Live Write Words

Workshops for Emerging Writers

Welcome to LiveWriteWords!

“I tried to stop writing but couldn’t.”  The result is LiveWriteWords, my effort to help emerging writers or anyone suffering a creativity drain to write better right now. I invite you to read about my background and mission, and hope you will check out memoir, novel, poetry , and golf workshops.

See the 2017-2018 Workshop Schedule and Fees for detailed descriptions of current offerings, plus other writing events.

For more information, please contact me at  Livewritewordsworkshops@gmail.com.

Local writers are invited to the free Thursday afternoon Writers’ Group gatherings at the Lowe House, second & fourth Thursdays every month.  We read and critique.  There’s also another discussion group for Local Historians.  See the post on 2017-2018 Workshop Schedules.

I forgot to add this possible workshop to the new Schedule:

MEMOIR ?  or  NOVEL?

Anyone interested in a one-on-one one day workshop should contact me at my e-mail address.

It could include such  important aspects of fiction, essay, and memoir writing as:
Finding your voice (in the continuum from objective/ discursive/essayist voice to poetic voice);
Plot versus character arc (moving characters through increasingly intense climaxes);
Finding and handling theme (invisible symbolic, metaphoric, mythic, imagistic, and moral levels);
Different organization strategies (orchestrating different voices & ‘chunks’; problems with time);
Revising, rewriting, editing, preparing for publication (versus earlier free-writing and first drafts);
Basics (cogency, correctness, clarity, best word choice, fluidity, sentence structure, tone);
Achieving reader appeal (avoiding condescending or over-writing or under-writing);
Answering hidden questions your prose presents (pulling together unexpected connections);
Keeping a forward flow with structured units  (stop-time; flash forward/backward; repetition).

“The road to artistic mastery is through systematic development of fictional techniques”
John Gardner

 

EDITING ASSISTANCE

Dr. Stephenson will gladly assist with editing for less than the customary $50/hour fee.

 

 

2017-2018 Workshop Schedule and Fees

WRITING WORKSHOP SCHEDULES and FEES   2017, 2018

[For free meetings, see schedule below]           [For descriptions of workshops, see below]

September    21, 22   Finish Your Writing Project   1:00-3:00   $40

October   25, 26     Golf   all day   $15

November   1, 8, 15   Poetry   2:00-5:00   $85  or  $35/day

November   16, 17   Golf   all day    $15

January    3, 10, 17   Memoir   9:00-12:00    $85  or  $35/day

February   17, 18   Memoir or Novel:  Which Are You Really Writing?   9:00-12:00, then break for lunch together and return,  2:00-4:00     $95

March  2,3   Golf  all day   $15

April  14, 15  Finish Your Writing Project  9:00-12:00   $60

May  4, 5   Golf   all day   $15

 

WORKSHOP REGISTRATION, FEES, EXPECTATIONS

Discounts given to attendees bringing another participant.

Please pre-register at my e-mail site (livewritewordsworkshops@gmail.com) at least two days before. No need to pre-pay; bring payment to meetings at the Lowe House.

Fees include donation to keep afloat the non-profit meeting place, Lowe House Project.

Golf fee does not include course green fee.

No fees or pre-registration for free meetings, but a modest donation to the Lowe House is appropriate.

 

FREE WRITING MEETINGS

Creative Writing Group meets twice a month on Thursdays, 4:00-6:00  (this is a continuing small group      for reading and critiquing works in progress).

Dates: 9/21 opening; 10/12; 10/26; 11/9; 12/7 and 2018 to be determined.

History Writers meet monthly on Saturday, 4:00-6:00  (this is a newly formed discussion group).

Dates: 9/30 opening; 10/28; 12/2; 2018 to be determined.

Poetry Alive meets monthly Sunday 4:00-6:00 (a new public forum for reading and listening without critiquing).

Dates: 10/15 opening; 11/12; 2018 to be determined

All free meetings held in the Lowe House, no registration needed.

ALSO check out many other relevant offerings at the Lowe House Project website, (lowehouseproject.com); e.g., Publishing Options on Oct. 11 and Jim Fergus’ reading on December 9.

 

WORKSHOP  DESCRIPTION and ACTIVITIES

Finishing Your Writing Project, 9/21 and 22; plus 4/14 and 15:

Are you stuck?  I currently am, on two different novels.  Maybe you can help me, or we can all help each other.  I’ve got some good ideas about what we need to do, but can’t seem to put them into practice.  Physician, heal thyself.  Anyway, these two-day sessions could create synergistic flow to help take us through our work.  Some things can’t be done alone…so this workshop will include a lot of reading and critiquing. We’ll start by examining the difference between simple closure and denouement, discussing how to move from upswing to downswing on the character/plot arc.  Please bring not only humility and patience to the workshop, but copies of your work.  If you’re too shy to admit you’re having difficulty, come instead to one of the poetry workshops.

 

Golf:  Why Do We Obsess Over the Game?  10/25 and 26; plus 11/16 and 17; plus 5/4 and 5:

Yes, I obsess over it, and No, I still don’t know why.  But after studying M.Scott Peck’s Golf and the Spirit and being encouraged by fellow golfers, I offer this “Playshop” geared to helping us find and give voice to whatever it is that keeps us coming back–braving rain, wind, and cold, not to mention anger, frustration, and disappointment.  Maybe finding answers won’t change our scores, but it might help us enjoy the game even more.  Scott Peck, at any rate, insists there can be a spiritual as well as physical and emotional component to it.  We’ll play in the morning, talk in the afternoon, then maybe go out for dinner.  Our afternoon talks will be jump-started by selections from Peck’s book that I’ll give you. Originally this workshop was to be a male thing, but I’ve been persuaded females should be allowed to join our insanity.  Most of this workshop’s fees will go to help support the non-profit Lowe House, where we may hold our afternoon talks over beer or wine.  Needless to say, we will pay our own green fees and organize into appropriate foursomes.  Our first course will probably be the Tubac Resort, but we could decide to play Kino Springs, Canoa Ranch, or San Ignacio on the second day.

 

Poetry:  What Oft Was Thought but N’er So Well Expressed.  11/1, 8, 15  plus 3/7, 14, 21:

I didn’t start enjoying poetry until after I’d finished my Ph.D. and had started teaching it.  A grad student taught me what it was really all about, and how to write it.  After it stopped being academic and became personal, I fell in love with it.  Now I don’t write poems all the time, like Rumi, but when the fit comes on, I can’t stop; I enjoy rewriting and revising poetry as much as prose.  I hope you like poetry and want to get better at it.  Bring some of yours, especially some you’re working on, to the workshop.  During these three days, we’ll study masters as different as Billy Collins, Richard Wilbur, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Mary Oliver, or Robert Frost, learning their techniques like enjambment, internal rhyme, and sprung rhythm.  We’ll practice reading as well as analyzing, and should cover four important things: what makes a good—or bad—poem; how to speak a poem; parsing and understanding poetry; revising a decent poem into a great poem.

 

Memoir:  Writing from Dark to Light.  1/3, 10, 17:

There will be a few exercises here, but this is mainly a learning workshop.  Learning the different features of the six quite different types of memoirs will help you imitate or exploit.  Maybe more importantly, it will teach you what to avoid.  The subtitle, Writing from Dark to Light, applies to only two of the six types–the most common ones.  People engaged in overcoming grief or tragedy may profit most from this workshop, but even those trying to write a simple family memoir can learn here how to organize or find a theme.  The three weekly meetings should help all emerging writers transform their casual journal entries or random boxes of memories into something that traces a curve of self-discovery.   We’ll spend a lot of time finding your natural voice and rewriting—for that’s where the magic happens.  Writers who have already rewritten and revised multiple times might wish to take the workshop on Finishing the Writing Project instead, and those–like me—who fear they’ve overstepped the bounds of a memoir proper may wish to consider the February workshop on the hybrid memoir…but if you’ve collected too many memories to know where to start, or are having difficulty creating a coherent whole, this may be what you need now.

 

Memoir or Novel: Which Are You Really Writing and Why Does It Matter?    2/17 and 18:

Many writers draw on their own experiences.  All memoir writers try to honestly recreate and understand what happened to them.  Some are writing to learn how life changed them; others, just sharing unusual experiences.  Both kinds of writers wear the t-shirt that says, “It Took Me by Surprise.”  Those who turn their lives into novels wear a different t-shirt that says, “I Make Stuff Up.”  Is it possible to wear two?  I am, and in the process, have learned a lot about the hybrid memoir/novel.  It’s demanding because you need to control different reader expectations.  Which shirt are you wearing—or  both?  If you don’t know, you should.   In this two-day workshop, we will learn how to create and control the different demands of the memoir, the novel, and the hybrid.  The workshop will open with spontaneous writing from prompts—so bring pen and paper (or I-Pad).

 

 

 

 

selections from My Can’t Stop Falling memoir to be published soon

 

Selections from near the beginning and ending of “Can’t Stop Falling/A Caregiver’s Love Story”  to be published this fall.  If you enjoy reading this, please revisit this website in late October of 2017, when I hope to have the memoir available and will be soliciting reviews in exchange for a free copy.

December 1982

Our cabin was situated in the Front Range’s so-called banana belt, but that didn’t mean it escaped serious storms like the famous blizzard of ’82 that blew in on Christmas eve.   It must have fallen all night while we were lost in bed on this our first winter up top. When we opened the front door, our huge Newfoundland jumped out and disappeared.  We followed, cavorting in the fluff that was already three feet deep and coming.  Everywhere we looked the world was covered in white.  We came back in to crank up the stove…not an airtight but just Emily the old-fashioned blue enamel cook stove.  Because the cabin was so small and the thick logs held so much heat, all we had to do was load her after dinner and go to bed.

Christmas morning, alone in the quietly shining wonderland, miles from anywhere.  I didn’t have to run off to work; didn’t have to start building on the big house.  But one of these days, it slowly dawned on me, we’d have to think about going to town for supplies.  I strapped on the snowshoes I’d never learned to use, and Marilyn said she’d have a pile of pancakes waiting when I got back.  Time to check on the damage.

Cuzi tried to follow but got tired of jumping and disappearing.  I got tired of trying to master the stupid snowshoes.  But eventually I made it to the point I was worried about, the place where I’d tried to erect a snow fence that now had blown away or maybe blown under.  For the length of a football field, snow had flown over the top of the treeless ridge to settle six to eight feet deep over the dirt path to our cabin.  No way shovels could help here.  I shook my head and trudged back for pancakes.  We’d worry about what to do later.

Now it was time to open the few gifts under the tree with handmade aluminum ornaments.  It didn’t have lights because our cabin didn’t have electricity…except for a handful of carefully placed tiny bulbs that were precursor to LEDs.  They, plus the dangling kitchen bulb, ran on direct current electricity powered by the photovoltaic panel and batteries.  The pv panel didn’t do much, but we ran the small Honda generator every third day to pump up water and charge the nicad batteries.  We also had candles and an Aladdin lamp powered by kerosene.  The sound of the generator running for forty minutes was about the only sound to break the quiet…except a very rare scream from our resident mountain lion or the chuck-a-chuck of the least weasel who lived under the porch.

Christmas pancakes were tasty, and we sat bundled up on the porch sipping coffee.  It was about 9:00 and all was still.  Suddenly we heard someone whistling.  Singing?  Off in the distance something or someone appeared to be busting through the snow toward our cabin.  Our eyes must be deceiving us; we’d had too much caffeine.  No, it was Santa Claus.  He wasn’t wearing his red suit, just a ski jacket, but he certainly was lugging his big bag of presents over his shoulder.  And his name turned out to be Paul, Marilyn’s son who’d left Denver in the wee hours to share Christmas cheer with us.  How he made it up two miles from his car down below, I never knew.  But here he was, whistling and laughing.

This was the best Christmas of our life.  Paul stayed most of the day and I stopped worrying about the road.  But two days later I had to do something.  I’d dragged my feet getting the snowplow everyone told me I would need since the county refused to plow our roads.  Now even if I had one, it wouldn’t be able to bust through all that snow.  And the snow wouldn’t melt; there was too much shade.  I skied rather than snowshoed down to the main York Gulch road, where friends helped me locate a man with a backhoe who eventually came to relieve me of a mountain of snow as well as $550 that I really didn’t have.  And since it was still December, I still needed to get that snowplow.   Which I did, and learned to use.

 

July, 1984

We’d been living up on the land for four years, even surviving the famous Colorado Blizzard of ‘82.  The small cabin was done, but we were still working on the big house.  All the time managing 2 horses, 80 lop-eared rabbits, 5 ducks and 12 chickens, a dog and cat, and one wild weasel.  We never tried to manage the mountain lion, deer, or elk.
Today we decided to take a break from homesteading to visit the bristlecone pines on Mt. Evans.  They grew half way up the 14,264 foot mountain that we looked toward each morning from our cabin twenty miles away.
The bristlecones turned out to be tall and majestic, not like the scrubby ones at timberline.  But we never got to finish driving the highest paved road in America.  Marilyn suddenly turned to me: “Turn around now!   Something’s wrong! ”
This woman who danced six hours non-stop every Saturday night at Mike’s bar couldn’t be experiencing altitude sickness; we lived at 8,600 feet.
I did turn around, and immediately raced toward the Queen City of the Plains.  I knew Denver better than anyone, having grown up there in the ‘60s.  (Marilyn didn’t, having grown up in Mississippi.)  Before we got to the hospital she turned sheepishly to me: “Maybe it’s a false alarm.”
False alarms I can handle.  We drove to Sim’s Landing, the place for our first date six years ago.  “Hell, we’re still only forty-something,” I told her.  “Doctors are for sissies.”  She smiled.  Then I added, “But thanks for the heads up.  You can never be too careful.”  By the time we got back to the cabin, the problem had disappeared.
Twenty years later I realized Marilyn’s attack had nothing to do with what finally brought her down.  It was probably caused by the gas-fired Servel refrigerator that I hadn’t vented.

October, 2103

Today another visit to Cochran’s Funeral Home.  Hard but necessary.  As usual, tons of paperwork.  For the past year and a half, paperwork and more paperwork. These past two months have been so hard.  Before, I could kid myself.  As you, Marilyn the realist, have always known, I’ve a long history of hiding my head in the sand.   Now I’m slowly facing the fact that you will soon be gone.  I know you love me as desperately as I love you, but you can’t show it and that hurts both of us.  You have to go, and I have to stay.  Why, no one knows.  No matter how hard I object or petition, nothing will change.  You will go.
What’s so hard is seeing you helpless to protest.  The day will come when you will start shutting down.  No, it’s already come.  The first sign I should have seen, when you stopped cooking.  Cottie dated it exactly: she’d come to visit and was watching you stir the soup or stew with difficulty.  The day after Cottie left you told me you couldn’t cook any more, offering no reasons or excuses.   It flabbergasted me so much that I guess I didn’t stop to put two and two together.
When you got into the nursing home you refused to watch television in the activity room.   You refused even in your own private room, with me lying right next to you, watching golf.  You didn’t want to listen to music, and only obliged me when I insisted on wheeling you outside on a sunny day.  You didn’t want to go out for a chocolate sundae–just obliged me. Were you already aware of your gradual shut-down?  Did you know what pleasure you still gave us all when you offered a fleeting smile?  When will the big shut-down come?
Already you don’t want visitors.  But you do want me, I know that for sure.  Inside you there’s room now for only two—or one, as we’ve always said we are.  But will you push me away at night?  Now are you unable to return my kisses, or have you let go of that also?
You sleep more, just as the books say a person does when leaving becomes real.  Words have already lost most of their significance.  Well, all words save the silly love song I sing to you six times every night: “You are my mouser, my wonderful mouser.  I love you madly, I love you so.  You love me too, I know you do.  You are my mouser, my wonderful mouser, I love you so.”
You eat less and less.  At first you tried to eat whatever I cooked, as long as it was cut into small pieces.  Then I made softer stuff, then pureed it—which I knew you didn’t like. Both Mildred and I knew you stuffed food in the back of your mouth.  I was mad at first.  I didn’t know if it was because you didn’t want food, didn’t like it, or couldn’t eat it.
I should have seen you were choosing a new diet.  I should have listened to Mildred telling me that whatever you wanted was ok, even if it was just cottage cheese, bits of peaches, or yogurt.  I kept thinking you needed more to sustain yourself.  I should have guessed you were starting to sustain yourself on some kind of spiritual energy.
You sometimes sleep with your eyes open.  Why?  Do you have one foot in each world?  Is it hard letting go of us, so you have to keep an eye out, or will they just not close properly?  Do you want to leave me too?
Strangely, your blood pressure and pulse remain strong.  This surprises the nurse and your son David, who’s starting to come around more often.  Your facial color remains basically the same, although your face is a lot thinner.  Your high cheekbones, that Indian heritage, are really high now.  You’re as beautiful as ever.
I see that you need more covers these days.  Do you remember back in the nursing home how you’d always throw off the blankets, and sometimes shirts or sweaters?  How you were always too hot, even when I shivered, lying right next to you in the narrow hospital bed?
Please, Mouser, help me survive this shut-down.

new poem

“Art Exists Then and Now”

They all write about dying
not death, dying is harder.
These poets delay another day,
wake again to love and pain.

We poets write about living
not life, living is harder.
We poets find another time
to die, not right now.

Once again, the old refrain
pushes us on or makes us pause.
Music is what it’s all about,
inside and out, sounds of love.

Art for art’s sake the painter shouts
knowing his life will sputter out.
But what he does will stay and stay,
keep him alive beyond his day.

Stephenson, March 7, 2017

[Inspired by Jane Kenyon’s book of poems, Otherwise]

What’s this Golf Workshop?

What’s This Golf Workshop About?

A friend talked me into offering it, not to teach new swing thoughts or achieve lower scores, but to discuss what few golfers do–why they obsess over the sport. Our discussion book would be M.Scott Peck’s Golf and the Spirit. The idea sounded good to me, so I added it to the website listings and scheduled workshops for March and May.

No problem back then, but when March loomed, finding me not one bit closer to knowing why I obsess, I started to worry. Fortunately something happened in early February.

The lady I’d met in tango class told me she loved golf, and we agreed to an exploratory nine holes. They went fine–she has a natural swing, and I did ok–so we moved to eighteen… securing a 2:30 tee time that would probably pull us up short before dark. Oh well.

Before continuing, a word about my game. I’ve been playing for twenty years, ten seriously, but still feared the risky proposition of getting clobbered by a woman I still barely knew who’s been playing only five or six years, not ten or twenty. That could easily happen; such things do in golf. But hopefully not to someone who’s already scratched out on the tango thing.

Fortunately, something good happened. Despite the extremely slow foursome in front of us, people who should be confined to putt-putt golf, not real golf, we started relaxing and just having fun. No wicked swing thoughts or troublesome fears of pulls and shanks. After a while we just walked up and slammed the ball where it was supposed to go. Fairway woods, so-so; irons, pure magic. (She even hit her five iron 20 yards farther than usual, over a pond to the far side of the green.) Greens, unbelievable. Once, having gained confidence from somewhere, I showed off before my new partner by putting from fifteen feet off the fringe, not with a putter, but with a #5 rescue hybrid, a shot my son had taught me and I’d practiced the week before at the range. Things like this can also occasionally happen on the golf course.

On the front nine she got one of her best scores ever, and I couldn’t believe my 39. It got even better on the back nine. Not the scores, but the game. Our adversaries in front disappeared and the afternoon stayed warm and beautiful. Didn’t that magical Arizona sunset turn skies red, and didn’t it stay light enough to finish? We launched our drives on 17 and 18 right into the dark, but they magically showed up on the fairway when we drove up, and the light held out to the last putt. It was all too much.

About this time I discovered what had happened that later allowed me to answer why I loved golf so much. We’d been playing intimate golf.

Who’s ever heard of intimate golf? It’s not that we’d been thinking about our bodies, except to make reminders about staying square to the target or keeping head up, but just that we’d left behind all small talk, guarded talk, or worst of all, political talk, and were just in the now. Mainly we laughed and joked. Somehow managed to get free of the thousand mental, physical, emotional, and–according to Scott Peck–spiritual traps that golf springs on unsuspecting souls. We were playing intimate golf, that was the difference. Scott Peck calls it playing in the zone, playing intentionally yet relaxed, playing humbly. I guess I’d just say playing in joy. We smiled and laughed all afternoon and all the way home.

At first I’d decided to confine the workshop to men, but now realize that was silly. Everyone can profit by occasionally playing and discussing intentional golf…particularly when it’s intimate intentional golf.

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