Look carefully: Charlotte Matthews, Roy Hoffman to encourage ‘learning to see’ in workshops

Charlotte Matthews wants participants in her week-long workshop for the Chautauqua Writers’ Center to look — and write — carefully.

“Each day will have a distinct focus: trees, roots, water, stone and air,” said Matthews, a poet, professor and the Week Three poet-in-residence. “With those focuses, we will learn to look carefully. Flannery O’Connor said that ‘Learning to write is learning to see.’ So we’re going to spend a lot of time doing some deep looking.”

Among the poets and authors Matthews said her students will be reading in her workshop, “Sight and Insight,” are Ross Gay, Natasha Trethewey and Gerard Manley Hopkins.

“Mostly, we’re going to use these established writers as a springboard for our own writing,” Matthews said.

At 3:30 p.m. Sunday, July 10, in the Hall of Philosophy, Matthews, a professor at the University of Virginia, will give a reading from her memoir, Comes With Furniture and People, as well as from her forthcoming poetry collection. Matthews will be joined by Roy Hoffman, a writer, journalist and the Week Three prose writer-in-residence, who will be reading excerpts from his new novel, The Promise of the Pelican. Hoffman will teach the prose workshop, titled “From Inspiration to Page: Our Creative Journeys.” Both Hoffman and Matthews are returnees to Chautauqua.

“I’ve long been interested in stories set in my home region, the South, that also have a global perspective,” Hoffman said. “And I’m very interested in characters who are settled here or are connected to different parts of the world.”

Hoffman said he wants to channel his love of characters and language to the writers attending his workshop.

“Part of the beauty of doing a creative writing workshop at Chautauqua is that it welcomes participants who come from different backgrounds, who come from different walks of life, and who learn from each other as they share their efforts on the page,” he said. “The focus of the workshop is not only how to write, but where to find stories to write.”

The reason Hoffman said he’s interested in where writers find material for their stories is because it’s a key part of the writing process.

“It is the heart and soul of every piece, whether that be fiction or nonfiction,” he said. “I also plan on having students who work in both genres. I might even encourage students to switch genres, depending on what they’re doing.”

Ultimately, Hoffman said he wants his students to take a “good look around them” in their quest to become better writers.

“Do we look inside at our own interior worlds?” he said. “Or do we look outside, at the strange, diverse, colorful, varied, rambunctious world just outside of our doorstep?”

Tags : literary arts

The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.