For ABOUT WRITE, the Off Campus Writers’ online column, Lynn Sloan interviewed three writers who led the summer workshops on the craft of writing.
For six years, Off Campus Writers’ Workshop has offered member-only summer workshops where writers read, discuss, and delve into a short story or essay. The purpose: to enjoy the piece’s impact and learn how it achieved its power. Each session is led by a member-writer who selects the piece and prepares materials to deepen the discussion. This summer I interviewed Peter Hoppock, who chose Lauren Groff’s story, “Delicate Edible Birds,” Tonya Coats, who chose Maya Angelou’s essay “A House Can Hurt, A Home Can Heal” and Paula Mikrut who chose Medhi M. Kashani’s story “Stray Dandelions.”
I began with:
For writers in particular, what are the advantages of reading an excellent story or essay?
Peter: There are so many! I am drawn, personally, to well-crafted prose that paints pictures of both the exterior and interior worlds we inhabit in everyday life. I say to myself: “I want to do that!”
Tonya: Reading an excellent essay is education as well as entertainment. I get so excited reading an excellent essay. Once the emotional part of the experience subsides, I want to know what I will take to use in my own writing. A great essay can help all writing, poetry, essay, memoir, fiction, and non-fiction.
Paula: I wouldn’t say that there’s a great advantage to reading an excellent story or essay. There’s an advantage to reading many excellent stories. In anything we want to get good at, there’s an advantage to studying those who are good at that craft. If we read enough excellent stories, if we study them deeply, we can start to learn what those writers are doing that makes them excellent. We can also start to learn about the difference, craft wise, between stories we personally like and those we don’t connect with. That can help steer us toward writing the kinds of stories we care most about.
To continue: About Write