Favorites from the Workshop – The Work at The Novel-in-Verse Workshop
by Jan Annino
(Seekers of the POETRY FRIDAY round-up, of which this article is a part, are collected by Jone at CHECK IT OUT. https://maclibrary.wordpress.com/)
To cope from withdrawal symptoms
following a Highlights Foundation Workshop
last month, I’m writing about my favorites
from the experience.
In the last post I listed High Five
Favorites from The Tour of The Office.
Favorites from the Workshop – The Work
A lot of it.
In an ardent
doodle, doodle, idea, idea, scribble, scribble,
so I chucked swaths of lines,
retooled others in light of
directions newly imagined.
Mornings I awoke to birdsong.
First light filtered in from a wood,
across a red clover field where
a red tractor sat.
A breeze tickled delicate white curtains
against honey blond, paneled, cabin walls.
Each of the perfect-weather mornings,
I grabbed my journal/notebook that wears
an embossed mantra,
“A moment of gratitude makes a difference in attitude.”
It arrived home juicy with impressions,
characters, thoughts, titles, snatches of
dialogue & questions.
I tugged myself away from the cabin’s
spell & went outside early.
Plump robins worked to make a nest
in a beam of my front porch.
Writers also saw Baltimore orioles.
I stopped in my path for the flight
of an indigo bunting.
Bluebirds visited me uncountable times.
And more delight –
chipmunks wove in an out of slate walls near the 5,200 square
foot airy conference center fittingly known as The Barn.
Each morning top-drawer authors,
Kathryn Erskine and Alma Fullerton,
guided us with pithy & lively lectures & writing prompts.
They are each of them such
physical presenters, it felt at times as if we
We listened to a potent talk &
enjoyed many conversations with
visiting author Padma Venkatraman,
(A Time to Dance, Island’s End, Climbing the Stairs.)
Afternoons offered time for one-on-one
meetings with the mentors.
Plus, individual writing marathons inside.
Or out, with assistance from previously noted
chipmunks and avians.
Writers found the creek at the bottom of the hill.
It reflected a clearness that guided
thoughts & work.
By 4 we collected in the living room of The Barn
in a daily group critique
for the brave. Everyone felt brave,
drawn out by the nurturing faculty.
We appreciated the Floyd Cooper art on the walls &
the big sofas holding red pillows emblazoned with the
distinctive H for Highlights, logo.
The nights were usually free for reading,
writing, or discussion. I felt fortunate that an
insightful librarian, also working on historical fiction
like me, asked to share evening work time in The Barn.
Another night we were gifted with visits from City
Folk, an accomplished agent & an esteemed editor.
Such insights, we gleaned. Such access, we appreciated.
Favorite Words of Wisdom
Katherine Erskine, whose books include Mockingbird, Quaking,
The Badger Knight, plus the forthcoming, Mama Africa:
All of your stories will make wonderful books.
Imagine an elaborate line-up of dominoes that you will be setting off, in touching
the first one. Each domino must connect. Each scene must connect with the next.
Keep in mind who is the antagonist. Who is the battle against.
Alma Fullerton, whose books include In The Garage, Libertad, Burn
& the forthcoming, 50 Lashes:
Don’t sacrifice story for poetic form.
My first draft is basically barfing on the paper.
The evil person can be even nastier if we don’t see him/him from
his point of view, but when we view that antagonist from the outside.
The kind & funny chef staff (hello there, Marcia,
Amanda, Megan, Derrick & a spot-on walk-on, Kent!) matched
the quality of the story-crafting faculty. And their treats are
missed (hello there, toasted kale appetizer, mushroom loaf,
stuffed peppers, cream of squash soup, rhubarb crunch,
grilled asparagus, local cheeses, et. al!)
Pages were required with the application;
this varies workshop to workshop. We 12 brought
library or teaching or children’s bookselling or publishing
tales with us. Students traveled from as far as Idaho, and as
next-door as N.J. and PA.
We grew close to each other, in sharing about our novel-in-verse
(one biography-in-verse) projects.
I’m anticipating news in the months ahead about terrific progress.
I’ve already brought fresh work to an at-home writing partner
at the library last night.
To Be Continued
How cool it is to be collected in an online group by our
spiffy librarian techie, my sharp critique partner
that night, to continue the journey begun at Highlights.
Appreciations to all.
With extra thanks to Kathryn Erskine & Joanne Fritz for
sharing the photos for this article. My 125 images
I took in the 5 days didn’t make it home, but
that’s another Story.