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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Let the Mini Writing Staycation countdown begin!

Interview by Halie Rosenberg

Happy 2011! Hopefully by the time you read this, your champagne hangover has dwindled and you've taken a few minutes to set goals for 2011. I'm not psychic, but I bet that if you're reading this blog, one or more of your resolutions has to do with trying out a writing class, writing more in 2011, or finishing a writing project. Make those goals a reality this year by joining us at Writing Pad this weekend for the Mini Writing Staycation with the fabulous Judy Reeves.

Judy's book "A Writer's Book of Days" was named one of the "hottest writing books" by Writer's Digest. She has been a writing instructor for 20 years and has taught creative writing at The Ink Spot, University of California-San Diego, California State University-Fullerton as well as many other venues.

Here are the fantastic events and classes that we have planned for Judy's LA visit. Sign up for one class, one day, or the entire Mini Staycation. Spaces are limited and going fast. Call 323-333-2954 ASAP to study with this amazing, renowned teacher! Below is a little bit about Judy's background and this weekend's Mini Writing Staycation!

When/how did you first discover you were a writer?
I'm eight years old, in third grade, and I'm writing sentences that use our spelling words. I get that feeling . . . you know the one--when you're so into what you're doing that you become what you're doing. It was the first time that I felt that. And then my teacher said, "Here are some of Judy's sentences," in a way that made me feel so good! I've been writing sentences ever since.

How often do you write now? What are you currently working on?
I write most mornings, at least five out of seven, and sometimes later in the day, too. I'm on a third draft of a novel that I started a few years ago. I took time out last year to do the revised edition of "A Writer's Book of Days" and am stumbling my way back into my novel.

What's your favorite aspect of writing?
When I get that eight year old, third grade feeling and lose myself in the process. And when really surprising things happen that I could not have planned or thought up.

What literary accomplishment are you most proud of?
Twelve years ago, I wrote the first edition of "A Writer's Book of Days," my first book. I'd never written a book before and didn't really know what I was doing. But I had a vision of it, how it would be, and with the help of a great editor, it became even more than what I imagined. Co-founding two nonprofit literary organizations is pretty high on my list of accomplishments. I also started a Brown Bag Writing Group that is still going strong after 17 years.

How did you start teaching writing?
I'd been leading writing groups for several years, and that morphed into teaching writing. It started with a feeling of "hey, look what I found out about writing" and wanting to share that.

What is your teaching style?
I try to create a safe, friendly, non-threatening environment where we work together and support one another. I encourage explorations, questions, and learning from the masters. I use lots of writing exercises. I try to make classes and workshops fun. I believe that we should take our work seriously, but not ourselves.

What is one thing that you hope to impart to all your students?
That they can trust their own voice, and the way to find that voice is to write, write, and write some more. The craft of writing can be taught, but not the art. Find the passion. And READ!

What is a common misconception that you see less experienced writers thinking/believing?
That they're not good writers. That they don't have a "voice." That they can write a novel in six months. Or that, once they sell their novel, they'll come into a pile of money and can quit their day job. Under-confidence or over-confidence.

What prompted you to write your book, "A Writers Book of Days"?
It came out of my writing practice groups (Brown Bag, Thursday Writers, Writing Marathons). After five years of leading these groups several times a week, I saw what a difference having a writing practice made for those who were regular practitioners and how a simple writing prompt could evoke such creative, spontaneous writing. I wanted to share this with a larger audience than I could reach in person. My original idea was to create a daily calendar so writers could make an appointment for their writing practice and use a daily prompt to get started. It evolved into a book.

What writers influence you?
Pretty much whomever I'm reading at the time. Lorrie Moore is on my bedside table right now, Michael Cunningham is on next on my list. Annie Dillard is a forever model--I love a writer who sends me to the dictionary and who is so goddamn smart. Toni Morrison because she's so original and authentic, and her writing is filled with heat. Joan Didion for her clarity and brilliance. John Steinbeck for his humanity. I grew up on Mark Twain. For my teachers: Tom Spanbauer (Do you know him? His writing hits you in the heart, close to the hurt place.), and Janet Fitch opened the gates of the universe for me. There are so many! I also love to read poetry and have it read to me.

Why did you and Marilyn decide to make your class series a "Staycation?" What's the benefit to dedicating a whole weekend to writing?
Any time a writer can immerse herself in writing for a concentrated period of time or focus on a particular project, she's able to go deeper. It has to do with focus, concentration, but also opening up. After a weekend writing intensive, you can feel the folds of the brain opening and language and ideas tumbling out. A weekend devoted to writing is also a way to honor yourself and your work!

I can't wait for the Staycation myself. I hope to see all of you there! Call 323-333-2954 to sign up.

1 comment:

Writing Pad said...

Great article, Halie! I'm so excited that Judy will be coming to LA. I took her classes myself at a writer's conference in San Diego, and loved them. Her feedback on one of my stories was invaluable, and she is an expert on writing craft!