing?” Matthews said.
Matthews said her class will look at writers who excel at preserving those rare moments, citing poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as a prime example. Matthews said it is important to see how writers in the broader spectrum create “work that is able to keep that moment alive and how to keep that moment and have an indelibility.”
Matthews said there will be a strong focus on producing writing in her workshop.
“We’ll be playing some games and doing exercises that are fun, but that end up producing work,” Matthews said. “And hopefully — the word ‘inspire’ means to breathe life into — I think that those who take it will feel like they’ve had the vigor for writing breathed into them.”
Matthews said that being able to capture a moment is important for every writer, regardless of genre, which is something she hopes to impart with her students.
“I would say if we love a novel, or a play, or a short story, or memoir, it’s because we feel kindred to it,” Matthews said. “We are able to be there, we can imagine that eclipse, even if we haven’t seen it. Strong writing should be able to do that.”
Matthews, Hunt and Lawrence Hunt will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall during the week. Matthews’ Brown Bag, called “A Kind of Devotion,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Hunt and Lawrence Hunt’s Brown Bag, called “Two Travel Narratives: One Famous, One Burned,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.
Author E.L. Doctorow will also lead a special, one-session master class during Week Seven. Doctorow is the author of novels such as Ragtime and Andrew’s Brain, the latter of which is the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for Week Seven.
Doctorow’s workshop will take place on Wednesday.
“What I’m going to talk about is where writers come from, and how they come up out of nowhere, without any credentials except for the self-conferred and their interest in storytelling as a system of knowledge,” Doctorow said. “Stories were the first means in ancient history of knowing what was going on. So the history of storytelling is very venerable. One assumes that people who show up for a lecture such as this are keen on the idea of storytelling.”
Doctorow said he plans to talk about the problems and difficulties writers face “in a world that basically doesn’t want fiction.”
“It’s an empirical world, and people have more regard for the credentialed professions than the imaginative professions,” Doctorow said. “They like to be confirmed in their ideas as provided by the sciences and religions. The thing about writers is that if they’re any good, they’re unaffiliated, with no professed loyalty to any institution or culture, whether it’s a family, nation or religion.”
Doctorow hopes the master class will be enjoyable for those who attend. He said working with others on writing is a unique experience.
“There’s a certain sort of gratification in giving back and doing for others what you’ve learned for yourself,” he said.