Scholarships for Loft Classes

scholarshipIn collaboration with the Lake Region Writers Network, The Loft Literary Center is offering four creative writing classes (starting in April and May, 2015) at four locations in the lakes region: Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Glenwood and New York Mills.

One scholarship in the amount of $100 is available for one applicant for each of the four workshops. On no more than a single page, please submit a short paragraph about your writing journey and your reason for applying to: paul.carneyATminnesota.edu or LRWN Scholarship, c/o Springboard for the Arts, 135 S. Mill St., Fergus Falls, MN 56537.

Scholarship applications must be received no later than March 13, 2015. These scholarships are made possible through the Lake Region Writers Network.

A Message from the LRWN Board

2015 will be a year of re-structuring for the Lake Region Writers Network. Several longtime board members completed their terms in 2014, and for this and other reasons, we will not be putting on a conference or producing a Lake Region Review this year.

This spring we will focus our time and energy on the Loft Classes. Once these classes are up and running, we will direct our focus to what the LRWN might look like in the years to come. We will respond to comments and questions as best we can, but we appreciate your patience over the next few months.

Best regards,
The Board

Loft Classes in Our Region

(This post duplicates the information on our “Online Classes” page, but we want as many visitors to our site to see it as possible.)

Loft logo

This spring the Loft Literary Center in collaboration with the Lake Region Writers Network will be offering hybrid classes (part in-person, part online) in the lakes region. The four classes and their initial in-person meeting dates are

Register for a class (or two!) today and please help us spread the word.

The Loft website has an excellent FAQ explaining how their online classes work: https://www.loft.org/classes/about_online_classes/online_class_faq/.

The Traits of Successful Writers

by Gwendolyn Hoberg

Last January, I read a New York Times op-ed titled “What Drives Success?” It caught my eye because one of the co-authors was Amy Chua, who has received so much attention—praise from some quarters and intense criticism from others—for her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

In “What Drives Success?” Chua and Jed Rubenfeld argue that three traits are common to “the strikingly successful groups in America” (such as Indian-Americans). “The first is a superiority complex—a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality. The second appears to be the opposite—insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. The third is impulse control.”

The essay explains how these traits work, gives examples, and touches on their drawbacks, or “pathologies.” Rather than get into these details, in this post I want to explore how the three traits might lead to success in writing.

A deep-seated belief in your exceptionality. It may not be something we like to admit here in the modest upper Midwest, but I think many and probably even most writers do have this belief, to some degree. Why write if your experiences, opinions, and ideas are no more word-worthy than anyone else’s? Some writers, it’s true, don’t share their work with others, or view the dissemination of their writing as a necessary evil or an afterthought. But successful writers (which could mean many things, certainly) tend to believe that what they have to say is important, valuable, or special. And that’s okay. It needn’t be a slippery slope to arrogance and delusions of grandeur.

Insecurity, a feeling that you or what you’ve done is not good enough. This we Minnesotans and North Dakotans can handle. “Oh, this poem is nothing special.” “I’ve been working on my memoir for ages but I don’t think it will ever be any good.” Many writers I know (and I’ve felt this way myself) not only say things like this but really mean them—really brood on them and get worked up over them. The key is to let insecurity drive you to work harder and smarter, not allow it to cripple you or deter you. Take Ernest Hemingway’s word for it: “The first draft of anything is shit.” Revise! Strive!

Impulse control. Every writer has her own undesirable impulses. Maybe it’s over-punctuation. Maybe it’s boring digressions. The possibilities are plentiful. So successful writers also put on the editor hat at times and resist their particular temptations. Spontaneity in writing can be fruitful as well as enjoyable, but it usually works out better when balanced somewhere along the way with impulse control.

In your writing experience, have these traits led to success? Do you disagree with what I’ve written, or think other traits are more important? These questions might be a good ones for a writers group or writing class discussion.

Author’s Bio: Gwendolyn Hoberg is the owner of Content & Contour, an editing and writing business based in Moorhead, Minnesota. Gwen writes for the Classical Minnesota Public Radio website and regional publications. She is also the co-author of The Walk Across North Dakota, a travel memoir based on hikes in 2011 and 2013. In addition to her editing and writing, Gwen has played french horn in ensembles throughout Minnesota and North Dakota and currently performs with the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

Writing Is Messy

by Ann Schwalboski

Writing isn’t pretty. It’s messy. Writers gush guts and tears. We puke… we dry heave… we ooze… words… and most of the time not in the right order. Yes, writing is messy, but isn’t it also… fun? Who else but writers hears voices yet understands that’s just our characters telling us their story? Who else but writers wakes up in the middle of the night and fumbles for pen, paper to jot down the best idea EVER? Who else but writers enjoys digging and picking through the muck of misplaced words, incoherent phrases, and indecipherable dialogue to find just the right (or write?) word, action, scene, plot, setting?

Yes, writing is messy. Revision is clean. Revision is where we wipe off the muck, pound foreheads against blocks, agonize… until we finally discover, locate just the right—

Wait…
Why can’t I gush, puke, heave, ooze…

Write more… mess?

Revision… finding the right everything…
That’s work.
I wanna go play!

Writing is messy.
Go!
Make a mess!

Author’s Bio: Ann Schwalboski teaches Developmental English and College Composition (Online) for M State–Fergus Falls, Writing for the Workplace and Technical Communication (Online) for MSUM, and Speech for Herzing University Online. She also works as a remote writing consultant for Ashford University. She wishes everyone happiness in messiness!

 

The Servant Girl & The Mistress

In 1941, divorce lawyers insisted that Henri Matisse put all his art into storage. In photographs of Matisse before 1941 we see him in his studio surrounded by his artwork. Then, rather suddenly the walls were empty. At this same time, Matisse, who was 71 years old, underwent surgery and was then confined to a wheelchair. His painting career came to an end. Imagine him, sitting in a wheelchair surrounded by the white walls of his studio.

Matisse is on my mind because I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art to see the special exhibit of his work that is on loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art. On display in several rooms are paintings, sculpture, prints, and his book Jazz.

Matisse took up a pair of scissors – or, let us say shears, an old-fashioned word, but closer to what Matisse was doing: as he put it, painting by cutting up paper. Scissors is related to chisel; whereas shear is related to cut, separate. He could sit in his wheelchair and cut shapes out of brightly colored paper. It is probably these paper cutouts that most of us know Matisse by. He’d sit in his chair with pieces of bright paper and cut shapes, letting the paper fall away onto the floor around him, until he was surrounded by mosaic.

Many of the cutouts we know come from Jazz, a book of cutouts that Matisse paired with text in his open, curvaceous, and playful script. He began this project intending to illustrate a series of poems by a French poet on themes of the circus or the theater. How delightful that, while his body was uncooperative, his mind and his hands could imagine acrobats and clowns. He abandoned the poet’s verses and instead wrote his own messages.

On one of the pages he wrote:

If I have confidence in my hand which draws, it is because when I was training it to serve me I resolved never to let it overshadow my feelings. I am very aware if there is any disagreement between the two of us: between my hand and that undefinable part of me that seems subjugated to it.

The hand is but an extension of sensitivity and intelligence. The more it is supple, the more it is obedient. Never should the servant girl become the mistress.

The artist, Henri Matisse, at a ripe age, forced to give up the means of expression he’d depended upon for decades, had a supple hand. He could turn it to his purposes—make it obey—no matter whether it was grasping brush or shears. What does this mean, this business of suppleness, of obedience.

Carry water long enough and you do not splash, your shoulders rise to the labor. Pluck strings and you grow callouses, your fingers know where to land and they do not complain.

The artist, by making every day, by putting the hand to work, builds up a relationship between brain and hand, between imagination and sable dipped in carmine, in which the hand carries out whatever the brain calls upon it to do, without hesitation. And the hand does it without complaint.

This suppleness, this obedience – can the writer claim it too?

Someone who sits down to write a sonnet for the first time does not enjoy the suppleness and obedience that Matisse speaks of. In fact, this writer begins to sweat when she has written a line that’s short one iamb and she can find nothing to complete the line. Or she bleeds because she must rhyme with “oat” and boat/coat/moat take her away from the poem so she bleeds more. She has become the slave herself, slave to the rhythm, slave to the rhyme.

My first book of poems is a collection of fibonaccis – all poems that follow the same form: if you count the syllables of each line you get the fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13). I remember writing the first fibs, stopping to count syllables, asking whether the number of syllables met the rule. But after awhile I did not have to count any more; I felt the pattern. My hand had become supple and obedient.

It is perhaps no wonder that so many writers stick with a form over a long period. The beginning sweaty, bleeding time has its excitements—a frisson of danger. But the creative full-body experience only comes later, when the hand has become the servant.

Here are a few books by poets who stayed with a form, kept at it until their shoulders rose to the task, until their fingers knew the patterns:

Dream Songs, John Berryman

Kyrie, Ellen Bryant Voigt

All Night Lingo Tango, Barbara Hamby

American Sonnets, Gerald Stern

Please, add to the list in the comment section below.

Author’s Bio.: Athena Kildegaard writes poetry mostly, but she has also written short stories, scripts for television, columns, and nonfiction. Her books of poetry are Rare Momentum (2006), Bodies of Light (2011), both from Red Dragonfly Press, and Cloves & Honey (2012) from Nodin Press. Her poems appear widely in literary journals and anthologies. She has received grants from the Lake Region Arts Council and the Minnesota State Arts Board and the LRAC/McKnight Fellowship. She is a lecturer at the University of Minnesota, Morris.  Check out her blog/website at http://athenakildegaard.com/.