Tag Archives: writing workshop

On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?

22 Sep

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I’m pleased to share with you a new panel that I’ve organized!

On September 24th at 7pm, the Redeemer Writers Group will kick off their first meeting of the fall with the panel discussion “On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?” Panelists include Sophfronia Scott (author of Love’s Long Line and This Child of Faith) on gun violence; Cristina Spataro (licensed mental health counselor) on mental health; Jerome Walford (graphic novelist: Nowhere Man and the Gwan Anthology) on immigration and asylum; Nayamka Ward (Rebranded Christianity blog) on race; moderated by Mary B. Safrit (Unsuitable podcast).

This event is for writers of all genres and levels as well as readers who are interested in dialoguing about how the world shapes literature and how literature shapes the world. Panelists will share their stories of how faith informs their writing, how they research hot-button topics so they have a well-rounded, accurate viewpoint, and how they respond to critical responses to their work. The panel will begin with a reading from each of our esteemed panelists and will close with a Q&A from the audience.

We’ll meet at 1166 Avenue of the Americas, 16th floor. Registration is required. Please register at least 24 hours before the meeting to ensure your name will be included on the building security list.

 

Find out about my other upcoming events here.

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My Q&A with Ifeona Fulani

4 Sep

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Ifeona Fulani is the author of the novel Seasons of Dust, which follows a Jamaican immigrant family over the course of five decades, beginning in 1950, as well as the more recent short story collection Ten Days in Jamaica. She also edited the nonfiction work Archipelagos of Sound: Transnational Caribbeanites, Women and Music. She is the recipient of the Mitchener Fellowship – University of Miami, New York Times Creative Writing Fellowship, Burke-Marshall Fellowship – NYU, and McCracken Fellowship – NYU. Ifeona Fulani is a Clinical Professor in the Liberal Studies department at New York University. She has taught in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Gallatin School, the College of Arts and Science, as well as, the Eugene Lang School, The New School.

At the Festival of Women Writers this September 6-8, Ifeona Fulani will be teaching the writing workshop NOTHING HAPPENS NOWHERE: Grounding Your Story in Place. Here’s a description:

In this workshop we will explore one of the most fundamental challenges facing a writer of fiction, that of setting your story in a place in which your characters and their actions can unfold meaningfully.

Character is a product of dynamic interaction with place, whether that place is a modern city, a medieval castle or a space station on an alien planet. No matter where, how can setting support a character’s desires and actions? How will it frustrate them and generate conflict?

We will consider these and other questions relating to using setting and place in ways that work with or against your character to develop your story and reveal its ultimate meaning.

You can register for her workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road, here.

You can read my interview with Ifeona Fulani here.

My Q&A with Marya Hornbacher

28 Aug

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Marya Hornbacher‘s first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize when published in 1998. The book has changed countless lives, is now taught in universities across the country, and has been translated into sixteen languages. I had the humbling opportunity to interview her, and I asked her about what it was like to publish at twenty-three years old and what advice she has to other writers, how she practices self-care while writing about difficult topics, and her latest project on the women’s solitude. Check out my interview with Marya here.

Marya Hornbacher and I will both be teaching this year at the Festival of Women Writers, taking place this September 6-8. I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here. If you’re taking my workshop — or are just interested in the topic — I recommend checking out Marya’s Longreads essay “The Ways of a Wandering Spirit.

Marya’s workshop is called INVENTING THE ‘I’: Crafting A Powerful First Person Voice. Here’s a little bit about it:

This workshop will explore the risks and rewards of writing in the first person—the ‘I’ persona.

Whether we’re writing in the voice of a fictional character or in the guise of our nonfictional “selves,” the voice of the storyteller, that narrating I, must be compelling enough to carry the reader from the first word of our work to the last.

This workshop will explore how this voice of I becomes a character in her own right, one with depth and dimension, insights and blind spots, strengths and failures and flaws, one whose perception of reality is engaging enough to keep the reader turning the page.

Through both generative writing exercises and examples from literature, we will explore techniques for finding, strengthening, and clarifying our use of the first person voice.

You can register for the workshop here.

See you in the Catskills for this writing retreat!

 

My Q&A with Yolanda Wisher

22 Aug

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Former poet laureate of Philadelphia, Yolanda Wisher not only writes her own powerful poetry that feeds souls but she also works to build platforms for other writers. She educates, and she entertains. She provokes, and she nurtures. For a decade, she has taught English to high school students, inspiring them to reflect on literature and language. She served as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, founded and directed the Germantown Poetry Festival and Outbound Poetry Festival, and has led workshops and curated events in partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture. Now, Wisher’s labor of love is as Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary. Also, she’s one of the first groups of artists with studios at the Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront.

She’s pretty incredible. And, I got to interview her! We chatted about how themes emerged in her writing, bringing poetry to the masses, and her tips for completing projects when one is busy and has LOTS of ideas. You can read her responses here.

Yolanda Wisher will be joining us at this year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers, taking place September 6-8. She’ll be teaching RAG & RIFF: The Poetics of the Quilt. Here’s a description:

The Gee’s Bend quilts are the work of several generations of Black women quilters in the rural town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Their work has been shared in museum exhibitions across the country to much acclaim. The quilts, which initially served as functional objects and heirlooms, have been heralded as modern and postmodern art, gospel, and jazz.

They were born out of slavery and sharecropping, the landscape of the South, and the personal stories of the women and men whose lives are sewn into them. Like poems, the Gee’s Bend quilts play with forms—some borrowed and reimagined, some invented and organic.

What can the poet learn from the history, the matriarchal vernacular and the abstract architecture of Gee’s Bend quilts? For starters: the revelatory properties of color, the turn and bend of a line, its asymmetrical rhythms, and the individual voice that must come through the assemblage of fabric.

As Gee’s Bend quilter Mensie Lee Pettway said, “Ought not two quilts ever be the same.” In this workshop, we will riff off the history, craft, and colors of Gee’s Bend quilts as we consider our own inherited folk forms. We will use the quilters’ techniques to create our own layered and vibrant poems.

 

You can register for Yolanda’s writing workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road,  here.

Wild Women on the Road

19 Jun

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I’ve been invited to teach again at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers! I’ll be teaching a writing workshop called Wild Women on the Road. Because why should Jack Kerouac have all the fun?!

Here’s the description:::

Bohemians, rockers, and nature lovers throughout history have blazed their own paths, inspiring generations of women to put the pedal to the metal—and the pen to paper. So why is women’s writing so often derided as “domestic,” and why do so many women’s travelogues read like chick lit?

We’ll discuss ways to elevate the genre in terms of both substance and style as we take a fast-paced ride along with Manal Al-Sharif (Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening), Lynne Cox (Swimming to Antarctica), Waris Dirie (Desert Flower), Patti Smith (M Train), and other women who defied conformity.

Geared towards those who want to advance plot while maintaining artistic style, in-class writing exercises will equip you with the roadmap you need through storytelling templates and literary devices. Choose your own adventure—and encourage other women to live more fully even within their own neighborhoods!

 

My writing class is on Sunday, September 8, from 9:30 to 11:30am. The Festival itself will be all weekend long, though, and you’ll want to stay for all the great workshops and readings and to get to know and rest in this cute little town in the Catksills. Hobart is called the Book Village because even though it’s tiny, it’s full of indie bookshops! It’s enough to make any bibliophile swoon.

You can register here.

In the meantime, I’d love to know: What are your favorite stories of women adventurers? Female explorers? Lady bohemians that blazed their own paths?

Want to read more on Hobart?

Want to read more on wild women on the road?

As always, join me on the road! You can find out where I’m appearing next here.

I Discovered a Thriving Literary Community as an American Writer in Paris (Guest Post)

1 May

I’m excited to publish this guest post about the Paris literary community by my writer friend Norma Jaeger Hopcraft, the author of The Paris Writers Circle and blogger of In Search of the American Dream. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know I’ve written about the artist and literary community in Paris on a number of occasions, including my posts on the Surrealist movement and the The Beat Hotel. Norma reports back from her time living as a ex-pat writer in Paris, showing that the Paris literary community is still thriving today. If you’re looking to take a writing sabbatical abroad, she provides a plethora of resources for writers seeking literary community in Paris.

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When I moved to Paris one July recently, I arrived on a Thursday, took Friday to catch up with myself (I didn’t have to hurry—I had at least one year in Paris ahead of me—yes, be jealous!). On Saturday I launched myself upon the City of Light.

 

I took the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, explored the Parc du Champs-de-Mars at its foot, was offered replica Eiffel Towers in six sizes and colors by wandering, thin African young men. Then I headed for the Place des Vosges. On foot. On a hot day. When I got to the Place, I lay on my back on the grass, like a hundred other people, and gathered my forces around myself. I was 3,000 miles from home and did not have money to fly back and see a familiar face. I was on my own, knowing nobody in the entire city. In the country. In all of Europe.

 

I had found when I arrived on Thursday that my landlady, Martine, whom I first met via Skype, spoke great English. She went out of her way that first day to make me comfortable in my studio apartment in the ground floor of her home. I was famished when I arrived on her doorstep, had no Euros in my pockets. I asked her what I could do to get something to eat – I had no idea where a grocery store was.

 

I’ll never forget – she offered me the steak that she planned to cook for herself and her visiting son a few hours later. I was deeply moved but asked her to take me quickly to the nearest grocery store. I bought some pre-cooked chicken thighs and salad. Martine paid for them because my debit card didn’t work. I paid her back in Euros within the hour.

 

Her two nieces, Christelle and Daphné, lived in Martine’s house, in bedrooms upstairs. They were great 20-somethings who welcomed me and opened their hearts to me in the type of soul-friendship that’s a rare experience in the U.S.

 

Okay, so, in the Place des Vosges, laying on the grass, I had three faces I knew in Paris. I had a place to live. I had enough food. What did I need next?

 

Well, I was in Paris on a creative writing sabbatical. It was a gift to myself, not related to a university or artists’ residency. So I needed a circle of writers, incisive critiquers, who could help me improve my memoir. Finishing it was my goal for the year.

 

On that sunny Saturday in late July, I lay on the grass in Place des Vosges and prepared to meet my first Paris writers circle. The group was called Paris Lit Up, and I met them in a hot café where I trembled to purchase a Perrier. It bought me my seat in the café, but it nearly busted my tiny budget.

 

It was my first experience of English-speaking expat writers meeting in Paris. People in the critique group came from all over – Iowa, Barcelona, Berlin. We critiqued each other’s work, laughed over it, and then I went “home,” wherever that is, exhausted. When I got there, Martine fanned herself and said, “It’s so ‘ot.”

 

Two months went by with Paris Lit Up as my only writers’ circle, and then a Meetup popped up, to be held in the moderator’s Paris apartment. I was curious to see her space, and besides which, it sounded like such a nice gathering. “Meet, eat, and critique our work,” the description said. Eat together. Hmmm. That would form nice bonds, I thought, and I signed up.

 

Author Hazel Manuel led the Meetup, which still meets and is called Paris Scriptorium. People once again were from all over. Haze was from London by way of Wales and living full time in Paris. Ruth was British, married to a Frenchman. Kat was Russian, finishing a Ph.D. in English literature at the Sorbonee. Cris Hammond was an American living on a péniche (a barge) on the Seine. He’d written a book about traveling on it all over France’s 5,000 kilometers of canals and rivers. It’s funny. I loved it.

 

I ditched writing the memoir – so difficult to go back into all that pain – and wrote a novel instead, The Paris Writers Circle. It’s about four writers—four creative egos—who undergo dark days in the City of Light. Haze’s group critiqued it over the course of the year. The warmth of the bonds was fantastic, the talent for critique outstanding, and I’m still in touch with many of the participants today.

 

Then another Meetup popped up: The Paris Writers Group. It’s still meeting in a café and still running. After I left Paris, a member of Haze’s group, Graham Elliott, started a new Meetup, Paris Creative Writers. It meets in L’Amazonial Café, on Rue Sainte-Opportune, in the First Arrondissement, on Tuesday afternoons. If you Google “meetups paris writers in English” you’ll find all three groups.

 

I left Paris before I could attend Graham’s Meetup, but I never unsubscribed from his or any of the groups’ email lists. Every time a new meeting comes up, I wish like crazy that I were in Paris and could go.

 

So any writer who goes to Paris has three great critique groups in English (the fourth I’ve mentioned, Paris Lit Up, seems to be on hiatus) that they could attend, immerse in, and find the literary community that will help them improve their writing. They’ll also form bonds of friendship that will last even after they leave and there are thousands of miles between them and their friends’ familiar faces in Paris.

 

So make me jealous! Tell me you’re going to Paris and that you’ll attend any one of these groups! Leave a comment for me here or on my blog. And check out The Paris Writers Circle. One reviewer says, “If you love Paris, you’ll be swept away!” Another says, “Paris comes alive!” and “Outstanding for story appeal, character appeal, and character development.” Enjoy! And get to Paris!

I’ll Be on the Radio Today!

29 Aug

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The lovely Simona David interviewed me for WIOX Community Radio to discuss the writing workshop — Literary Relationships: Writing In, Into, and To Community — I’ll be leading at the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writers. Tune in this Monday at 1pm to hear about why I love Hobart Book Village, why you need literary friendships like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac‘s, and how to deal with jealousy in the industry.

The Hobart Festival of Women Writers takes place September 9th through September 11 in the Catskills. Here’s a description of the writing workshop I’ll be leading:

Surveying famous literary friendships throughout history—Dickinson and Higginson; Lewis and Tolkien; Hurston and Rawlings; Kerouac and Ginsberg …. we’ll discuss the value of friendship among writers from both a personal and professional perspective as well as how writers today can achieve this type of community through such avenues as residencies, writing groups, and social media.

We’ll also consider the notion of dialoguing with writers past, present, and future through parody, homage, collaboration, and criticism. In-class writing exercises will explore these ideas and more.

Tune in to WIOX Community Radio today at 1pm to learn more!

Fall Semester of the Redeemer Writers Group Announced

10 Sep

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Along with two other very talented writers and editors, Maurice and Nana, I will once again be hosting the Redeemer Writers Group after our summer hiatus. The dates for our fall “semester” have now been finalized:

 

September 22, 2014. 7-9pm.

October 20, 2014. 7-9pm.

November 17, 2014. 7-9pm.
The writing workshops are completely free and open to anyone interested. Please bring a one- to two-page work of your own writing in any genre that you would like critiqued to share with the group. We are a Christian-based group open to writers of all skill levels and genres. The writing workshop will be held at the Redeemer Offices, 1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room. NYC.

Festival of Women Writers Shines Spotlight on Me

26 Aug

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The Festival of Women Writers in Hobart, New York, recently featured me in their newsletter! You can read it in full here.

I can’t wait for to get up to this cute little town of books up in the Catskills. It’s such an honor to be included in this year’s festival. The line-up is spectacular:

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful as part of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writer opening readings on Friday, September 5th at 3:30pm. Then on Saturday, bright and early at 9:30am I’ll be teaching my popular workshop The Role of Place for Reader and Writer. Workshop participants will look at several examples of great setting from literature and then do writing exercises to explore unique ways to imbue the story with a sense of place. You can register here.

Find out more on the Hobart Festival of Women Writers website.

Check out the blog.

Help support women writers by contributing to this event.

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For my other upcoming events, check out my appearances page. If you’re interested in booking me for a reading or hiring me to lead a writing workshop, you can contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

Join Us at the Redeemer Writers Workshop

18 Jun

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This upcoming Monday, June 23, 2014, I’ll be leading a writing workshop with my friends and fellow writers Nana, Maurice, and Jane at the Redeemer Offices.

Last month when we met I walked away feeling so blessed and inspired. Even though I’m one of the leaders of the group, I get so much out of it. Everyone’s working in different genres and is at different places in their journeys as writers, which could make for an awkward workshop experience, but in actuality has turned out to be really great because people give and get such fresh insight. It’s exposed me to types of literature I wouldn’t normally choose to read on my own, stretching me to be more open minded. As a writing instructor, I’ve grown as I’ve thought more about how to encourage craft above genre and what makes for great writing. I’ve been surprised to discover I actually want to read more of genres I thought I disliked.

We don’t demand commitment to the group, but we’ve found that we now have a group of “regulars.” We’ve seen their work evolve and improve in such tremendous ways. Some people have started out with so much heart but less craft, and they’ve worked hard and brought revised pieces in that show how much they’re growing. Others are natural storytellers, and I’ve been blown away by how great their work is. There are some people in the group who are published authors. There are others who need to finish their manuscripts already because their works are funny and meaningful, and I want to see them get published.

Here’s the essential info if you’re interested in joining us:::

  • When: Monday, June 23, 2014
  • Time: 7-9pm.
  • Where: Redeemer Offices (1359 Broadway, 4th Floor, Main Conference Room)
  • Bring:  Please bring 1 to 2 pages of your writing in any genre to share for critique
  • Cost: Admission is free.
  • Registration

What do you think makes for a good writing workshop?

The next Redeemer Writers Group after that will be July 21. For a full schedule of my workshops and readings, see the Appearances section of my website.
For more of my posts on writing as a craft and as a business, see Writing Wednesday.