Beth Ann Fennelly
The Chautauqua Writers’ Center turns 30 this year.
Instead of blowing out candles, the Writers’ Center is celebrating with a full season of programming, under the leadership of Atom Atkinson, director of literary arts. This includes the tried-and-true poet and prose writer-in-residences, Tuesday and Friday Brown Bag lectures, and master classes. Adding on to this repertoire are Weekend Intensives, new this year.
Weekend Intensives offer an opportunity to take a “deep dive” into a genre or focus area, Atkinson said, that goes beyond workshops offered during the week. Atkinson said the intensives will appeal to a variety of Chautauquans living on or near grounds, as enrollment acts as a temporary gate pass. There are three Weekend Intensives this year, offered after Weeks Two, Three and Six. Ranging from world building, live storytelling and dramatic playwriting, all are decidedly niche.
With the luxury of time, students and instructors “can veer further off the path than the poetry and prose options we offer every week,” Atkinson said. Dave Griffith, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said that with the new leadership comes a new rolodex. That’s why many of the writers-in-residences are new to Chautauqua this year; often younger or on the rise of their careers.
Such is the case with Week One’s Julie Buntin and Gabe Habash, who both published their first novels recently. “We really feel like we can reach back into the established community of writers,” Griffith said. “But we’re also introducing (Chautauquans) to new voices, new perspectives and new genres.”
It’s not 30 birthday candles, but it’s equally illuminating.
Mathias Svalina and Julie Buntin kick off the season. Svalina’s workshop “Exploring Dream Logic in Our Poetry” juggles the imaginative and the abstract in descriptions of reality.
Buntin tackles often the most difficult part of writing, the beginning, in “Getting Started, Getting Unstuck, and Writing Strong Beginnings.”
In his master class, morning lecturer and Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle author Tyehimba Jess discusses the balance between history and poetry in “Show the Receipts: Historical Documentation in Poetic Form.” Gabe Habash’s master class explores techniques to make word transcend paper.
Marcus Wicker looks at the intimacy and power of the epistolary in “Ode, Elegy, Aubade, Invective: Strategies for the Letter Poem.”
Janice Eidus’ “The Beating Heart of Your Fiction” works within the dichotomies of emotion and logic.
World building takes centerstage in this season’s first Weekend Intensive, Brittany Cavallaro’s “The World at Stake: Writing (or Revising) the First Chapter of Your Young Adult Novel.”
Rajiv Mohabir will turn writers into wizards in a workshop “Poetry and Surprise: The Art of Play.”
In the workshop, “Not in Your Head But Your Bones: Writing the Personal Essay,” Megan Stielstra will lead students through activities that stimulate storytelling. She will also lead the second Weekend Intensive “Every- body Stand Up: Performance in the Writing Process.”
Robert Ostrom looks at poetry as a means of understanding in “Writing as a Practice for Living.”
Valerie Boyd’s “Writing History: Making Research Come Alive While Staying True” will teach students how to apply techniques of fiction to facts.
In “Sound, Syntax, Stanza, Magic, Nuts and Bolts,” Beth Ann Fennelly will guide students through processes to enhance their poetry.
Students of Kazim Ali’s “Writing Oneself in Time and Space” will employ psychokinetic research tools: their own bodies.
Allison Joseph challenges students to think, and write, beyond their comfort zones in “Learning from World Masters: Poetry, Politics and Poetic Liberation.”
In “Places That Scare You: Writing Short Fiction About Race, Culture and Identity,” Jess Row encourages risk-taking to write candidly about complex and personal issues.
Also during Week Six is a Master Class Series: “The Work of Being a Writer.” Cathy Day will lead two classes, “The Necessary Art of Pitching” and “What it Means to ‘Get Published’ in 2018.” Deb Pines teaches the quick and dirty in “Self-Publishing.” Lastly, Nathan Day Wilson gets practical in “Using Dictation to Improve Your Writing and Life.”
The third Weekend Intensive is “The Great Leap: Playwriting Page to Stage.” Darren Canady and students will turn outlines into dramatic scenes to be performed by Chautauqua Theater Company.
Charlotte Matthews anchors this poetry workshop around the complicated and pervasiveness of our roots in “The Notion and Heft of Home.”
Lily Hoang and students will stir the genre pot, blending nonfiction and fairy tale in the “Magical Memoir” workshop.
Lillian-Yvonne Bertram will guide students through revisiting of abandoned works and ideas in “Invoking What’s Forgotten in Our Poems.”
In this workshop, “The Forgotten Art: Revising Imagery and Language in Our Fiction,” Toni Jensen encourages students to refresh and enliven work through re-examination.
Also in Week Eight, CLSC author Paisley Rekdal will discuss memory and art in the master class “Memorial Time: Poetry, Elegy and the War Memorial.”
In the final week of the season, Neil Shepard and students will broaden their understanding of a poem by piercing through to its core in a workshop titled “Vision and Re-Vision: Seeing Into the Heart of a Poem.”
Lenore Myka’s “Re-Envisioning Revision: A Fresh Approach to Book-Length Projects” infuses the editing process with the sense of creativity and enthusiasm often lost after writing’s first stages.