Kita, Dennis to shake things up in Week Nine Writers’ Center workshops

The workshops for Week Nine at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center for the season will help students achieve their dreams and be persuasive with their poetry.

Joe Kita will serve as the prose writer-in-residence, and Carl Dennis will serve as the poet-in-residence for the last week of the season.

Kita’s workshop is called “Be the Writer You’ve Dreamed of Being,” and Dennis’ workshop is titled “What a Poem Needs to Be Persuasive.” The writers will also give readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Dennis is the author of 12 books of poetry, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2002 for Practical Gods. He’s taught at the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival in the past as well. He said he’ll talk with his students more about craft rather than doing traditional “workshopping” of their poetry.

With his students, Dennis will discuss what he considers to be the “crucial virtues” that a poetic voice should exhibit: commitment, discrimination and inclusiveness. Commitment shows a level of engagement, discrimination allows for trusting the poet’s judgment and inclusiveness makes connections with what the poet is saying and the larger issues tied to the subject, Dennis said.

One exercise he’ll do with his students is showing them two examples of their work: one of their poems as written, and one that he’s doctored to make it less effective and convincing.

“That way, they’re made aware that you can say what you think you want to say, and the two versions will be very much the same,” Dennis said. “But the value will be entirely different. So it helps focus on what exactly makes a poem great as opposed to merely passable.”

Kita’s workshop will be different from the other Writers’ Center offerings this season: it’s formatted as five one-day workshops. Students can take as few or as many as they want, Kita said. He talked with Clara Silverstein, program director of the Writers’ Center, about doing something different, and she supported his idea of hitting a different topic every day.

Kita is the author of six books as well as a freelance writer. He also teaches memoir writing, but in a different way than many — he teaches it on a cruise ship for three to four months every year. Kita said while his workshop will shift focus every day, the unifying element is the idea students can take their work to the next level in terms of craft, enjoyment and profitability.

Monday’s session is called “How to Write a Great Beginning — to Anything!” Kita said writing an engaging beginning is a vital skill that continues to become more and more valuable, especially in a “society of skimmers.”

Tuesday’s session is called “Keep Your Readers in Suspense.” Kita and his students will explore ways in which they can write something the reader cannot pull away from.

“I think everyone’s goal is to write something that a reader can absolutely not put down because it’s that good,” Kita said.

Wednesday’s session is called “How to Write Your Love Story.” Kita said this session grew out of a surprising experience he had while teaching memoir writing: most people don’t know exactly how their parents or grandparents met and fell in love. He’ll cover ways to write one’s love story, which Kita said doesn’t always have to be romantic love.

Thursday’s session is called “What I’ve Learned.” Kita and his students will discuss writing about life lessons and how to do that in an effective way.

“It’s not an easy thing to do, because it involves very, very big thinking,” Kita said.

Friday’s session is called “How to Make Six Figures as a Freelancer.” Kita will share his personal secrets for how to be successful in the field of freelancing and how to “live the dream.” If he can do it, other people can as well, Kita said.

Regardless of how many sessions students come to, Kita hopes they come away with the belief there’s still some romance in being a writer. People can have a negative attitude because the art of writing “seems to be dying,” he said.

“It’s not dying,” Kita said. “It’s just changing.”

Kita will also give a Brown Bag lecture at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. Kita’s lecture is titled “Things That Make You Go ‘Hmmm,’ ” and it will look at the science behind coincidence.