Writers’ Center invites poets, prose writers and playwrights for 2015 season

The Chautauqua Writers’ Center is welcoming a large and diverse group of writers for the 2015 season.

For Clara Silverstein, program director of the Writers’ Center, variety and balance is key to keeping the experience of the program fresh.

“We try to offer something a little bit new each year,” Silverstein said. “We never have people come two years in a row. We always have a rotating group of writers.”

Those writers include two writers-in-residence for every week of the season. Each week, the poet-in-residence and prose-writer-in-residence lead several programs. Besides their workshops, they also give Brown Bag lectures on Tuesdays and Fridays and give public readings of their work on Sundays.

The Writers’ Center also hosts open mics for the community on Sundays in the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall Ballroom.

Silverstein said she is especially excited about new formats for some of the classes this year, such as Zayd Dohrn’s special playwriting workshop in Week One and Joe Kita’s workshop in Week Nine. Kita’s workshop will offer students the chance to take single or multiple days of classes.

“Sometimes people don’t want to sign up for a whole week, and this way they can take different things according to the subjects that interest them,” Silverstein said.

The writers’ Brown Bag lectures planned for the season should provide plenty of avenues for new thought and reflection for attendees as well, the program director said.

“What someone can always find during any of our Brown Bag lectures is some aspect of literature, in a very broad sense, that’s going to make them think more about the craft of writing,” Silverstein said. “It could be a lecture about an individual writer whose works somebody admires. It could be something about how writers find ideas. It’s very broadly based.”

Silverstein hopes that the Writers’ Center experience will provide students with “models of excellence” that can inspire their own work and improve their own work.

“I also want them to bring in their work and think about strategies for revising it — making it reach its audience better, rethinking what they’re trying to say, seeing what is connecting with other readers, and having some guidance from a published author,” Silverstein said. “I want them to leave with ideas for revising and improving their work.”

Week One

The 2014 season kicks off with visits from Kristin Kovacic, Chard deNiord and Zayd Dohrn.

Kovacic, author of Birth: A Literary Companion, will lead a course on examining and interpreting personal photographs. The workshop, “What You Can’t See In This Picture: Unpacking Family Photographs,” will encourage students to use family photographs as a starting point for their writing.

Poet-in-residence deNiord, who has authored five books of poetry, will lead a workshop called “Telling Secrets to Yourself.” The workshop will be focused on examining personal landscapes as a way of finding and creating poetry.

Playwright Zayd Dohrn will lead a special playwriting workshop in Week One as well, called “The Great American Drama: Writing for Theater, Film, and TV.” Dohrn’s workshop will help writers of all types understand the basics of drama and conflict and how it can inform a story. Dohrn is also the recipient of the Chautauqua 2015 New Play Commission.

Week Two

J. David Stevens, a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Richmond as well as an essayist, will lead a workshop called “From Notion to Narrative: Finding the Right Form.” Stevens’ workshop will focus on the questions that writers of both fiction and nonfiction must ask themselves when writing.

Gabriel Welsch, author of four collections of poetry, will head a workshop on poetry called “Writing Time.” Welsch plans to discuss how poets can explore longer periods of time in their work, rather than just passing moments.

Week Three

Lynne Griffin, author of Girl Sent Away and Negotiation Generation, will lead a workshop on tension titled “At Stake: Building Tension in Fiction.” Griffin will share different ways of creating risk, conflict and possibility in writing with her students.

Poet-in-residence Danielle Legros Georges, author of Maroon, will lead a workshop called “Poetic Forms: Familiar and Foreign.” Georges plans to examine the historical and cultural origins of different poetic forms and how students can use them in their own work.

Week Four

Jay Stetzer is a professional storyteller, and his workshop, “The Craft of the Oral Tradition” will teach students about the origin of oral performance and narration. Stetzer’s workshop will focus on the skills needed to create impactful storytelling.

Marjory Wentworth, the Poet Laureate of South Carolina, will lead a workshop called “Beyond the Headlines.” Wentworth and her students will craft poems that are inspired by headlines, articles and photographs.

Week Five

Susan Choi, author of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize finalist American Woman, will lead a workshop on writing about place. The workshop, called “The Role of Place,” will teach students how impactful place can be on a story’s characters and structure.

Joan Murray, author of Swimming for the Ark: New & Selected Poems 1990-2015, will examine “sticky subjects” with her students in her workshop, “Quicksand Poems: Politics, Religion, Sex, Secrets.” Murray and her students will explore the topics people are often discouraged from writing about and how to tackle them in new ways.

Week Six

Nancy Reisman, author of Trompe L’Oeil and The First Desire will teach a workshop on how to capture and create vivid writing. The workshop, titled, “Telling Detail: How to Catch the Ephemeral” will give students strategies to create flash fiction and prose poems.

Rick Hilles, author of A Map of the Lost World, will lead an advanced poetry workshop called “Invigorated Visions & Revisions.” Hilles and his students will use examples from other writers to inspire their own works and works in progress. Hilles’ workshop will start in Week Six and last through Week Seven.

Week Seven

Ari L. Goldman, author of The Search for God at Harvard, will explore spiritual autobiographies in his workshop “Searching For Your Soul Through Writing.” Goldman will work with his students on using their own personal spiritual stories as a way to generate reflective writing.

Laura Kasischke, author of Space, in Chains, will lead a workshop on finding poetic inspiration. The workshop, called “Tapping the Well,” will teach students exercises and techniques for finding inspiration and harnessing that inspiration to improve their own poetry.

Week Eight

Lori Jakiela, author of Belief Is Its Own Kind of Truth, will explore the world of humor writing with her students. The workshop, called “A Writer Walks Into A Bar: Humor Writing,” will teach students how to use humor as a way of deepening their writing.

Poets-in-residence Michael Waters and Mihaela Moscaliuc will co-lead a workshop called “The Poetic Sequence.” Waters and Moscaliuc will demonstrate the power of writing a series of poems and work with their students on generating their own poetic sequences.

Week Nine

Joe Kita and Carl Dennis will close out the 2015 season at the Writers’ Center.

Kita, a professional journalist, will lead a special workshop called “Be the Writer You’ve Dreamed of Being.” Kita’s workshop is presented as a series of five standalone workshops, and students are able to sign up for single or multiple classes. Kita will explore mastery of different forms of writing with his students.

Dennis, Pultizer Prize-winning author of 12 books of poetry, will lead a one-day workshop called “What a Poem Needs to be Persuasive.” Dennis and his students will explore what it takes for poetic voice to be convincing and authentic and techniques to strengthen this element of their work.