by Nat Frothingham
Since our beginnings 22 years ago one of our most ardent beliefs has been that almost anyone who can talk can also write.
Over and over again, we have discovered a more than modest writing talent — sometimes a powerful writing talent — coming from teens, elders, adults, from people whose first language is not English, from people who once thought they could never write but had something urgent to say, something they needed to say and write.
Why does the blank paper or the empty screen often shut us down? We worry about failure and feel blocked. Or fear we will be harshly judged. Or think that our stuff isn’t going to be good enough.
If worry and fear of judgment is the “down side” of writer’s cramp — there is also an “up side” of taking a risk and plunging in.
In 1973, British writer and thinker E.F. Schumacher wrote a seminal book, “Small Is Beautiful” — a book that proposed dramatic changes in the way we organize our lives and the economic systems that control much that we do.
Schumacher’s book was like fresh air. He became something of a sensation and he launched himself on a lecture and speaking tour that took him eventually to Vermont.
I heard him speak. I also tape recorded his remarks. Then I listened to that tape and pounded out a word-by-word transcription on my typewriter.
I can’t find the pages of that transcription. But I remember the charming way that Schumacher opened his talk. His lecture tour had taken him to an airport restaurant and he found himself watching a mother and father and their son — a small boy at a nearby table. When the woman who was waiting on the table came to the small boy and asked for his order, the child exclaimed amazed wonder, “She thinks I’m real!”
And that brings us to the “up side” of writing, because what happened to that little boy is what happens to someone who has never written for publication when they open a newspaper or magazine and read the story they have written. Suddenly, they are “real” in a way they haven’t been real before.
They’ve been writing a message to a friend. Or a grocery list, or a personal diary or a student paper. But in publishing they are writing for people they know and don’t know.
Maybe they get stopped in the street and someone says, “I read what you wrote.” Which is gold. Or, “I like what you wrote.” Or, once in a great while, “Your writing changed the way I feel.” Or, “Your writing changed my life.” Which is gold and pearls and diamonds.
The Bridge is offering four (three-hour) writing workshops on four Saturdays this October 3, 10, 17 and 24 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
These workshops will be taught by writers and editors of The Bridge along with one or two guest instructors. Guest instructor Reuben Jackson, who is the host of “Friday Night Jazz” on Vermont Public Radio and a published poet (“Fingering the Keys”) will join us on October 24 to lead a workshop on writing poetry.
Our focus in the other workshops will be storytelling, writing, reading and discussion with the goal of publishing the attendee’s finished work. Our exchanges will be friendly, candid and informal.
We’ll talk about what makes a good story — what makes stories pulsate with life.
We’ll take a look at examples of successful writing with attention to what works and what doesn’t work and what can be done to improve a piece of writing that doesn’t work so that it does work.
We’ll talk about where a writer stands in relation to the story: the writer as historian, reporter, editorialist, opinion-maker and advocate, the writer as reviewer and critic.
In addition to talking about writing, we will be writing. And we’ll be sharing our writing by reading from our writing out loud and discussing what works, what doesn’t work and what could work.
During our fourth and final workshop, poet Reuben Jackson will give us his take on the art of poetry. Jackson taught poetry at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland before moving to Vermont. He is a poet, radio commentator, and music critic who, when he lived in Washington, D.C., was curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Duke Ellington Collection for 10 years. His poems have been published in Gargoyle, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and Indiana Review, and he is the author of a volume of poetry entitled fingering the keys, which won the 1992 Columbia Book Award, according to his bio on writer.org.
More recently (currently), Reuben Jackson is the host of Friday Night Jazz on Vermont Public Radio and his poetry is frequently published in The Bridge.
For further information, contact Carla Occaso or Nat Frothingham at 223-5112. Email email@example.com to register.