This week’s Chautauqua Writers’ Center workshops will find the magic in the everyday and the unexpected.
“Life should remain magical, even as we become adults,” said Lily Hoang, prose writer-in-residence.
Hoang will teach a class called “Magical Memoir,” and poet-in-residence Charlotte Matthews will lead her workshop titled “The Notion and Heft of Home.” Both writers will give public readings of their work at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, in the Hall of Philosophy.
Matthews was previously a writer-in-residence in 2014 and currently teaches at the University of Virginia. She has authored Still Enough to Be Dreaming: Poems, Green Stars and Whistle What Can’t Be Said, a poetry book about her battle with breast cancer.
“We’re going to use the domestic realm as a springboard for poems that we look at, poems that have to do with home and poems that are inspired by that,” she said.
Matthews will provide generative prompts, but there will also be workshopping for previously completed works.
“I think that home is a topic that often gets in some ways concealed, or set aside or regarded as either private or not necessarily in the political realm,” she said. “In some ways, it resides on the periphery.”
Though most people have homes, Matthews said it is not a subject often spoken of in an “academic” way.
“I think that there’s a lot that’s hidden about homes; a lot of secrets reside in homes,” she said. “And that is fascinating to me.”
She pointed to literature written in 1918 and 1919 during the Spanish influenza pandemic. The death tolls were disastrous, rivaling the numbers from the first World War, but because it was a domestic issue, there is very little writing on it, Matthews said.
“That’s a stunning example of what I’m saying,” she said. “I think we talk about what’s going on in the public realm tons, but do we really talk about so much what goes on domestically?”
Matthews hopes participants leave knowing the domestic realm is “epic … and absolutely of literary significance.”
Hoang has authored multiple books, including A Bestiary, Changing and The Evolutionary Revolution. She teaches at UC San Diego and is editor of Jaded Ibis Press.
Hoang said her workshop will explore nonfiction, especially memoir, through the lens of fairytales and other magic stories, such as fables and folktales.
“What I would like to do in the class is look at the stories we were told as children and how those impact our … everyday lives in small ways,” she said.
Hoang hopes to encourage students to live and write joyfully. Participants in her workshop will create thoughtful, serious art while still having fun.
“There’s something about childlike joy and that way of experiencing life, which (seems) for many adults … like something that’s closed off, too juvenile.”
Both writers will give Brown Bags this week. Matthews will deliver hers at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, and Hoang will give her lecture at 12:15 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10, both at the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.