The penultimate week of 2016 workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center will focus on nontraditional story structure and using the Bible as literary inspiration.
Writers Nancy McCabe and Kent Gramm will serve as the writers-in-residence for Week Eight. McCabe’s workshop is called “Fun with Story Structure” and Gramm’s workshop is called “Writing from the Bible.” Both authors will also give public readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
McCabe, the prose writer-in-residence, is the author of multiple works of nonfiction, including her most recent work, From Little Houses to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood. She also teaches in Spalding University’s MFA program. This is her second time teaching at the Writers’ Center and her second time teaching at Chautauqua this summer — she also served as a faculty member during the pre-season Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.
She and her students will learn new ways to approach story structure — ways that may feel unfamiliar to some. McCabe said they’ll look at how other writers have used forms such as instruction manuals, psychiatrist’s notes and job ads as ways of structuring stories.
“I’m going to encourage them to play with the forms, and maybe see what fresh approaches they can bring to their material,” McCabe said.
McCabe said her students will have the opportunity to apply new structures to their existing work as well as space to generate new material. She said they’ll also discuss what makes a good story more generally.
“I think there are some basic things that underlie most successful stories, and those elements are things we’ll be talking about,” McCabe said.
Gramm, the poet-in-residence, is the author of multiple works across various genres and is a winner of the Hart Crane Poetry Prize. He teaches at Gettysburg College, and this will be his second time teaching at the Writers’ Center.
He and his students will discuss the Bible and how it’s been the basis for many other literary works over the centuries. They’ll then see how they can use it in their own work, Gramm said.
Gramm wants his students to bring their individual perspectives on the Bible to the workshop, so everyone can learn and mature together, he said. He said he’d like for everyone to come away with fresh views on how the Bible can influence and inspire their work as writers.
“I would hope they would have a more robust view of the Bible as a piece of living literature, speech and communication,” Gramm said.
After his last visit with the Writers’ Center in 2013, Gramm said he realized giving a workshop on writing from the Bible would be a perfect fit for his students at Chautauqua.
“I realized three years ago that this is the ideal place to do something like this,” Gramm said.
Gramm and McCabe will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of Alumni Hall during the week. Gramm’s Brown Bag, called “The American Epic,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. McCabe’s Brown Bag, called “Visualizing Story Structure,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.