This program is made possible through a generous gift from Ruth and Russell Bolton
in conjunction with the Eberly College of Arts & Sciences.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Like a Penguin, He Waddled Away: Thoughts on Detail and Character

Characters filled the RFL apartment in the Honors Dorm Wednesday night. Our night started with crayons: draw an important object for your character. Note: not only are Honors Hall Dormers fantastic writers, but man, can they draw! We shared our discoveries -- a dress, a suit of armor, a hat, a necklace, a laptop -- and then, we discovered how those objects fit in our characters' lives.

Discovery is an appropriate word for the night for we all found out something new about our characters. By thinking about the trajectory of a certain object in a character's life, we all found out new details about characters we thought we knew, and, as we discussed, when it comes to characters, details matter. Details are what make characters come to life, and having characters surprise us as writers, lets us know that our characters are finally coming into their own.

And so, armed with our newly found knowledge about our characters, we sat down to write. Some wrote a scene, others poetry, the point of it all was to write about that object and the character. The results were great: poems exploring time, scenes exposing the heart of the character. As we were winding down our writing, one Boltoneer wasn't quite done. She needed one more use of metaphorical language.

"Like a penguin, he waddled away," another Boltoneer suggested. It was the first thing that she thought of.

We all thought that it was such a striking image, we stuck the line to the end of all of our works (with a few cases of adjusting for tense, gender, etc). Suddenly, our discussion of character changed into a discussion of how details affect tone and meaning. We witnessed our scenes and poems change. We were shocked, surprised, and delighted. As the night ended, we said goodbye to our characters -- for the night, at least -- and because we all created such vivid, well-developed characters, they waved back. Like penguins, they waddled away.

This Sunday, 12/2, in the Honors Hall Dorm at 6 pm, students will read their work they created this semester. Be there! There might be penguins.

Until next semester, Boltoneers. Keep on writing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Characters Wanted

Hi, Boltonites,

We're discussing characters tomorrow for the Honors Hall Bolton Workshop. Come join us explore what makes a character so great. There will be crayons involved...and goodies. So, why don't you come join in on the Bolton fun at the Honors Hall, 7:30 pm, November 28?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Last Dadisman/Stalnaker Workshop

In our previous workshop, participants wrote fiction pieces about dinners-that-go-wrong with artful characterization and plot development that I can only envy!

Join us 6:30pm, Thurs. Nov. 29, at Chaang Thai for our last meeting! We will meet at the RFL house and walk over. Hope to see you there. As always, free writing and company will accompany the food.

Even though this is our last workshop, keep in mind the final, group reading at the end of the semester! Get over your reading fears and share your work in a small group of others just like you.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Next Dadisman/Stalnaker Workshop

Hi D/S Hall Boltonites!

Join us this week, Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 6pm for fine dining and fine writing. Looking forward to our glorious thanksgiving vacation, we will use the dinners, disasters, and smells of your past to create edgy and fresh flash fiction. Throw in a tattooed lover-boy, a pet dragonfly, and whatever else you can imagine! See you there!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sensory Memories

This past Thursday, residents of Summitt Hall and I focused on writing about memories through our senses.  I read an excerpt from Tell it Slant in which Virginia Woolf describes those first somewhat dim memories beyond our initial understanding-- a mother's look as she sips coffee, a floral pattern on her dress, blind chords in the living room.  As we ate RFL Caleb's homemade tomato soup, RFL Kelly mentioned foods that remind her of home (Idaho fry bread for her, pasta with no sauce for me).  I brought Bernard Cooper's essay "The Fine Art of Sighing" to show how an essay can be structured from memories based on a particular sense (in that case, sound).  Summitt resident Caroline read the piece aloud for us.  We then wrote memories from each sense with the eventual idea of finding connections between them that might sustain itself in the form of a brief essay.

One student wrote a meditation on burning couches.  Where else had these couches been before?  What scenes had they played in?  She wrote with humor and specificity.  She then brought her piece around to a couch she'd recently purchased for her dorm room and ruminated on its history.  After she read it, I mentioned Marquez' magical realism in unveiling objects' histories and Kelly mentioned giving a craft talk about how objects are a great thing to use in essays.  (Look for Caroline's piece in the Summitt Newsletter!).

Another student wrote about a dog she had lost and how the fall leaves reminds her of his playfulness.  We reflected on how easily grief can come forth from a prompt like, "Write about the memories inside your senses" and how writing might have a place in that process and can also be an homage to what was lost.  

Another wrote about the sound of an old TV show that was often on in the background of her childhood.  She wrote of sounds and images at an angle, speaking to that dimness of memory with clear, concise language.  Another wrote about her experiences in bathrooms during travels-- both humorous and intriguing and left us wanting more.  And still another, the taste of a tongue ring in a first kiss.

As always, lots of good writing and thoughtful conversation.  Summitt Hall Residents: Join us for our last Bolton Workshop of the semester on Thursday Nov. 29th at 7:30 in the RFL apartment!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Do Poets Bring Fear to the Page?

Last Thursday, the Dadisman/Stalnaker writers used the distinct feeling of fright to access suspense, imagery, and sometimes comfort. First, we discussed what’s scary in Morgantown: the hard heart beats of public speaking, unidentifiable roadkill on the PRT tracks (bunnies? squirrels?), a bird stuck in a grate, and football frenzy couch-fire riots. Using Zachary Schomburg’s “Your Limbs Will Be Torn Off in a Farm Accident” and William Stafford’s “Traveling through the Dark,” we decided how poets bring their fears to the page: building syntax, strange imagery, and some sort of release. The writers used Rita Dove’s prompt words (cliff, needle, voice, whir, mother, blackberry, cloud, lick) as starting points to create their own versions of disorder.

Notice how Garrett Hooton captures suspense and tension:

You wake up in your dorm room The morning is still and cold. You sense something different about this day. You disregard this feeling and go about your day. As you’re walking, you notice a faint whirring sound. You look around, and no one seems to be paying attention to it. You turn back around and notice you’re now alone. The group you were following behind is gone. You notice the whirring sound again. This time it’s louder and intensifies with each second. It grows to be all you can hear and you realize it’s the sound of a voice--your mother’s voice--screaming--the sound continues to grow. It is now a horrifying shriek. It stops. You look around, still alone, still calm and cold, but day has become night. Pitch black darkness. You woke up in your dorm room. The morning is still and cold.

Notice how Alexis NoƩ uses questions to access the surreal:

This place is mine. These are my things. Why is it still so strange? The carpet is a soothing blackberry color, very soft and comfortable. My bed, yes my bed, is like a cloud. So why is everything still so wrong? Everything is in its place, yet nothing has a place.

The lights flick off. The darkness is like a needle in my eye for a moment. It is so instant. My loss of sight causes me to listen closely. What is that whir sound over there? Or was it an echo from the hallway? Could it be someone’s voice?

I gather my thoughts and calm myself. This is silly. As my vision slowly returns, I venture across the blackberry sea and climb up the edge of the cliff to my fluffy cloud bed. I gaze into dark and see it all. Everything that is wrong. It will be another restless night ahead.

Notice how Jonathan Serino brings rhyme to the streets:

The moon was shining on the street
Shining with all her might
Glowing through the clouds
To illuminate the fight.

A whisper came and went but
No ear would hear the word
And as he slowly closed the gap, came a sound;
a quicked whir.

Two minutes time then all was still
Lest for his nervous tick
And to the blackberry colored blade
He gave a single, sickly lick.

Notice how Jamie Winter captures the senses and finds comfort:

I feel like I’m falling off a cliff;
with pins and needles in my arms and legs.

There is a whir in the background;
sounds like home.

My mother’s voice calling me;
I hear.

I’m startled,
I feel like I’m lying on a cloud.
The smell of blackberries enters my nose;
I lick my lips.

When I lick my lips;
I awaken.

My mother has made me breakfast.

Join us Wednesday, Nov. 7 for more freewrite fun!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Running from Abstraction

Last Thursday, the Honors Hall dorm was anything but abstract. In fact, we were pretty darn specific. Eating muffins and sitting around the dining room table, we talked about what makes fall fall. Someone mentioned the crunch of leaves. Another, about the way the leaves fell in front of her car on the way home. There was even talk of a fall song (and yes, she did sing it for us). In all of this, we realized that when we talk about fall, there might be common themes -- pumpkins, football, leaves -- but we all have very specific images. We realized that when we want someone to experience fall with us it's much better to be as specific as possible rather than talk in abstract terms.

And so it is in writing, especially poetry. We read a few poems, paying attention to how they illustrated abstract ideas like first love or grief. We marveled, really (and how can you not marvel at William Meredith's "The Illiterate" or Tomas Transtromer's "After a Death"?).  We then tried to write about an abstraction ourselves. We each got an abstract idea, wrote a poem, and then the others had to guess what the abstraction was.  As we heard each poem filled with striking images and incantatory repetition, it was clear -- these Boltoneer poets had conquered abstraction. Long live the concrete detail!

Below is one of the poems born out of an abstraction.

An Addition to the Family
Emily Buras

My big sister winks at me
And sends my first shooting star
Across the night ceiling,
To me
Because I’m the one sleeping
Out on the deck.
Under my quilt
Where she can see me,
Now I know, for sure, where she’s been
For those 18 odd years
Since she was cut out
And cried over
To save Mom.
She’s been burning with light
Waiting for me
To sleep in the firefly dark
And let my glasses
Reflect the moon
So she can wave across the sky
And we can meet.
She’s swimming up in the blue black waters;
Splashing around
Watching me
Watch her.
It’s exciting, not to be
The firstborn anymore.

When I was a kid,
I never wanted a younger sister.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Incongruity and the Spooky

Last Bolton meeting at Dadisman/Stalnaker, our writers created experimental nonfiction essays about the smells of our childhood, parts of people we love, freely associated memories, and those snippets of conversation we will never forget. The results were, needless to say, edgy, brilliant, and entertaining!

And we even let the sounds of Debbi's dog, the smell of the barbeque chicken, and the sweet chill of Cold Stone ice cream creep into our senses to unleash on the page.

Hope to see you all this week for dinner and an exploration of spookiness through poetry--what new, weird things in Morgantown, in your dorm room, haunt you? Have you ever been actually scared on Halloween? How do we choose an ending for a poem when our life's endings are so uncertain? Bring your pens and smiles! It's okay to be dark when there's warm food on the table.

See you Thursday, Oct. 11 at 6:00!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Finding Balance in the Honors Dorm

Sitting around the dinning room table at the Honors Dorm, we Boltonites quickly learned one thing: we've all had some pretty unique experiences living in dorms -- it might be finding footprints on our ceiling, or watching a storm run through campus, or finding your goldfish murdered via hairspray. I guess I should amend that first sentence; we quickly learned that while we've all had pretty unique experiences, they're also experiences that everyone at the table could relate to. We've all had that terrible roommate (maybe not one that goes so far as to murder pets, but still). We've all had moments where we've wondered about the history of place. We've all stood in awe of nature.

At the Honors Hall's first Bolton session, we discussed the necessity of finding that balance between the unique and the common. The flash nonfiction that emerged demonstrated that these Boltoneers were good at finding it. Besides the experiences mentioned above, the Honors Hall created some amazing flash nonfiction pieces. One Boltoneer wrote about the strange stillness of walking into an empty dorm. Another wrote about the anticipation of gathering together for dinner. Another wrote about the anxiety of that first night, the urge to call someone familiar. Another about a man sitting on a bench on High Street. What grounded all of these great works, though, was another crucial quality that good writing needs: clear, vibrant voices.

We ended the night with the first every Honors Hall nonfiction face off. Very valuable prizes of Spiderman bubbles and playdough were awarded to three very talented writers. It seemed impossible to choose.

Come join us for our next session, this Thursday, October 4th at 7 pm in the RFL apartment. We'll be creating scary poems, and there might just be more prizes and treats! Thanks for kicking off the Bolton season with a great session, Honors Hall. I can't wait to see more of your work!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Summitt Hall shines amidst gray skies

            This past Thursday we settled inside the RFL apartment in Summitt Hall with homemade ice cream (thanks, Kelly!) and wrote while the rain pressed on outside.  We focused first on flash fiction and unpacked the famous Hemingway quote, part of which reads, “…the integrity of the movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above the surface.”  We talked about how short fiction can condense to a moment that’s complete in and of itself, but that readers can also sense much coming before and much to come after (or below and above).  There are several elements one could focus on with a short, short story—will it be more of a prose poem, where lyrical language and sound moves it?  Will there be quick character development, where a few details say a lot about someone?  Will it be plot-driven?  Through which parts will you create a fast pace and which places will you linger on a little more?  We looked at some samples from NPR’s 3-minute fiction contests and the quirky prompts that elicited those stories.  I then gave the prompt to try writing a story that incorporated: an e-cigarette, a thimble, the 1819 tree, and a gray sky (can you tell I like reading about time and weather?). 
            Everyone did a wonderful, creative job, and we had some amazing performances—from Nick’s pacing back and forth to deliver his monologue, scene-based stories, plot-based stories, to hip-hop style raps.  Below are a couple student samples.  More to follow next week!
            Join us in the Summitt RFL apartment this Thursday, Oct. 4th at 7:30pm for more creative writing fun (and soup & cornbread).  We may also have a guest poet next week!  Hope to see you there. 


Alex Collins:

The cottage filled with life as the wood in the fire place began to ignite and smolder.  The crimson gold flames licked at the sides of the logs, making them glow bright but then leaving behind a black husk of what was there before.  Smoke floated up the chimney that was coated black with resin from many fires past.  Over the top of the cottage a plume of smoke erupted from the chimney leaving the horizon grey.  Snow began to fall as cars began to fill the driveway.  After much mingling and reminiscing and a delicious feast of holiday ham and warm flaky butter filled rolls the family settled down to open gifts.  The ticking of the clock was set off by the ticks from the grandma’s respirator.  She sat in her real wood rocker smiling and sewing, thimble in hand as presents were distributed and opened.  A small box was handed to the daughter of 40.  She tore the festive red paper away, and saw an e-cigarette with all the works.  She flipped the package over.  A card was taped to the underside.  As she opened it the card read, ‘For my lovely daughter, hoping you won’t be in my condition when you’re my age.  Love Mom.”
Vincent Wood:

Roses are red
E cigs are blu
A tailor with a old thimble
Staring at the cloudy grey sky,
Looking quite alert and nimble
Boom said the thunder,
as he tosses down white flashes by
the old 1819 tree, where down under,
lived an old woman with a magnificent house,
accompanied by her ungrateful dead spouse,
who shall remain nameless,
for he is not blameless,
with all of his shameless
Just because of that darn old thimble,
which made him quite nimble.
Boom!! Goes the thunder again,
The old tailor almost dropped his orange,
as he is illegally downloading some torrents,
thought he was caught by his old woman
but. . . it was just the sound of a fallen tree.
Michael Rogers:

It was early, cold, and the grass under Charles’ feet was still moist from last night’s storm.  He nervously drew his e-cig while periodically checking his phone.  It was 6:32 and even though Steve was only two minutes late, Charles was already starting to feel his anxiety rising.  It was Steve, right?  Or was it Mark?  He honestly couldn’t recall and attempting to was only making Charles more anxious.  He shot quick glances left and right hoping to see Tyler walking towards him but saw nothing but empty streets.  All this worrying was starting to make Charles feel sick again.  Maybe it was because he hadn’t used in almost 18 hours or maybe it was his conscience coming back to haunt him.  Everything Charles was doing right now felt wrong and no amount of rationalizing could fix that.  Still though, he didn’t feel like it was fair to blame him.  If Steven had just given him what he paid for this wouldn’t have to happen.  Charles leaned back against the tree and took another glance at his phone while taking a long draw off his e-cig.  Damn thing must be broken.  It was only 6:33 but Charles knew he had been waiting for at least a half-hour.  Wait, when did he get here again?  It didn’t matter.  The sooner this could be done with the better.  Charles reached into his back pocket and was struck with a feeling of sheer panic.  Where was it?  He knew he remembered to bring the knife.  As he fumbled through his pockets he saw a gleam of silver shine in the grass.  The Knife!  As Charles reached down to pick up the blade, he failed to hear the hammer of Steve’s revolver click net to his temple.  Or maybe it was Blake.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A New Semester of Workshops

Here's a quick round-up of all our upcoming workshops. Hope to see you there!

In Brooke Tower with Rebecca Childers: September 10, October 1, October 29, November 12

In Summit Hall with Rebecca Doverspike: September 27, October 4, October 25, November 29

In Arnold Hall with Connie Pan: September 20, October 4, October 25, November 29

In Dadisman/Stalnaker Halls with Christina Seymour: September 27, October 11, November 7, November 29

In the Honors Hall with Rebecca Thomas: September 6, September 20, October 4, November 8

Friday, September 21, 2012

Attention Dadisman/Stalnaker Residents

Attention Dadisman/Stalnaker residents:

What WVU students say they like about the Bolton writing workshops:
  • I like meeting new people...writing...creating things I never dreamt I could do!
  • I liked all of it...I especially liked how it was laid-back.
  • It made me feel really creative.
  • The food...funny topics...the's so much fun!
If you like to write and enjoy good food and meeting interesting people, join us for the Bolton writing workshops. Our first workshop is on Thurs., September 27, with dinner starting at 6 PM.  
Topics: poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, and the experiences of being a student - the trials, fears, elations ...Will you write the next best seller?
Reserve a space at the dinner table now at:
Our other dates are Th Oct. 11, W Nov. 7, and Th. Nov. 29. Write through the semester!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Take Two

Well, Boltoneers,
The first ever Honors Dorm Nonfiction Face Off had to be put on hold last session. So, come one, come all to the Honors Dorm on Thursday, September 20th at 7 pm for the first ever Honors Dorm Nonfiction Face Off (for reals this time), RFL Apartment. The winner will still receive a very exciting prize!

Hope to see you all tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We're Back!

It's hard to believe that a summer has already passed us by, but try as I might to deny it, it has. An upside to this?  Bolton is back, I'm looking forward to another year of working with the Honors Dorm, starting with our very first session tomorrow.
For our first session, we will delve into flash nonfiction with the first ever Honors Dorm Nonfiction Face Off. The winner will receive a very exciting prize!
Can't make tomorrow? Our other dates are: September 20th, October 4th, and November 8th. All times are at 6:30 in the RFL apartment. Hope to see you all there!
Write on, Boltoneers!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Welcome Back... and stayed tuned!

Though we too are pretty surprised that it really is time for fall semester, we're also a little happy... after all, a new semester means the return of the Bolton Workshops!

This time around we'll have workshops in Arnold, Dadisman/Stalnaker, Honors, and Summit on the downtown campus, and at Braxton and Brooks on Evansdale.

More info soon---we promise!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Our Reading!

This Sunday, April 29, we'll celebrate another great semester of Bolton Workshops with a reading at 6:30 p.m. in the Honors Hall.

We're looking forward to hearing your work... and there'll be special surprises for all our readers.

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Know that You Can't Avoid the Stairs in Life: Words of Wisdom from the Honors Hall Boltoneers

The last Honors Hall Workshop was all about the list: top 5 things we wished we knew about WVU, about Morgantown, about 5Ks. The lists were fabulous. We reminded each other that at WVU, you can't avoid stairs, you will find wonderful friends, and for 5Ks, wear something with pockets. From there we built wonderful stories, essays, and poems celebrating all things list. One student wrote a letter to herself with expanding her list of advice. Another student wrote about the journey of the stairs. Another wrote a poem about growing up. As they were reading their creative lists, I was reminded for the umpteenth time how wonderful these students are. And so, in the spirit of lists here is a Top 3 list of things that I learned from the Bolton Honors Workshop:
1) It is amazing what people can write in fifteen minutes. This year, we've seen some beautiful lines of description, fleshed-out characters, and wonderful sonnets. All created and developed in less than thirty minutes!
2) Be prepared to be amazed at Honors Hall Boltoneers insight. As we discuss professional examples of writing during workshop, it never fails that I will be amazed at at least one person's insight. Again and again, these students have taught me to rethink a piece and to see a line of description, poetry, or dialgoue in a new light. 
3) Be prepared to be amazed, period (be prepared to laugh, too. Seriously, these Boltoneers are funny!). 

Thank you, Honors Hall Boltoneers! It has been a pleasure working with you this year. I am continuously amazed by your dedication to writing and your endless enthusiasm. I can't wait to hear you read your work at the final reading on Sunday, April 29, at 6:30 in the Honors Hall. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Top 5 Reasons to Come to Bolton on Sunday

1. There will be sweet handouts of the writing variety.
2. I bet there will be treats.
3. It is our last Bolton of the year.
4. We will write up a storm.
5. List stories!

Come to the Honors Hall Bolton Workshop this Sunday, 4/15, at 3:30. RFL Apartment.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sketchy Characters

In Arnold's last Bolton meeting, we discussed our favorite characters and why we love them. These loves of ours ranged from Ron Weasley, "ginger representative" (said enthusiastically and coupled with a fist pump) to Gatsby, because "he's a boss." When creating characters, our goal is to present a captivating person whose presence, appearance, quirks, and mannerisms will stick with readers, and keep dragging them back to the page.

After chatting, I explained the workshop would be dedicated to character sketches. I passed out blank sheets of paper, and a couple of groans surfaced. A reluctant voice from afar mumbled, "We're not drawing again are we?" Laughter, and I joined. I'll be honest. I wanted to mess with them a little; a character sketch is when you draw a character with number two pencils . . . Just kidding! I informed them they wouldn't, in fact, be drawing. After a "phew," I continued. They would be introducing a character in a moment in time--with words. Ideally, character sketches give the audience a strong mental image of the character, how they speak, their way of doing things, and an idea of their value system. It's called a sketch, because it avoids the character's whole history.

But what were flying papers about in my sneak-peek reminder blog? Well, it was how they found their inspiration! How the flying papers went down: Each person sat with a piece of paper in front of them. First, I asked them to write a place and a first name, then pass. Second, I asked them to write a last name, then pass. Third, I asked them to write three physical attributes, two adjectives, two nouns, and two verbs, then pass. Fourth, I asked them to write an everyday task, two lines of dialogue, and three lines of interior monologue, then pass. Fifth, I asked them to write one deep, dark secret, and one no-no, something the character would never do, then pass one last time.

With the paper they held in their hand, that amalgamation of information, the Arnoldite Boltoneers' jobs were to create memorable characters, and did we meet some characters! Roxanne Jarvis, a tall, green-eyed chain-smoking people-watcher. Sean Mizkophski, a mysterious red-haired man, who grew up on the streets with his mom, and would never ever hit a woman. Eve Boviar, a shy girl with blue-streaked hair, who must shower every morning and every night to function. And Masha Meduzot, a sterile green-and-gold-eyed woman, who has fallen in love with her brother.

With that said, it has been a fun and creative semester at Arnold with some interesting and talented characters. I look forward to seeing everyone at the Bolton Showcase! Thank you for the great year.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Month of Love

In February, Braxton Tower embraced the blown sonnet. Students treated "the little love song" as a puzzle they were determined to crack. Once they got started, students didn't want to stop. Here are some samples from a couple of our brightest stars: Joshua Carnes and Andrew Poszich.

When I Write, There's a Sonnet Boom!

By: Joshua Carnes

Tonight, I walked through rain to find her.
Again, reminded of its inconvenience.
My sight is blocked despite my desire.
But in my frustration, I find no difference.
Like the rain, she to my heart is long awaited.
She quenches my soul as though it were dust.
She is my bane and with every breath anticipated
My vision is blurred with overwhelming Lust.
One day, we will meet again when my intentions are true.
Mark my words, Fate--who keeps us separated.
That day you will fail, since the idea is not yet new.
What I feel is like a war vet but more decorated.
The war is fought for Love, and it is omnipresent.
No beginning, no end--my heart has been drafted.

Sonnet 42

By: Andrew Poszich

Alone, I wait upon this girl to come,
Laudable charm has left me in dismay.
I stare at my phone, what have I become?
My mind blank, I don't know what to say.

The rain pours down against the window pane,
Time slowly ticks by, where can this girl be?
I fret that my waiting will be in vain.
I thought this time would be different for me.

Distraught I feel, to nothing else compared.
It's getting dark now, desolate my heart.
Question her actions? Would I even dare?
Too bad it's getting late, I must depart.

Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow,
I will see her and be wrought with sorrow.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Let's Bolton!

Hi, Arnoldites. Fun is scheduled for tomorrow at 7:15! There will be flying papers.

*Not to be confused with paper airplanes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

PRT gods, Mountaineer Time Travel, and St. Patrick's Madness

We met the day after St. Patrick's day at 1 in the afternoon. I walked up the hill to the Honors Dorm, stepping over remnants of the night before, ready to talk about magical realism and origin tales. Little did I know, my lesson on magical realism wasn't as necessary as I thought. It seemed as if Morgantown took a step away from reality the night before. We spent the first bit of workshop talking and writing about what makes Morgantown so Morgantowny before I segued into magical realism. "It's world that's real except for when something unreal, magical, happens in it from time to time." A girl brought up how the night before a guy stood at the top of the steps by the dorm decreeing that to people "you shall not pass." I acknowledged that they might have gotten a taste of magical realism then (or at least a taste of surrealism, but that's a different lesson).

We read some Marquez, marveled at how the man can make a metaphor become real (light no longer flows like water. Light is water in two boys' apartment, deep enough to row a boat in it). We discussed folklore and origin stories, thinking about how they explain questions that we have in the real world, and then set out to write stories of our own.

One student wrote about walking down High Street suddenly to find herself face to face with the old Mountaineer Field and her mother, attending a game. Another wrote about leprechauns on Grant Street that were less than nice. Finally, another took on the origins of the PRT (was It founded by the bus gods and hate, made of "unholy metal," and "whined into existence."). At the end of the day, as the students got ready to rush off to a Quidditch tournament, we decided that you didn't have to look hard to find elements of magic in Morgantown. You just had to watch and record it.

Join us for our final Bolton on April 15 at 3:30. Honors Hall. RFL.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Glitz of Golden

The Arnoldite Boltoneers looked a little skeptical when I pulled out blank sheets of paper. Their eyebrows raised high enough to hold up the sky. Usually we write on gray lined paper ripped from a legal pad. These young writers are smart. Within seconds they were on to me. As one readied his pen, he asked, “Are we drawing today?” I nodded my head. Groans erupted from the swear-by-stick-figure people and silent smiles spread across the faces of the others. I promised them a pay-off, right before I asked them to draw an owl. Pencils hesitated, paused in the air. Laughs tittered. Someone said, “I just realized I have no idea what an owl looks like.” More laughter. When they were done, they held up their works of art. There was one stick owl, and most of the other owls looked like bats.

For the next step of the activity, I pulled a lifelike ceramic owl I scored from an estate sale out of my bag. An A-ha and some Oh’s filled the room. “Now, draw the owl,” I said. Pens moved furiously. Even the swear-by-stick-figure folks looked a little more confident. When they were done, they held up their before drawings and their after drawings. Can you guess which ones were better? (These after owls were owls down to the feathers.)

I bet you know the lesson, right? Draw from life, and your drawing will be more realistic. But this lesson crosses fields, too. Write from life, and your writing will be more realistic. When I was eight, my first novel was set in California, a state I had never been to. Now, ninety-nine percent of my writing takes place in Maui, my hometown. Can you guess which fiction is better? (Maybe time deserves a little bit of credit, too.) Our drawing activity and the “Write what you know” speech led to a discussion about details: the “not-so-good” details, cliches and rocky descriptions; the “useful” details, the must-know things that are simple but may be viewed as lackluster by some; and the “golden” details, the details that brand brains and stick with the audience long after they’re done reading.

To finish the night, at the top of the gray lined papers we are accustomed to, each of us wrote something that could be described: a trip to the emergency room, a gun after a day on the range, a blind dog, my car, and holding a grandson. I set a timer for two minutes, and we passed our papers to the right. Then, each of us had two minutes to describe what was at the top of our paper with the intention of writing a “golden” detail. When the timer beeped, we passed our papers to the right again and continued. We did this until we finally described our own thing-that-could-be-described. Of course with the timer running, there was a lot of pressure involved. I assured everyone, if they shot for “golden,” worse thing that could happen is that they would land among the stars or among “useful” details or, sometimes, among “not-so-good” details, but something is better than nothing, right? We were writing!

*This activity is based on an activity by Dave Eggers titled “Details (Golden), Character (Immortal) & Setting (Rural India).”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Let's Get Descriptive

Hi, Arnoldites! Excited to see you tonight over details, details, details.

Friday, March 16, 2012

There's a Gazebo Out Here?!?!

After a February hiatus due to... well winter I suppose, we're finally back on track in Fieldcrest and met on March 13th. But before I could even say, "Back in the saddle again," our fearless RFL decided on a change of scenery for our meeting. Beknownst to the residents, but unbeknownst to me, Fieldcrest is equipped with a one of a kind gazebo in a little fenced in yard, containing a couple of tables, chairs, and even a grill. I suddenly felt nostalgic for my undergrad dorm life: fraternity brothers standing around a grill burning through some cheap hamburgers, enjoying being outside, maybe even a game of sand volleyball... And it really came through in my sonnet. (Well, 14 line poem anyway-- we didn't worry about metric feet and rhyme schemes)

But strangely enough, Spring was not a joy to be had by all. Some dreaded the seasonal allergies more than the snow-ins, others were still recovering from Fieldcrest's novelty field trip on Monday to a local dairy farm, or maybe it was still a bit of a "hangover" from the time change over the weekend. Whatever it was, I felt a bit solitary in my joy for spring and while we had some good pseudo-sonnets, we also had some rather serious cases of "writer's block." And while I enjoyed this quality time in the beautiful outdoors nurturing young minds in the art of creative writing, I got the impression we should have had nap time before our workshop. *sniffle of sadness mixed with hay fever*

Maybe what really happened here was that we were skeptical of this beautiful weather... waiting for it to suddenly be 30 degrees again and threatening snow, followed by sunny and 65 the next day. Either way, we are at the mercy of Mother Nature, and I would like to be on the record telling her, "Hey, these kids have it hard enough as it is. Take it easy on them...

Let's hope Mother Nature is nicer to us all in the meantime before our next meeting on April 17th. Tune in next time: same bat-time, same bat-channel!

Putting the Wild and Wonderful back in West Virginia University

Have you ever wondered why the Life Sciences building has so many stairs?
Have you questioned why the hill behind Colson Hall seems intent on causing heart attacks?
Have you stared at the PRT and imagined it flying you back to your apartment (especially on a humid August day)?

Come to the Honors Hall Bolton Workshop this Sunday, March 18 at 3:30 pm. There, we will explore elements of origin stories as magical realism, and we will create some WVU origin stories of our own. You know you want to. A Marquez/PRT mash-up is bound to be a good time.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A vampire, a writer, and a lonely-heart walk into a bar...

I know that I've got a good character when they turn around and disobey me. Last Sunday, we Boltoneers discussed what makes a wonderful character. We decided that, as for so many things in writing, it's all about the details. We spent the workshop building characters. First, from a Facebook profile and then filling in as many details that we could think of about our character. I think it's safe to say that we found some characters that will definitely disobey us.

We found a woman who can give all of her love away but can't find anyone to love her. We discovered a vampire that lives above the Sports Page and majors in Women's Studies (she's also about a thousand years old). We happened upon a creative writing student who finally is able to rediscover her inner child. As we shared our characters around the table, we wondered what would happen if our characters met, and I think we all felt that we wouldn't mind if the characters hung around for a while.

Come to the next Bolton Workshop on March 8th, 3:30, Honors Hall RFL.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Character Counts

Great characters stick with us. A great character becomes real. There's a reason, after all, why I have a Mr. Darcy pen in my purse at all times, or why I wanted to make sure that Harry, Ron, and Hermione were doing okay as adults, and I think that if I had a lion, I would probably name him Aslan because that lion hung out with me through a lot of my childhood. The point is, that when we encounter a really great character, it's like we're meeting a long-lasting friend for the first time.

This week at the Honors Hall Bolton Workshop we're going to make up some great characters of our own. So come one, come all to Honors Hall this Sunday, 2/26, at 3:30 in the RFL apartment.

Monday, February 20, 2012

In a Month

Last month kicked off our first meeting for the new term, in Braxton Tower. We explored all the things that can happen in a month. Students came up with a list of 5 thing that happened to them in the new year and narrowed that list down to one memorable experience. Since we've found a home in Braxton Tower, our workshop numbers have really grown. We've gotten so many wonderful submissions. Here are samples from some of our break-out stars: Duncan Manor, Lucinda Harris, and Moses Ajemigbitse. Enjoy!

Tossin’ Bodies

By: Ducan Manor

I went to Karaoke Night at Braxton Tower. I thought it would be night to sing. The songs I decide to sing were “That Summer” by Garth Brooks and “Drops of Jupiter” by Train. I got more than I bargained for when women started handing me their newborn children.

My Grandfather’s Room

By: Lucinda Harris

One year ago, my family lost someone very dear to us. During his final months, my grandmother stayed by his side in the Rosenbaum House by the hospital. Soon, he passed away, and my grandmother moved back home. Through a generous donation from his extended family, the Rosenbaum House was able to get a new playroom for the children. Anyone who knew my grandfather, knew he loved children. This month, I finally got to see that playroom. His spirit was alive through bright colors and a huge window overlooking Morgantown. The best part of the room was a picture of him and my two nieces hanging above a plaque that read “In Memory of Roger P Gandee.”

The Day I Bought Kid Sized Clothes…Again

By: Moses Ajemigbitse

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, or so they say. Shame on me anyway. It was a sub-zero temperature day in January. Ironically, the perfect weather for snow football. Wesley set up a wonderful excuse for a bunch of college boys to dress up warm and run around in the snow like they boys they still were. I decided to be part of it. In preparation for the game, I asked Danny to drive me to Wal-Mart to purchase cheap thermal clothing. In Wal-Mart, it took us awhile to find thermal clothing. And when we did, being the engineers we are, we decided the best way to look through a rack of clothes is by taking it down. After I found a suitable color and size, we put the rack back up and checked out.

Fast forward a few hours. Right before the game, I took the thermal underwear out of the bag and opened the packet. Instead of a size L for men, it was a size L for boys. Fantastic!

Preview: A Month of Love--writing sonnets and navigating character relationships on the page. Our next meeting is Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. We're in the JB Lounge located in Towers. As always...FREE FOOD!