Category: Summer Arts Festival

Here are some of the books recommended during the Summer Arts Festival creative writing class. This list will be added to in the future. Participants: if you have books that should be added, contact me.

Books on Writing

Writing Brave and Free  by Ted Kooser and Steve Cox
The Pen and the Bell by Brenda Miller and Holly Hughes
The Mindful Writer by Dinty Moore
Turning Life Into Fiction by Robin Hemley
The Making of a Poem by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland
The Writing Habit by David Huddle
Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
The Mind’s Eye by Kevin Clark
Tell it Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola
Bone Deep in Landscape by Mary Clearman Blew
Writing the Sacred into the Real by Alison Hawthhorne Deming

Other Books (Alaskan, Instructors, Participants)

Leaving Resurrection by Eva Saulitis
Steam Laundry by Nicole Stellon O’Donnell
Double Moon by Margo Klass and Frank Soos (Creative Writing instructors in the past)
A Measure’s Hush by Anne Coray
The Poet’s Guide to the Birds Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser
The City Beneath the Snow by Marjorie Cole
The Rabbits Could Sing by Amber Flora Thomas
The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife by Joan Kane
Just Breathe Normally by Peggy Shumaker
The Farther Shore by Rob Davidson
Ohio Blue Tips by Jeanne E. Clark
Gorrill’s Orchard by Jeanne E. Clark
Field Observations by Rob Davidson
Bicycling Beyond the Divide by Daryl Farmer

Note that the deadline for the Ode to a Dead Salmon contest is approaching!

Peggy ShumakerA very quick post today, as I have to take off at noon tomorrow. Our first teacher this morning was Peggy Shumaker, the state poet laureate and for many years in charge of the creative writing program, which she initiated. She passed around a number of books by Alaskan authors. She then handed out a poem, “Forms of Love,” by Kim Addonizio, and challenged us to write a poem using the words “I love you” and making them fresh. Peggy will be giving the sampler class tomorrow afternoon, where we will have a number of additional students for a single afternoon. She will also teach for an hour Friday, but I won’t be able to make either. If I have time, I’ll add her additional book recommendations to the list that will go up Thursday.

Rob discussed the importance of titles, pointing out that they may supply a hook, give information, location, or theme, establish tone or create expectation. He handed out a poem by James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” as an example of a poem where the title give information critical to understanding the poem. He listed a number of other Wright titles that do similar work.

As an in-class assignment he gave us a number of titles, and challenged us to write a poem fitting the title. His list was:
Can You Feel It?
Don’t Think About it Anymore
Family Mistakes
Guys Like That
How to Hurt Them
I Am Born
The Kindergarten Teacher
Little Sister
My Father’s Women
No Sleep For You, Baby
Places I Might Be Going
Rainy Morning, September 17th
Something to Remember Me By
Thank You For Saving My Life
Ugly Children
Where Are You Taking Me?
You Must Relax!
The Zodiac

Jeanne revisited the Viet Nam poem from yesterday, and handed out a new one: “the Unwritten” by W. S. Merwin. She had us take the objects we brought as part of today’s assignment, get inside the object and let it get inside you, and write a piece in the present tense.

Home Play assignments in all cases were to complete the drafts started in class.

In the afternoon, we each read something we had written and then, in honor of Bill Kloefkorn, met at Hot Licks for ice cream..

Today was Deryl’s last day, as he is leaving for a conference tomorrow. Peggy is back, and will be taking his slot.

Deryl  Farmer whacking a mole.

During the break.

He read several of our “stories” from yesterday, with five people each adding a line.

He then handed out three short-short stories for us to read. Ever have one of those moments when you are sure that particular piece of paper must be with the rest, and it isn’t? That’s me, today. In fact all of my handouts seem to be missing. I’ll have to borrow the handouts from someone tomorrow and put in the exact names of the stories and poems.

As an in-class writing assignment, he then had us write a short piece on our first job, including a single incident and a surprise turn. (I’ll put mine in comments.)

The session ended with what has become a tradition at the creative writing class: a game of Whack-A-Mole.

Rob talked about openings. I learned a new word: profluence, or moving the story forward. He pointed out that dialogue is one thing that moves at the pace of the story, neither speeding up nor slowing down. But we were cautioned to avoid “talking heads;” dialogue needs to be interspersed with action to put the reader in the story. He used as an example “Westland,” by Charles Baxler. As homeplay, we are to write a scene between two characters.

Jeanne mentioned several mindful writing books brought by Peggy. I’ll post the list to go live on Thursday, since I won’t have time to post Thursday or Friday.  As homeplay we are each to bring in an object that has an interest or value to us. We spent most of the session discussing a poem by Yusef Komuyakaa, “Facing It,” about the Viet Nam War Memorial. (No, I can’t find that handout either, but I googled the poem.)

Afternoon was individual conferences. I gave Rob the first few pages of each of the three books of my trilogy. The one I’ve worked hardest on he said needed more grounding—i.e., I’ve cut too much. I think I see how to fix it.

Our first class was with Deryl, who discussed structure as five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. He illustrated with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As an exercise, he had us reach write an exposition in one sentence, pass it to the person on their right who then had to write the rising action in one sentence, and so on until we had a number of sheets, each written by five people. The results will be read (cringe) tomorrow.

Jeanne Clark and Rob Davidson

Jeanne and Rob in our classroom. This was not flash, hence the blur.

Rob had us read things we wrote out over the weekend. For home play we are to write an opening paragraph.

Jeanne read us “5th Grade Autobiography” by Rita Dove. She then handed out two poems: “Catching Songs,” by Robert Childers and “Elegy Ending in a Dream,” by Patrick Phillips. She had us tell her as many things as we could about the second poem and got almost a board full of responses. This was a “call and response” poem, with the first line of each couplet starting with “I thought” and the second line showing (usually rather obscurely) some difference in feeling now. The second lines are in present tense, the first in past tense. Our home play assignment is to take something or someone you have been unable to write about and write 5 or 6 couplets about it, using the call-response format with the first line of each couplet starting with “I thought.”

Sheila Sanderson

Sheila Sanderson in class. Again blurred because I was using available light in an underground classroom.

We had a guest for the afternoon session: Sheila Sanderson, editor of Alligator Juniper and author of Keeping Even, a collection of her poems. She read us a number of her poems: “Never and Always,” “The Stopping Place,” “High Desert Arizona,” “Barefoot along the North Atlantic,” “Rift Valley,” “Conspiracy in White,” “Keeping Even” (the title poem) and “Only One Place to be: Hell or Kentucky.”

She then gave us “Ode to the Maggot,” by Yusef Komunyakaa, and as an exercise had us write either an ode to the unlovely, or to think of something for which you have a particular fondness and note details as to why you are fond of it, and then use those details to write a piece “In disgust of_____.”

After that she gave us two poems allegedly written on odd things: “Written on the Stub of the First Paycheck,” by William Stafford, and “Poem Written on the Back of Bad Directions to Your House,” by Jason Fitschen. A third poem, “This is Just to Say,” by William Carlos Williams, was an example of an apology for something you weren’t really sorry for. As a second class exercise she had us write either a poem supposedly written on some strange thing or an insincere apology.

Tomorrow afternoon will be our individual conferences with the instructors, and the afternoon after that will be class participants’ readings (6 to 8 minutes each.)

9:27 pm: Don Gray just e-mailed me and asked me to include this link: which refers to anaphora as a technique in rhetoric.

Me on pony at 4Daryl had us each bring in a photograph of ourselves as a child. We were then to write what we, as that child, would say to an adult. One of my photographs was pre-verbal, of both hands crammed into the icing of my first birthday cake, but I know perfectly well what I’d said shortly after the second. I didn’t want to get off of that pony!

Rob gave us an essay he had published in the Oct/Nov 2000 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle, “On Emotional Investment & the Objective Correlative.” He also recommended “Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg” by Richard Hugo.

He then gave us this exercise (in class):

Write a one-page description (approx 250 words) of one of the following:

Describe a landscape as seen by an old woman whose disgusting and detestable old husband has just died. Do not mention the husband or death.

Describe a lake as seen by a young man who has just committed murder. Do not mention the murder.

Describe a landscape as seen by a bird. Do not mention the bird.

Describe a building as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war. Do not mention the son, war, death, or the old man doing the seeing. Then describe the same building, inn the same weather, at the same time of day, as seen by a happy lover. Do not mention the love or the loved one.

Concentrate on selecting concrete, particular details and images that convey the particular emotion experienced by the character through whose eyes the reader sees the landscape.

Jeanne recommended essays on “How a Poem Happens,’ but when I googled that, the main thing I found was a blog. Jeanne, help! Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, by Jane Hirshfield, was easier to find.

She then had us take our list from yesterday on “How to write a Paula Bohince Poem” and try to write one. She also handed out a list of suggestions for our planned afternoon trip to the Georgeson Botanical Garden.


DelphiniuumLunch bites had two readers from creative writing. Jeanne read several poems from her book, Gorrill’s Orchard. I read a scene from the middle book of the trilogy I’m working on.

I have to admit I did more photographing than writing at the gardens. But watch out for blog posts on some of the plants they’re growing!

Today we started with Deryl’s handout on humor and a video clip on David Sedaris reading on Letterman’s snow.

The basic techniques in Deryl’s handout were:
Word play and puns
Tweaking cliches
Satire and Parody
Awkward situation
Strange settings

He had us try to write a humorous piece in the 10 minutes or so we had left. I think he was the one who handed out “Waltzing the Cat” by Pam Houston, which we were to read for tomorrow.

Rob discussed the writer’s view of himself and gave us two handouts: “Borges and I” by Gorge Luis Borges and “Updike and I” by John Updyke. He also read us “Rob and I” from his own writing. Home Play? Here’s the handout.

Rob Davidson  FSAF Summer 2012

 Authorial Self-Reflection

As we have seen with Borges and Updike, writers have been known to use themselves—or their public personae—as material for literature.  Indeed, the idea of “textualizing” the author and/or the creative process presents a writer with a unique set of possibilities.  By textualizing the creative process and turning the lens of creative writing onto itself, we are invited to reconsider: how readers negotiate a creative text; the construction of authorship; and the reflexive nature of all creative expression. (And so much more!)

IN-CLASS ASSIGNMENT: Write a 1-2 page character sketch in which you examine yourself as a creative writer, confront some issue of substance related to creative writing, and/or textualize the creative process.  Some questions to help get you started:

  • Who is it that sits down to write?
  • Why does that person write? (Be honest.)
  • What style or manner of writing does that person create? Why?
  • Does that person have any goals as a writer? Does she want to save the world? Destroy it? Or does she just want to create pretty objects to decorate book shelves? Perhaps none of the above?
  • Has your writing ever offended anyone? Pleased anyone? If so, how did that make you feel?
  • And so on…

Jeanne had us discuss “Snowy River Visions, by Paula Bohince in pairs, each pair coming up with ten things about the poem, which we were to organize as “How to write a Paula Bohince poem,” and email the list to her: bellestargang at gmail dot com. She also handed out “Thirteen ways of looking at a Blackbird”.” Jeanne, you didn’t put the author on that one.

Accordion PlayersThe noon Lunch Bites included a large group of accordion players playing together, some with button boxes and some with keyboards, which is apparently rather unusual. As I understand it, the button boxes are designed like a harmonca: they give different notes depending on whether the bellows are being compressed or expanded. Something new I learned at Festival!

It was also a day for readings. Rob read “Walter: Six Meditations” which combined six short pieces with slides, at lunch bites. Later, in the afternoon session of creative writing, all three of our instructors read from their own writing. Makes me nervous about reading from my own work at lunch bites tomorrow!

It’s only three days into the festival, and already I am getting confused as to which handout goes with which day. Please correct me if I give the wrong assignments.

Daryl discussed introduction by mapping, using mapping, with Eaven Boland’s Object Lessons as an example. His assignment:

Rob handed out a character essence sheet used by actors, and suggested we fill it out for a character in our fiction writing. The one I scanned was the one I filled out, but you should get the idea. We also discussed “Three Soldiers” by Bruce Holland Rogers.

Jeanne suggested we read “The Time” by Naomi Shihal-Nye, “Loading the Boar” by David Lee and “Let Evening Come” by Jane Kenyoon. The last she identified as a specific type of list poem, a litany poem. This is a series of petitions. She had us write a first draft of a litany poem in class, with “Let” starting each sentence. Our Home Play was to revise this draft into stanzas of three lines each, with particular attention to the way the words sound.

Lunch Bites was the children’s day, which is always fun.

In the afternoon we had a guest instructor, Nicole Stellon O’Donnell, who just published her first book of poetry, Steam Laundry. These are persona poems, based on the letters of an early resident of Fairbanks. She spoke about persona poems, and and handed out some pages from Bite Every Sorrow, by Barbara Ras, as examples of persona poems in the voices of animals and inanimate objects. She then had us each write a persona poem using a persona which was not a person. (I used a computer.)

Brown bear

This guy was in the museum (which was a very different place then) when I arrived in Fairbanks 49 years ago.

Today we started out with Daryl and a lyric essay, “Joyas Voladoras” by Brian Doyle. The essay on its surface contrasted hummingbirds and whales, but it was really about hearts. Our Home Play was to write an lyric essay on a pair of opposites. All we really had time for in class was to select our opposites.

Rob had us read and discuss “Mother” by Grace Paley. as a contrast to the piece about a father he head us yesterday. Home Play is to draft the fist page of a reflective narrative, baying attention to structure and the repetitive elements. He urged us to trust the reader to fill in the gaps. He suggested the iceberg reference in Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon. He also suggested, very strongly, that we look at Robert Paul Lamb, Art Matters.

Jeanne gave out several catalog poems, two of which we discussed in class. “Note Slipped Under a Door” by Charles Simic was discussed as an example of place, while “Jubilate Agno” by David Lee as a tribute to Christopher Smart, was a humorous piece about the sow Blacula (after Dracula.)

We were also given a number of “jumpstarts” for our trip to the museum, which took up most of the afternoon. I mostly took ideas and pictures. I may put one of the pictures up on the post this evening, but right now I’m taking advantage of the WiFi at the local Mac store and have no way of getting the pictures from the camera to the computer. So I’m heading to Wolf Run for supper (thus frying my diabetic diet, as I have my mouth set for beef Wellington) after which I’ll go to hear our instructors at the Writers Guild meeting.

Update: as of almost 10:30 at night I have been to the Alaska Writers meeting and uploaded one of my museum photos. The regular Wednesday quote context blog is scheduled for tomorrow morning, but I will put up another SAF post tomorrow evening.

I’m off for the second day of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Between the museum and the Writers Group this evening it’s going to be a busy day. I’ll try to get a post on content up this afternoon, but here are a couple of scans I didn’t get up yesterday:

First is the overall Festival schedule, if you live in interior Alaska and want to attend any of the performances:Click to enlarge to make it more readable.

Next is a sample Lunch Bites program:

Lunch Bites programSorry I can’t get today’s program, but they’re finalized at the last minute. I know I’ve volunteered for a reading on Friday July 20. Again for local residents, the University is allowing free parking during Lunch Bites, though good luck on finding a space.

Finally, our instructor’s take on how creative non-fiction can be broken down.Breakdown of Creative Non-fiction

I’m lazy.

I also have homeplay to do, so rather than retype the things that were handed out today in the first day of the creative writing class, I’m going to scan them. If the type is too small to read, click on the image and you’ll get a larger version.

Homeplay? Well, this is a class were the rule has always been, your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is….  So this year it was officially renamed homeplay.

The schedule was handed out, and I’ll put it here for reference.schedule p 1schedule p 2schedule p 3schedule p 4

Rob Davidson

Rob Davidson

Rob Davidson started us out by reading the story “Reunion,” by John Cheever. We discussed the story, and he assigned as homeplay that we experiment with 1st person reflective narrative. Via Email: Reading: John Cheever’s short story “Reunion”

Home Play: Write a 1-2 page first-person reflective narrative with some attention to structure & repetition.

Jeanne Clark

Jeanne Clark

Jeanne Clark discussed lists in literature and daily life, ranging from Homer’s catalogue to the humble shopping list. She had us read a couple of catalogue poems, and as homeplay assigned us to start a catalogue poem. (I know what I’m going to use.) Via email after I finished this: Readings: list “poem” by Kato Indians from Technicians of the Sacred, ed. Jerome Rothenberg; list/excerpts from The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch; “Next to Me,” poem by Jeanne E. Clark

Home Play: write a draft of a list/catalogue poem, stacking & arranging images & details.

Daryl Farmer

Daryl Farmer

Daryl Farmer, who’ll be teaching nonfiction, discussed the line between fiction and non-fiction, as well as the art of revision. He said that non-fiction writing (and to a large extent fiction) is a blend of memory, observation and internalzation, and that the line between fiction and non-fiction can be blurry. The one thing we must not do is break whatever contract with the reader we have made. He handed out a sheet on forms of nonfiction prose (we decided my popular science writing falls under nature) and a packet (of which I scanned only the index page) on revision. I’ll put those up later, on a less scan-heavy post. His homeplay assignment was written out, so I’ll put in a scan of it.assignment I also have this via email: Readings: untitled excerpt from Winding Roads by Joy Harjo; excerpts from Boys of My Youth by Joanne Beard

Home Play: read “In the Current” by Joanne Beard; write in response to the memory prompts on the handout by Joanne Beard.

Revision Session.  Afternoon.

Readings: Daryl’s handout; Rob’s revision essay in Psychology Today <;.

I’m looking forward to the museum tomorrow, but it’s going to be a busy day – our faculty will be speaking at the Alaska Writers Guild meeting tomorrow, so I’ll try to post from the campus before the meeting.