Week Two Workshops at Chautauqua Writers’ Center Look to Nature for Inspiration



Students in Week Two’s workshops at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center will learn how to use their unique authorial voices and how to look to nature for inspiration.

Kim T. Griswell will serve as the prose writer-in-residence, and Aimee Nezhukumatathil will serve as the poet-in-residence for Week Two.

Griswell’s workshop is titled “Finding Your Voice” and Nezhukumatathil’s workshop is called “Bringing the Outside In: Poetry and Wonder.” Additionally, both writers will give public readings at 3:30 p.m. Sunday on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Griswell is the author of a series of children’s picture books featuring Rufus, a plucky pig. A third entry, Rufus Blasts Off, is forthcoming. She also has an extensive editorial career and regularly teaches writing workshops.

Through her editorial work with the Highlights Foundation — which publishes Highlights magazine — Griswell has visited and taught at Chautauqua before, and is excited to be coming back.

“Chautauqua is sacred space,” Griswell said. “It helps me to remember that at its very best, humankind can be worthy of all we’ve been given. It shows me an ideal to try to achieve in the ‘outside’ world. It is a powerful place to slow down and reconnect with your voice. I can’t imagine a more perfect place for teaching this workshop.”

Her workshop will focus on finding authorial voice, which Griswell said was inspired in part by her childhood. She grew up in Georgia, where she said children were taught to be seen but not heard. As an adult, she said she realized the importance of using her voice.

“I came to the conclusion that my life’s mission was to find my voice and help others to find their voices,” Griswell said.

Griswell said she hopes her students come away with a deepened recognition of their unique voices and how they can use them in their work.

“It’s about the writer’s individual voice,” Griswell said. “As readers, we fall in love with writers who have strong individual voices, and we recognize those voices when we read them. We know when we’re reading Sherman Alexie or Alice Hoffman, J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K. Rowling. There’s no way to confuse the voice of one with that of another. In the workshop, we will delve into great books to develop an understanding of what voice is as it relates to the writer.”

Nezhukumatathil is the author of three poetry collections, the most recent of which is Lucky Fish. She is a professor of English at SUNY Fredonia, and for the 2016-2017 academic year she’ll serve as the Grisham writer-in-residence for the MFA program at the University of Mississippi.

The focus of the workshop will be using science and natural history as inspiration for defeating writer’s block, Nezhukumatathil said.

“Even though my first love is always poetry, Mother Nature is always the biggest inspiration — I think she’s the original nature writer,” Nezhukumatathil said.

Looking to the natural world will help her students realize that writer’s block might not even exist, Nezhukumatathil said.

“If we take the time to use the outdoors as inspiration, there’s really no end to the writing that could be done,” she said. “It’s also about exploring the concept of wonder and wonderment. Using wonder as a starting point can be very valuable in poetry.”

Nezhukumatathil and Griswell will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall throughout the week. Nezhukumatathil’s Brown Bag, called “The Importance of Writing with Wonder,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, and Griswell’s Brown Bag, called “In Search of Voice,” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.


The author Ryan Pait

Ryan Pait gets a different haircut every summer to keep the people of Chautauqua guessing. This is his fourth summer at The Chautauquan Daily, so if you’re tired of him, that’s OK. He recently graduated with his master’s degree in literature from Western Kentucky University. Don’t ask him about what he’s doing after this summer, but do ask him about the Nicole Kidman renaissance, the return of “Game of Thrones” and what he’s reading.