Writers Urge Their Students to Get Lost and in Trouble

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Week Six at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center will offer workshops focused on getting lost and getting in trouble.

Writers Leslie Daniels and Nicole Cooley will lead the workshops this week. Daniels’ workshop is called “Get Your Characters in Trouble!” and Cooley’s workshop is called “Let’s Get Lost While Writing Poems.” Both writers will give public readings at 3:30 p.m. July 31 on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.

Daniels is the author of the novel Cleaning Nabokov’s House and currently teaches as part of Spalding University’s MFA program. This is her first time teaching at the Writers’ Center.

Her workshop will focus on deepening her students’ characters in their works, Daniels said, whether they be pre-existing characters or new ones they create in the workshop.

“Creating deep characters is the surest way to connect one’s own understanding of humanity with the reader’s,” Daniels said.

Daniels believes writers should take chances with their work, and she said focusing on characters is a great way to do so.

“Just like any relationship, there’s always more to discover about the other person, more to understand,” Daniels said.

Daniels said she hopes to help her students generate “many fresh ideas” for their own work and to foster their appreciation for the depth they can find and create in their work.

Cooley is the author of multiple collections and the forthcoming memoir My Dollhouse, Myself: Miniature Histories. She is also the director of the MFA program in creative writing and literary translation at Queens College, CUNY. This will be her third time teaching at the Writers’ Center.

Cooley said she and her students will do some traditional workshop activities, such as peer review, but then they’ll go deeper and discuss what drives them as writers.

“We’re also going to talk about inspiration and obsession and where we get ideas for our writing, what sources we mine for ideas, where our ideas come from,” Cooley said. “And we’re going to try to get back in some ways to childhood notions of play with language.”

They’ll also figure out some “untraditional ways” to approach material that may be difficult or personal, Cooley said. However, Cooley wants her students to come away feeling that “poetry is serious play.”


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.