Our Tuesday class before the arrival of Barry Lopez was bittersweet. We knew this would be the last time in 2010 we would be planning the introduction of an amazing writer for the festival audience.
Despite spending hours in airports throughout Wednesday, Barry Lopez came to his reception at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum that night cheerful and talkative. He mingled with guests, which included Billy Collins and other friends of Winter with the Writers The reception lasted about an hour, after which a few literati took the writer to dinner.
Lopez woke up early to visit Blue Spring State Park. He is a man known to value nature and what it offers in different locations of the world, and he wanted to be able to see the manatees located at the park during this time of year. Afterwards, he went to lunch with a couple of my fellow interns and prepared for his master class and reading.
The master class went a little differently than usual. He began by giving us advice on writing and the creative process involved in story, relating back to his essay “A Voice.” He then allotted us 15 minutes to write a paragraph about a time where we felt the terror and panic of losing something. We each had to read what we wrote, in “our voice,” or the way we would like to reader to read the story. I started with a comical story about losing my car keys, and passed down the microphone until all eight of us on stage had told our stories, none alike. The class ended with audience questions.
Last on Lopez’s agenda for the night was the reading in Tiedtke Hall. The audience crowded the auditorium to hear the last reading of this year’s Winter with the Writers. Before the reading began, the winner of the Laura Van den Berg Award was announced. The award is given annually to a WWW intern who is enrolled in the Hamilton Holt school, where Laura Van den Berg herself began her writing career. The award went to Logan Ganier, who, as Holt dean Jim Eck put it, “already looks like he is in Hollywood.”
Lopez started with a couple of poems he felt represented the feelings a writer faces when taking the time to write. He then read his short story “The Mappist” from Light Action in the Caribbean. He paired his short story with a recently written essay to illustrate the differences between fiction and non-fiction. After a short break, he engaged in a question and answer session with Carol Frost, followed by his book signing.
After much anticipation, Andre Dubus III visited the Rollins community Wednesday, February 3rd. Myself and a few other very privileged interns were given the opportunity to join Dubus for lunch on Wednesday afternoon, and we were delighted with his wonderful stories about his experiences as a carpenter, a private investigator, and as a writer. We discussed the differences and similarities between American culture and Middle Eastern culture. We also talked about Steinbeck, Hemingway, and other writers that we have all relished and benefited from.
Later that evening, we attended his reception at the Enzian theatre in Winter Park to watch the film inspired by his novel of the same name, The House of Sand and Fog. I had never visited the Enzian and was glad to see such a substantial part of our community attend the event. Before the film, Dubus spoke of the experiences which would later inspire the idea for one of the main characters in the novel. The film was a stunning and poignant portrayal of his work, and we were fortunate to have seen it during such a momentous occasion. After the showing, Dubus mingled with guests, and it was an honor to speak with him in such a charged setting.
On the following day, Thursday, February 4th, Andre Dubus III hosted the Master Class in the Bush Auditorium. He opened the class by explaining that while talent is a large part of what a writers need, they also need to discipline themselves to hard work. He also said that one should write not to achieve success, but to discover one's self and the world around them. Writers make sense of the world by writing through it, poking and prodding until they find the parts of it they can stitch together to make the pieces of the puzzle a little more whole. In essence, that's what literature does. It is appealing to the writer because it aids in the discovery process and it is fascinating to the reader because it gives insight on things they question. Dubus went on to examine each and every story the interns submitted and advised us on what he thought did and didn't work. After analyzing each intern's story aloud, he presented us with hard copies on which he wrote suggestions. In closing, he opened the floor for discussion and invited the interns and audience to ask questions. It was certainly one of the best master classes I've ever attended.
That night, Dubus read to the audience from his memoir. After the reading, he took part in a humorous question and answer session with Winter with the Writers director, Carol Frost. The audience enjoyed their playful banter and it ended his visit on a pleasant note.
We loved having Andre Dubus III with us this past week, and we are eager to meet Barry Lopez who will be here tomorrow. He has written both non-fiction and fiction. Some of his works include Of Wolves and Men, Giving Birth to Thunder, Light Action in the Caribbean, and Resistance. We are eager to have him visit, and we hope you'll drop by!
Q: Is there a difference between a ‘writer’ and an ‘author’? A: Well, you know, “author,” I guess that’s a word that we understand to mean that you publish your writing. I used to hate the word “author” because I thought it was kind of elitist, a little too hoity-toity, not like a worker like the rest of us. But you know, I looked up the word “author,” and now I really like it. Like the Merrill Dictionary said a few years ago, “the author is the originator or the beginner of something.” So when you write down those words and you give those characters in your head a voice, you’ve done something no one else has. You have originated and begun them. And that makes you, makes every writer, as much of an author as anyone else.
What’s to Come…
After an amazing and enlightening week with current U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, Winter With the Writers is excited to welcome Andre Dubus III to Rollins. Dubus is the author of Bluesman, The House of Sand and Fog, The Garden of Last Days, and more. Dubus will arrive Wednesday, when a screening of the film The House of Sand and Fog will be shown at the Enzian Theatre at 6 PM, with a reception to follow. This event is invitation only. The next day, the public is welcome to attend the 4 PM Master Class in Bush Auditorium, where Dubus will be giving a workshop for the Winter With the Writers interns. Their work will be available on the Winter With the Writers website for viewing prior to the event. Thursday night, Dubus will be giving a reading in Tiedtke Concert Hall at 8 PM, to be followed by a question and answer section and a book signing. Mr. Dubus’s books will be on sale at Tiedtke, and this event is also open to the public. We hope to see you there.
There is no doubt that the buzz about current Poet Laureate Kay Ryan’s appearance for Winter with the Writers had been circulating throughout Rollins and the Winter Park community. On January 27th, a reception was presented in Kay Ryan’s honor in the Cornell Fine Arts Museum, and among the people attending were former Poet Laureate Billy Collins, Rollins College President Lewis Duncan, Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, and columnist Elizabeth Mauphin and her husband Jay Yellen. The mayor read a proclamation congratulating Rollins College on its 125th anniversary and welcoming the 2010 Winter With the Writers Literary Festival and specifically Kay Ryan. With such a rush of outstanding citizens, we interns were starstruck and slightly nervous that we might say anything foolish. However, as the reception fell to a close, we realized with what ease we had been able to mingle with college and community notables and the literati, speaking with both Billy Collins and Kay Ryan as we have known them for years.
In honor of Kay Ryan, it was only right to try something new for the usual Master Class. Instead of the more usual workshop, the interns led a conversation with Kay Ryan about the creative process and especially about her work. One-by-one, each intern asked penetrating questions about specific poems in three of her books: Elephant Rocks, Say Uncle, and The Niagara River. Kay Ryan read each poem that we asked a question about and drew forth waves of “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience. After 45 minutes, the audience was then invited to ask some of their own questions about Kay Ryan’s writing process and style.
A couple of hours later, we gathered in Tiedtke Hall for the reading at 8 P.M. An influx of excited patrons flooded the hall, causing us to have to open up the balcony for more seating. Ms. Ryan read multiple poems from her book The Best of It, a collection of her best and brightest poetry. Kay Ryan’s charm flooded the hall as she balanced both seriousness and laughter throughout her reading. She also was keen to the audience’s ear, reading some poems twice in order to help us understand a poem more fully. After her reading, she engaged in a question and answer session with Carol Frost, with whom Kay Ryan seemed to develop a rapport, answering the questions jotted on index cards during the reading that several other interns and I had passed out to audience members as they were seated, then gathered at the end of the reading. Lastly, Kay Ryan led a book signing, causing a line comparable to Disney World’s most favored ride.
Overall, it must be restated that Kay Ryan is not only a fantastic poet, but an inspiring individual as a whole. It is hard to find people nowadays that make you feel comfortable the moment you meet them, especially those with so much talent. Ms. Ryan had such a great impact on Rollins and the Winter Park community, and was illuminated in their response to her conversation and reading. We can only hope that the following writers will be just as awe-inspiring as she was.
This year’s Winter With the Writers started off on January 21 with a reception for novelist and short story writer Andrea Barrett in Olin Library’s Tower Room. There, while looking out over the campus, Rollins faculty, staff, and students, as well as members of the Winter Park community, welcomed Andrea Barrett to Rollins College. Prof. Carol Frost, director of the Winter With the Writers program this year, introduced Barrett with a speech, and encouraged us, the interns, to get to know her.
Barrett asked us if we were nervous about the next day’s master class, where we would workshop our short stories in front of an audience of professors, classmates, and writing enthusiasts. A few of us admitted that yes, we were a little scared, particularly of our stories being harshly criticized by MacArthur Fellowship recipient Barrett, or by people in the audience. To soothe our jangling nerves, Barrett assured us all that the next day’s class would be “tear free,” and, indeed, it was.
Before the master class and other activities began, Prof. Phillip Deaver and six interns, including myself, took Barrett to lunch. During our meal, we talked about writing strategies and books made into movies, and Barrett recommended books for us to read. Barrett also admitted that writing first drafts seemed to her to be like putting together a house, badly. She might start with a four walls, but then have to knock one down to make room for a chimney, and so on. She does not write her stories with a set plot in mind, and is an “aggressively anti-cinematic” writer; her books do not often follow an easily traceable timeline that could be seamlessly reproduced in a movie.
After an enjoyable and enlightening lunch with Barrett, the six of us and the rest of the 2010 interns joined Barrett in the Bush auditorium for her master class. Barrett framed the class around a handout she passed out to us and to the audience with questions to ask about ours and others’ works. We discussed with her each of our six stories, keeping in mind how narrative voice and the use of time changed and affected each piece.
After a short break, we gathered in Tiedtke Hall for the reading and question and answer session. Prof. Frost again introduced Barrett, who then read a section of “Theories of Rain,” a short story from her book Servants of the Map. Her reading was well received, and generated a wealth of thought-provoking questions in the following interview session. There, Barrett shared with us that she was a “poster child for revising,” as she tends to write “lumpy” sentences for first drafts, and then irons them out as the story progresses. She also told us that she finds it much easier to research her stories than to write them, again humbly expressing her struggle with getting past that first draft.
A deservedly acclaimed author, Barrett inspired those in attendance to keep reading and writing, and assured us all that writing isn’t any easier for her than it is for us. We greatly appreciated her warmth, as well as her eagerness to share her writing experiences with us. We also look forward to learning from Kay Ryan, the current Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry of the United States, who will be joining us for another Winter With the Writers session on January 28.