There’s an audacious dialectic to the act of writing. It’s an unrelenting confrontation between one’s finest realizations and most stubborn insufficiencies. Writing is a difficult vocation, but is eased by serious company, similarly engaged.
I’ve convened a writing seminar for early and mid-career professionals who’ve got projects underway or in mind. We meet more or less every third week, as schedules permit, except in high summer.
After a long career of teaching writers, I’m still deeply engaged by the challenges. Hundreds of writers who’ve worked with me have gone on to (or been in the midst of) writing careers, including a handful of Pulitzer-winners and one MacArthur ‘genius’ award-winner. I helped those working with me to realize their specific strengths and to deploy them with deliberation, illuminated by a guiding theory, a sense of process and a toolbox of specific skills.
Our work starts with an inventory of talents, and moves through curating topic choices and identifying and reflecting underlying themes, conceiving and carrying out fieldwork and research to yield notebooks full of narrative, sorting and coding notes, drafting, revising by working with sentences, juxtapositions and digressions, improving descriptions, characterizations, movement through time, structuring, revising and restructuring, understanding the several powers of voice, building projects with the help of editors and allies, working ethically, finding the right agent, getting published, and managing publicity.
Through three decades of teaching—as writer-in-residence at Smith College and at Boston University and at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation—I’ve aspired to find lucid ways of articulating interrelated concepts about writing. My classes develop as vital, engaging alliances that build good work. Workshop members come away with more dynamic and deliberate writing, and assemble editing skills of increased value. Many form ongoing friendships and writing groups. Many articles and books from my workshops end up published. Our work together strengthens the vision, the confidence and the skills to produce produce beautiful work.