Lillian-Yvonne Bertram, Chloé Caldwell to lead workshops, readings to unlock creative flow

Bertram, Caldwell

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram and Chloé Caldwell are joining the Chautauqua Writers’ Center for Week Two, and will start their residencies with a Writers’ Center Reading at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the Hall of Philosophy.

Bertram is the former director of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and previous poet-in-residence for the Writers’ Center. The author of several prose and poetry books, they direct the University of Maryland’s MFA in creative writing program. For Sunday’s reading, Bertram will read from their most recent poetry collection, Negative Money. Some of the poems in the book are written in collaboration with artificial intelligence, which fits in line with the week’s theme of “The AI Revolution.”

“Since it’s AI week, I will probably read some of those poems and just talk a little bit about the process of working with artificial intelligence and language models and writing,” said Bertram.

Bertram is also the author of Travesty Generator, which won the 2018 Noemi Press Poetry Prize and was finalist for the National Poetry Series, and received the 2020 Poetry Society of America Anna Rabinowitz Prize for “interdisciplinary and venturesome work.”

Throughout the week, Bertram will be teaching a workshop called “Getting Unstuck” through Special Studies. The workshop is on mechanical interventions writers can use to move their poems from one place to another when they are feeling stuck — “things that don’t necessarily involve just kind of sitting and thinking and looking at the poem and hoping that it kind of figures itself out, but actual mechanical ways of forcing yourself to rethink the poem,” said Bertram.

This way, they said, workshop attendees will learn useful strategies they can use next time they have writers’ block.

Prose writer-in-residence Caldwell will also lead a workshop — titled “Making meaning while Writing from Life” — this week, focused on generating new work.

Caldwell is the author of four books, and an upcoming fifth, Trying, that will be published by Graywolf Press in 2025. She is the co-founder of Scrappy Literary with author Alex Alberto, which aims to help writers find unconventional approaches they can implement into their work. 

She said she’ll start her workshop with an exercise related to being in Chautauqua, and seeing how students’ work develops by the end of the week.

She wants to use it as an “opportunity to generate stuff that they wouldn’t if they were just home.”

Caldwell hopes students walk away from the workshop more confident in their writing abilities, and for them to know that they don’t need to have an extreme or dramatic story in order to write.

“Everyday life can be enough, and it is usually the seed for writing about larger universal themes,” said Caldwell. “I think the job of a writer is to take something mundane and make it meaningful.”

Tags : literary artsPoetryProseWriters’ Center

The author Sabine Obermoller