I spent the past week and a half leading a workshop with this incredibly talented and openly loving group of writers. Together, they were the embodiment what we need right now: creative people supporting and encouraging one another in an increasingly harsh and fearful world. #collegevilleinstitute, #vortexesoflove
I’m just coming up for air after leading several workshops this summer, all online and all for the Collegeville Institute. Few people would prefer Zoom to gathering in person on Collegeville’s beautiful campus, but all of the workshops had a pleasing feeling of camaraderie and purpose.
(Pictured above is the view I would have had if I’d been able to go to Collegeville this year.)
In addition to the workshops, I finished my work with three emerging writers I’d been mentoring throughout the past year.
Now, it’s time for my own writing!
Here are pictures of the groups, with the participants listed. For more information on any session, just click the session title. For general information on Collegeville’s summer writer workshops and mentorship program, click here.
2021 Apart, and Yet a Part participants (from top left to right): Michael N. McGregor (leader), Carla Durand (CI staff), Betsy Johnson, Liz Charlotte Grant, Robin Bartlett, Kerlin Richter, Andrew Zirschky, David Clark, Richard Peterson, Jessica Mesman, Karen Guzman, and Kaya Oakes.
Breaking the Academic Mold: Liberating the Powerful, Personal Voice Within You: July 21-26 (for academics wanting to write more creatively, co-taught with Sophfronia Scott and co-sponsored by the Wabash Center)
2021 Breaking the Academic Mold participants (from top left to right): Kimberleigh Jordan, Carla Durand (CI staff), Mayra Rivera, Lakeesha Walrond, Rolf Nolasco, Michael N. McGregor (workshop leader), Ralph Watkins, Maureen O’Connell, Willie Jennings, Miguel A. De La Torre, Sophfronia Scott (workshop leader), Shively Smith, and Nami Kim. (Not pictured: Lynne Westfield.)
2021-22 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program Workshop: July 30-August 1 (the kickoff event for a yearlong mentorship program, co-taught with Sophfronia Scott)
2021-22 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program participants (clockwise from left): Angie Hong, Sarah Ngu, Natarsha Sanders, Zeena Regis, Sophia Stid
2020-21 Emerging Writers Mentorship Program (participants: Catherine Hervey, Duncan Hilton, J. Jioni Palmer, Lea Schweitz)–click here to read about the these emerging writers, see their pictures, and read some of the work they produced during our year of working together.
If you’re looking for a summer writing program to attend, you can’t do better than the Manhattanville College MFA’s Summer Writers’ Week. For just $650 ($750 after March 31), you get an all-morning workshop each day with a small group of fellow writers, afternoon craft presentations in all genres, and evening readings and other events. Housing for the week is just $40/night–and Manhattanville College is only a half hour away by train or car from New York City. (All workshop and events take place in the most beautiful rooms you’ll find at any writers’ week anywhere.)
Bestselling fiction writer and memoirist Dani Shapiro will be the week’s keynote speaker and lead the fiction workshop.
Screenwriter Sharbari Ahmed will lead the dramatic writing workshop.
And I’ll lead the nonfiction workshop.
Click here for full details and registration information.
The featured image here is of poet Lynn Otto introducing me for my workshop “Getting Down to the Truly Personal in Personal Essay and Memoir” at the 8th annual Terroir Creative Writing Festival in McMinnville, Oregon, last Saturday. McMinnville is at the heart of Oregon’s wine country and home to the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which is where Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose resides now.
The conference had 120 attendees and close to half of them squeezed into the small room where my workshop was held, with some spilling out the door. The tight quarters made for good energy and the writing was furious during the three exercises I was able to offer in the hour I had. Judging by the comments afterward, the exercises took people to the deeper places I hoped they’d go, some emerging with tears in their eyes and others saying they found their way with projects that had been stalled.
Below is one of the exercises we did, based on this paragraph from Jorge Luis Borges’ essay “Blindness”:
“A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of an artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason, I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.”
WRITING: Think of an “instrument” that is an inescapable element of your experience of life—asthma, blindness, migraines, single parent, poverty—something that has marked you in ways that might seem damaging or at least disadvantageous. Write a long paragraph about it and your connection to it.
On Saturday, April 22, I’ll be leading a workshop called “Getting Down to the Truly Personal in Personal Essay and Memoir” at the 2017 Terroir Creative Writing Festival in McMinnville, Oregon. If you live in Oregon or SW Washington, I highly recommend this boutique writing festival. For just $50 ($60 after April 14), you get a full day of workshops and readings with many of Oregon’s finest writers. For more information or to register, click here: Terroir Creative Writing Festival.