Workshops cultivate art of writing

American novelist, memoirist and screenwriter Connie May Fowler is leading a writers’ workshop on Andros for the Aegean Arts Circle. Fowler has written four novels and a memoir. Her work has won numerous awards and been translated into 15 languages. She is the Irving Bacheller Professor of Creative Writing at Rollins College, Florida. Kathimerini English Edition asked her about workshops and her own writing. Do you follow a set procedure in your workshops or do you adapt them to the people involved? Having your writing critiqued in a workshop is a very intense experience. Most people who attend workshops are there because they want to learn how to improve their writing. But listening to commentary about one’s own work can be difficult. Because of that, I’ve developed a procedure that is designed to allow the participants – whether they are providing commentary or having their stories critiqued – to engage in an exploration of both the strengths and weaknesses of the writing in a collegial and professional manner. But each workshop has its own personality so I adjust the procedure to meet the individual needs of each workshop attendee. Is there any genre that particularly benefits from being workshopped? All genres of literature benefit from being workshopped. Whether writing poetry, fiction, or non-fiction, we create in solitude but polish our work with the aid of good and trusted readers. The creative writing workshop facilitates both the initial stages of writing (focus, execution) and the final stages (shapeliness, continuity, and the excruciating process of making sure that each word you have chosen is the very best one for communicating your ideas in that particular story or poem). What can fledgling – or experienced – writers expect to gain from a workshop? Attendees should expect all aspects of their writing will be explored. We address the large issues of plot and how the story or poem works as a whole as well as issues of craft (such as point of view, pacing and character development). By the time participants return home, where they will create once more in solitude, they do so having gained a deeper understanding of their work, their skills honed and their creativity heightened. What should he or she bring to the experience, apart from samples of their writing? People should bring an openness to learn. They need to welcome the information they are given in a spirit of intellectual and creative rigor. How was your experience of working with the Aegean Arts Circle? The Aegean Arts Circle is a rare gift. It gives writers the opportunity to gather in a place of awesome beauty – Andros island, a place with a history rich in literature and philosophy – in order to focus on all of the elements of storytelling. Being here reminds me of how important the act of telling our stories truly is. Without stories, our cultures and daily lives are anemic. Being a part of the process of helping people tell their stories with greater vitality is very exciting. It would be interesting if a dialogue could be created through the Aegean Arts Circle between American and Greek writers to explore the richness, contrasts and commonalities between our two cultures. What better place to do that than on Andros? Can you tell us something about your current work? My latest novel, «The Problem with Murmur Lee,» was just published by Doubleday in the United States and will be published in the UK next year. I am working on what is so far a comedic novel that explores a year in the life of a young woman who is recently divorced and whose therapist offers her a wide range of bad advice, including insisting that she get in touch with her inner child even while plunging into the strange world of online dating. The Aegean Arts Circle, run by Amalia Melis, has held writers’ workshops on Andros for the past three summers. Information: [email protected] or [email protected]

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