Week Seven at the Chautauqua Writers’ Center will offer a workshop on writing about religion and a master class on sonnets.
Authors Linda K. Wertheimer and Molly Peacock will serve as the writers-in-residence for the week. Wertheimer’s workshop is called “Writing Provocative Stories about Religion” and Peacock’s master class is called “Sonnet Sublime: Fourteen Lines Transcend Their Limits.” Wertheimer and Peacock will also give public readings at 3:30 p.m. August 7 on the porch of the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall.
Wertheimer is the author of Faith Ed: Teaching about Religion in an Age of Intolerance and teaches courses on writing about religion at GrubStreet in Boston. Wertheimer visited Chautauqua as a child and saw Margaret Mead and Seymour Hersh speak, but she said this will be her first time visiting as an adult and teaching at the Writers’ Center.
Her workshop was inspired by her experience writing Faith Ed and her interest in commentary on religion, Wertheimer said.
“Religion is woven into so much of our society, publicly and privately, yet it’s often a taboo subject in conversation,” Wertheimer said. “Writers, too, can get timid about writing about faith, whether it’s creating an essay about their own beliefs or telling the story of someone else’s spiritual journey.”
Wertheimer and her students will read essays by other writers who discuss religion and do generative exercises to help them find their voice when it comes to writing about topics they may be uncomfortable with at first.
Wertheimer said by the end of her workshop, her students will ideally come away with two short essays or commentaries that can provoke change or debate.
“That’s where the provocative comes in,” Wertheimer said.
Peacock is the author of The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 and the poetry collections The Second Blush and Cornucopia. This is her first time teaching at the Writers’ Center, as well.
In Peacock’s one-day, 90-minute master class, she and her students will dive deep into the sonnet form.
“We’re going to look at sonnets, see how they tick and write one,” Peacock said. “This is for anybody: if you’ve never written a sonnet in your life, if you barely know what a sonnet is, that’s OK. You’ll find out.”
Although she’s teaching a master class, Peacock said writing poetry is for everyone, something she hopes her students will come away with.
“People seem to think that they need to have eons of time or an entire day,” Peacock said. “The fact is, we’re going to write these sonnets in a snap. And they’re going to see that even when your life caves in on you and you’re so busy and think, ‘I don’t have time to create’ — it’s just not true.”
Peacock and Wertheimer will also give Brown Bag lectures on the porch of Alumni Hall during the week. Peacock’s Brown Bag, called “Leap the Limits: Beginning a Life’s Work (After Already Living a Life)” will be at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday. Wertheimer’s Brown Bag, called “Finding Your Book or How Your Book Might Find You” will be at 12:15 p.m. Friday.