It’s easy to find writing workshops and how-to sorts of roundtable discussions about the knack of putting words together to construct an effective storyline or to explore the nuts and bolts of working within various and sundry poetic forms.
You can easily check the latest offerings at the Loft if you’re looking for practical tips on honing your craft or breaking into the publishing business.
But if you’re a mid-career writer or editor, interested in specialized conversation with your peers about a life in letters, or the more philosophical questions that arise in pursuit of the craft–well, such a forum is a little trickier to find outside industry-specific conferences. Like many in the business of words, my day-to-day work is pretty solitary. I write for editors, of course, and we do the practical back-and-forth required to buff and polish the pieces I file for publication. I do the same dance, from the other side of the desk, with our own writers on mnartists.org. But outside the editing process, I–like many others in this profession, I suspect–don’t have many occasions for a more free-ranging exchange about the art of writing. And you know what? I’d like to.
This brings me to “The Works,” a brand-new writers’ salon, hosted and created by poet Lightsey Darst. (If her name rings a bell, there’s a good reason for that: you may be familiar with her dance criticism, which appears regularly on our own site, as well as in a number of other esteemed local publications.)
“The Works” is a monthly conversation series at the Bryant Lake Bowl where writers of all stripes are welcome, whether their work is playwriting, screenwriting, fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. But it isn’t a typical writer’s workshop; and it isn’t a live reading series, either. Instead, each evening’s conversation revolves around a small group of prepared topical presentations, created by writers for writers. Darst says, “There are a lot of readings series in the Twin Cities; and there are places you can go to talk about the craft of writing. But if writing is only a craft, I’m not interested in it. I’m interested in writing as an art form.” She describes “The Works” as an effort to engender “a lively, ongoing conversation about writing–its aesthetics, ethics, poetics, hermeneutics, erotics, and just plain tics.” She’s aiming for it to be like “the best AWP panel you’ve ever seen, but even better”–better, in part, because at the BLB you can have drinks with your writerly shop talk.
The inaugural meeting of “The Works,” held in early May, turned on three presentations: Charisse Gendron talked about the ego in contemporary poetry; Greg Watson raised the question of truth in poetry; and fiction writer Joseph Laizure deconstructed the peculiar details that breathe life and plausibility into a scene. Over the course of the evening, each panelist gives a prepared presentation, about 15-20 minutes long, and then the floor is opened for a broader exchange on the topic with the audience.
For the second installment of “The Works”–tomorrow evening, as it happens–Darst has invited three more writers to offer up conversation-starters: Will Alexander will talk about “prose piracy” and the cross-pollination between writing with other art forms; poet Cindra Halm will weigh in on the notion of “art for art’s sake;” and Tim Nolan will talk about the hidden work of writing, including the revisions upon revisions that constitute the life of any given poem.
Future salon topics will depend largely on the interest and suggestions Darst receives from other writers. So, my fellow writers and editors: What would you like to talk about? (Visit “The Works” website to submit your own ideas for future conversations.)
For my part, I’d love to hear a discussion on, say, the art and intimacy of reading well. Or, how about hearing from a personal essayist on the tangled psychology involved with both living a story and documenting its events?
At any rate, I know I’m planning to be at the BLB on Wednesday night–I can’t wait to see how the evening’s conversation unfolds. If you’re someone with a passion for words and a hunger for shop talk that extends beyond the practical concerns of craft–why don’t you come too?
- What: The Works: A Writers’ Salon
- Where: Bryant Lake Bowl, Minneapolis
- When: Wednesday, June 3 at 8 pm
- Tickets are $6-$10 (pay what you can). For ticket information go to the BLB website or call 612-825-8949