Another year of Winter With the Writes has come and gone, and I think many would agree that it has gone by too quickly. This year we had the immense pleasure of welcoming five incredible writers. Week one started off on a high note as renowned poet Charles Simic took the stage. His captivating voice brought his poetry to life, leaving the audience entranced. With much anticipation, fiction novelist Justin Cronin stole the show during the second week of the festival. As he instructed us on the craft of writing, we couldn't take notes fast enough. One of the most memorable moments of Cronin's workshop happened when he was explaining how to convey realistic action in a story. He got on his hands and knees to act out scenes from the interns' stories in order to illustrate his point. He revealed that he uses this method for his own work, acting out scenes from his novels in his office.
in the third week, we had the treat of welcoming not one, but two gifted authors, short story fiction writer Laura van den Berg, in addition to novelist and poet Alan Michael Parker. Playing off of each others energetic personalities, these two writers took the spotlight during their Q&A session. Parker and Van den Berg were such a joy to speak to that it was difficult to say goodbye when the week came to a close. We then entered the final week of the festival, and what a week it was, welcoming esteemed novelist and short story writer Madison Smartt Bell and hearing him speak on his views of writing. He spoke of his great passion for reading and research, sharing his experiences living in Haiti and how they inspired his trilogy of historical novels centered around the Haitian Revolution.
As nostalgia creeps in, and I finally have a moment to breathe, I start to reflect on what a wonderful opportunity it was to be an intern with Winter With the Writers. During the festival, the interns were not only allowed to submit their work to be workshopped by the visiting authors, they were also given the opportunity to pick the authors' brains and speak with them in a more relaxed setting. This gave us a chance to ask questions, gaining insight into the work and lives of professional writers. Personally, I feel that each of these writers has given me tools I need to grow as a writer. From the importance of acute and chronic tension in a story, to the importance of proper, clear, and cohesive metaphor in a poem, I have soaked up information that I will hold and cherish for the rest of my life.
I think the other interns would agree these past four weeks have been a whirlwind, engulfing our lives at such a rapid pace that when it was over, we were all left highly affected. We have met such an amazing group of people, from the interns, to the authors, to the members of the community who were with us every step of the way. Without a doubt, being an intern for the Winter With the Writers Literary Festival is and will always be the highlight of my Rollins College experience.
Madison Smartt Bell's departure heralds the end of the final week in the 2014 Winter With the Writers season. While he was the last visiting author, Bell certainly didn't disappoint and led a master class and reading that taught all who attended valuable lessons on fiction, his eclectic taste in music, as well as insight into his writing origins and personal philosophy on writing.
During Thursday's master class, Bell posed one question about every story being workshopped: what is the story's intended total effect? Devoting 13.3 repeating minutes to each submitted piece, he facilitated a discussion that allowed everyone to suss out what each story was trying to be, and what this means for the characters, writer, and the reader.
Members of the Winter Park and Rollins College communities gathered that evening to hear him read from his upcoming novel, Behind the Moon. The idea for the novel began as a dream, and like all dreams, most of it had left his head by the time he'd awoken. However, what he was left with was enough to craft a book around a particular form and patterning.
His humour and overall good-naturedness were on display as the Q&A session after the reading ended. "Why are you a writer?" asked a member of the audience.
"I was three years old when I naively decided that I wanted to learn to read." His response created a veritible timeline of his career, from his young fascination to C.S. Lewis and his internalization of Mark Twain, to his current status as a writer, someone with an accute attention to detail and technique. "Do something so different that you can't even describe what it is." His disinterest with creating any sort of brand - focusing on the work itself rather than any sort of methodology - connect with his urge to write in order to say something, writing because you want to write. Among the wealth of advice he imparted during his visit, I think this will linger with me the most. Write to write, and be a little weird, it'll probably work out.
The 2014 season of Winter With the Writers comes to a close next week as we welcome Madison Smartt Bell to Rollins. Bell is the author of fourteen novels ( Soldier's Joy, Doctor Sleep, Save Me and most recently The Color of the Night ) and two collections of short stories, Zero db and Barking Man. His eighth novel, All Soul's Rising, was a finalist for the 1995 National Book Award and the 1996 PEN/Faulkner Award.
Bell has taught at various creative writing programs including the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the John Hopkins University Writing Seminars, and the Goucher College Creative Writing Program, where he is a professor of English.
In the beginning of his most recent novel, Bell writes that his work has always been "dictated to me by daemons. People probably think that's a figure of speech, maybe this book will prove it literal." That being said, we're certainly excited to see what he has in store for us next week.
Bell will be holding a master class on Thursday, Feburary 27 at 4 pm in Bush Auditorium and will be giving a reading later that day at 7:30 pm in Bush Auditorium. We hope you will join us in welcoming Madison Smartt Bell.
The third week of Winter With the Writers has come to a close, and what a week it was. We were visited by not one, but two acclaimed authors who were more than willing to pass on their knowledge and share their expertise with us. Laura van den Berg made a return to Rollins, her undergraduate alma mater, and left a lasting impression with her master class on the Art of the Opening. Laura espoused the idea that the beginning of a story is possibly the most important part. An opening must grab the reader's attention, it must make them demand to know what comes next. Every sentence must beget another sentence and pull the reader deeper into the story. It was the first of many valuable lessons she taught us during her visit.
Now that we were hooked with Laura's opening act, she kept us engaged with a discussion of tension, what motivates the reader to keep reading. She taught that tension can be broken into two categories, Acute and Chronic tension. Acute tension is found in the small moment to moment conflicts that string the story along and Chronic tension is the overarching tension which we see working on the main character from the beginning of the story to the end. These are ideas that many of us had thought about before, but never had they been outlined so clearly. As we looked over the intern submissions, Laura explained how our work could be improved by keeping tension in mind as we revised.
Laura's visit concluded with a reading from her second collections of short stories, The Isle of Youth. The Q&A that followed the reading gave us a glimpse into her creative process, as well as highlighting her sense of humor as she interacted with Alan Michale Parker. They discussed their sources of inspiration, their writing processes, and laughed along the way.
Laura van den Berg closed out the third week of the festival with a bang, and we now look forward to the final week of Winter With the Writers. Won't you join us?
Whirlwinds of thoughts and ideas were bantered about by the audience members waiting for autographs after Alan Michael Parker's reading. He awoke creative juices in total strangers who came for a reading and got so much more. I overheard two women speaking about the "list" poems read that evening and how they might try writing some themselves. I'm certain that this is the reaction he elicits every times he speaks. And speak he did, after he thrilled the Winter With the Writers interns with two of the selections from his book of poetry, Long Division. 15 Ways to Think About Italian Opera and A Fable for Our Anniversary, two of the poems read by Parker, had been discussed by the interns during their weekly presentations of their author's work. However, 18 Ways to Consider a Neighbor Whose Holiday Lights Stay Up All Year was by far the crowd favorite. Following this, Parker revealed how he finds his inspiration and read several new poems from his upcoming collection.
All of this added to the deep admiration he evoked after reading a brief excerpt from his novel, Whale Man. He chose to read from the beginning, the dream sequence which inspires the madness that awaits readers within the confines of the novel. Parker's voice was mesmerizing as he read and became Avi, the main character and self-acclaimed whale man.
During the Q & A, Parker fielded many astute inquiries about structure and eliminating minutiae from any story, as well as poetry, which he said requires more discipline to make concise.
His writing genius transcends any social levels and encourages all ages to appreciate what life is providing and evaluate situations with humor to see the infinite horizon of creativity. He was engaging, knowledgable, and generous to everyone with his honest critique.
After an amazing second week of Winter With the Writers, we now look forward to welcoming our next visiting author, Laura van den Berg. Her stories have appeared in several publications including American Short Stories, Conjunctions, Ploughshares, One Story, Glimmer Train, Pushcart Prize XXIV, and Best New American Voices. What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, her first collection of short stories, was a Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" selection. The work was also longlisted for The Story Prize and shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Award. Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth, was published in November 2013.
Van den Berg's work continues to receive praise from captivated readers. Author Benjamin Percy had this to say about her writing: "There is a special kind of magic in the writing of Laura van den Berg, a damp eyes sorceress who blends the mythological with the everyday, buoyant playfulness with lacerating sadness. Each sentence reads like a beautiful bruise smeared across pages as the pale bodies that so often strip off their clothes and tangle together in these tender, elegant stories." Her work has also been described as, "stunning, desolate, and unforgettable," by Booklist.
Laura van den Berg will be giving a master class and a reading on Thursday, February 20 along with Alan Michael Parker. The master class will be at 4 p.m. in Bush Auditorium and the reading will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Bush Auditorium.
The third week of Winter With the Writers literary festival welcomes Alan Michael Parker! Both a novelist and a poet, Parker has authored three novels ( Whale Man, Cry Uncle, and Committee on Town Happiness ) and seven collections of poetry ( Days Like Prose, The Vandals, Love Song With Motor Vehicles, A Peal of Sonnets, Elephants & Butterflies, Ten Days, and Long Division ). Parker also served as the editor of The Imaginary Poets, a collection of poetry centered around the discovery of inner creativity. His works have been published in numerous journals, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, and The Believer. Additionally, his literary masterpieces have earned him several awards including three Pushcart Prizes, the Mid-American Review's Fineline Prize, the 2013 Randall Jarrell Award, the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the 2012 North Carolina Book Award ( which he won for his poetry collection, Long Division ). Whale Man became a finalist in the 2011 Foreword Review's "Book of the Year Award." The editors of 2013 Best American Essays named his piece "Beach House as Nostalgia Museum" a notable essay of the year. His works fuse humor, reality, and wonder into poetic and literary beauty.
Come join us on Thursday, February 20 for Alan Michael Parker's master class at 2 p.m. in Winter Park Plaza Room 330, and 7:30 p.m. for a joint reading with Laura van Den Berg in Bush Auditorium.
The second week of the 2014 Winter With the Writers literary festival saw the arrival of Justin Cronin, author of The Passage and The Twelve. These are the first two books in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic vampire novels, but don't use the "v-word" around Cronin. "When I wrote The Passage," he said in the Q&A following his reading, "I wasn't writing about vampires; I was writing about people. I wanted to explore love and loss, themes I'd written about before in my literary fiction, but wondered what it might be like to experience them in such a forbidding setting, while trying to do something like raise a child or work a job."
Mr. Cronin is the kind of person who is genuinily interested in people, of both the fictional and real variety. During our time with him, it quickly became apparent to us that the energy and story-telling talent that fill his books aren't just present in his writing- they came out naturally in conversation with him as well.
He was brimming with anecdotes about how his childhood love of science-fiction and fantasy helped shape him as a writer. He began his master class with a joke about literary agents, which relaxed the audience ( and the interns ) and helped them to enjoy the workshop. It's no secret that writing workshops can be nerve-wracking for those having their work examined, but Mr. Cronin made sure to put everyone at ease while still providing incredibly useful and incisive commentary. He used his commments on individual students' pieces to teach the pacing and structure of the short-story in general. All the while, he was striding across the stage, filling a white board several times over with useful notes, and purposefully falling to the floor, sending his papers and glasses flying, in order to illustrate a point about how a character should react to a shock.
In the evening, in front of a full auditorium, he gave a reading from The Passage giving the backstory of one of the book's main characters. The reading lasted about forty-five minutes, but like the master class I checked the time at the end and was astounded at how quickly it had passed.
In short, Mr. Cronin was an absolute joy to be around from beginning to end, and I think I speak for all the interns when I say I learned a huge amount about short-story structure- all while enjoying myself. Here's to the end of a wonderful second week of the Winter With the Writers 2014 season.
With the first week of Winter With the Writers completed, we press on excitedly to the arrival of the next visiting author. Our second week features best-selling author Justin Cronin who had created quite the stir around campus. His work includes Mary and O'Neil, for which he received the Pen/Hemmingway award and the Stephen Crane prize, and The Summer Guest, The Passage, and The Twelve. The last two are part of a trilogy that explores a new twist on a post-apocalyptic world, with the last installment, The City of Mirrors, being published in 2014.
The Passage and The Twelve were #2 and #3 respectively on the New York Times hardcover fiction best-sellers list in 2010 and 2012. In an interview with The Daily Beast, Cronin says that the idea for The Passage resulted from a dare issued by his 8-year-old daughter: to write a book about a girl who saves the world. The switch from literary fiction to genre fiction wasn't a hard one for Cronin, and he attributes his ability to what he calls, "the many moods of Justin."
In Bush Auditorium, Justin Cronin will be running a master class that is open to the public at 4 pm on Thursday, February 13th, followed by a reading at 7:30 pm. There will be a question and answer session following the reading as well as a chance to have books signed by Mr. Cronin. We hope that the community will join Winter With the Writers in welcoming Justin Croninc to our campus.
Justin Cronin is also the 2014 Winter With the Writers Bachelor's Chair and will be conducting a one credit creative writing workshop for a handful of students on February 14th and 15th.
The Winter With the Writers 2014 season couldn't have started with a better man, poet Charles Simic. The former Poet Laureate was friendly and charming, with a wealth of anecdotes that had us all laughing at his reception and lunch the following day.
That's all well and good, but it was his vast knowledge of poetry- the mechanics, diction, syntax- that made the master class such a wonderful experience. He didn't skirt the flaws presented in the interns' poems; he delivered the problems poignantly, matter-of-factly- "This doesn't work, and here's why..."- and it was all done with the utmost respect. I remember Charles Simic's wonderful statement on the task of a poet: "A good poem has elements of a trap. You must captivate, enchant." He even went on to compare a good poem to the art of joke telling- the the writer must "bring the reader in and then twist and turn expectations in new and sophosticated ways." I believe every writer left the master class with a better understanding of the work and patience that is essential to creating poems that will last.
Charles Simic concluded the day with a wonderful reading. The poems he chose spanned the length of his considereable career- all displaying his uncanny ability to traverse dark landscapes that can take the reader down a playfully comedic road or one of freshness and insight, of seeing the world differently.
We certainly had one of the greats visit Rollins College during the first week of Winter With the Writers. It will be something that I doubt I'll ever forget, and I can only wonder what excitement lies in store for all of us in the coming weeks.
The time has come for Winter With the Writers to begin its 76th year of bringing wonderfully acclaimed authors to Rollins College. The festival kicks off Thursday, February 6th with a reading by the inspired and renowned poet Charles Simic. The interns have been eagerly awaiting Simic's arrival since reading his Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry collection, The World Doesn't End, and his most recent collection of poems, New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012.
Charles Simic's poetry exhibits a familiarity with subject matter ranging from table utensils to insomnia and war-torn prose. His tone swings from witty to dark and melancholic. In a New York Review of Books articles title "Why I Still Write Poetry," Simic described his poetry as something like chess, saying that "they depend for their success on word and image being placed in proper order and their endings must have the inevitability and surprise of an elegantly executed checkmate." He succeeds in creating complex and thought-provoking poems that inspire. On judgement from his peers, Charles Simic said people would "hope to hear me say that I've come to my senses and given up the foolish passion of my youth." He motivates people to pursue the dream of writing through his hard work and dedication to the craft.
Please join Winter With the Writers and Charles Simic on Thursday, February 6th for a 4 pm Master Class and a 7:30 pm Reading.