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

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Work It!

During Monday’s Bolton Workshop in Arnold Hall, we started off free-writing about the season we all want to punch in the face at least once in the three months it lasts (which sometimes seems more like six months--UGH), Winter. Then we talked about style. We talked about what’s on the page, but we talked less about structure and less about subject matter. We talked about units as small as words and units as large as sentences and paragraphs. We talked about different kinds of language: everyday, esoteric, and specialized. We talked about our sentences like people--our voices low whispers, hands hiding moving lips--just kidding. If our sentences were people, how would we describe them? Short? Average? Gargantuan? Spunky? Classy? Straightforward? Unusual? Detached? Repetitive? Obsessive? Caffeinated?

We examined our writing again. How short phrases, sentences, and paragraphs sped up the pace. How one long, winding sentence could slow that speed to a halt. 

After looking at our writing, we decided we all have a natural style. It was just a matter of scrutinizing our writing and listening to ourselves a little more closely. Why try to riff like the greats--Carver, O’Conner, Hemingway--when we have our own writing swagger that’s pretty great already? To prove to ourselves that we have a style we can pick out on a crowded High Street, identifiable as a fingerprint, we wrote again. But this time we wrote about our first day back to school after our already distant Christmas Breaks (sob). We signed our names and slid our words into a top secret bag. 

I read each piece, one by one, and, one by one, the Arnoldites identified the author as if they’ve been reading that author’s writing forever. This is just a testament to what close friends we’re becoming at Arnold Hall. Maybe you should join us for some Valentine’s Day themed fun on Monday, February 13 at 7:15PM!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fieldcrest Food Fun

(Holy lliteration Batman!)

After a long pause between session, the writing antics in Fieldcrest is back in full swing: there's roommates to heckle, Isaac to pet, and pizza to be had. After some quality catch up time, we finally settled into our chairs and thought about how we cope with winter-- especially in Morgantown. While some were brief in listing their coping strategies, others offered some interesting thoughts...
  • Most smokers don't smoke less in the winter.
  • Friends are more understanding if you bail on them because of the "weather" when it's cold, rather than when it's just too hot.
  • We all crave hot food or drinks when it gets cold.
While one writer offered her stories of home made cinnamon buns, I dreamed about hot chocolate or coffee-- in addition to the cinnamon buns-- and wondered why we all gravitate towards warm food. If you're cold you can always just get a blanket, turn on a heater, grab a hoodie... But before we reach for the thermostat, we reach for the hot food and drinks. Is it just like throwing another log on the proverbial fire of our lives?

What if it's that we long for closeness? In this time of seeing the ground blanketed in white (or grey as it is now) that all seems so bland and empty... waiting for a warm body to fill it... Maybe it's our body, or maybe it's someone else, or maybe it's even just a memory associated with our warm food or drink of choice... But during our time of need, it's what we go for, and it's always enough.

(Stay tuned for more exciting snippets from Fieldcrest!)

They're Sexy Writers, and They Know It

We were a small but stylish group in the Honors Dorm last Tuesday. As everyone read their work it became clear that no one at the table would end up on writing's worst dressed list. We started the night by talking about some style faux-paus both of the writing and fashion variety (just say no to tights as pants and adverbs). We then moved on to making some bad style choices of our own, writing about getting to class in an inappropriate style. One student wrote in the voice of Yoda (very crowded, it was). Another wrote in the style of an incident report (Mr. Smith left the Honors dorm at 3:25 to get to his 3:30 class). While it was funny to write, we agreed that it was hard to sustain a style that wasn't our own and that didn't feel right for the piece.

After talking about what makes for good style (an understanding of diction, syntax, and literary devices; being well-read; and having self-confidence in your own ability), we decided to demonstrate how everyone has a unique voice. We all wrote a story starting with the first line, "It had already started to snow when the PRT arrived." While everyone's stories picked up on common threads of the PRT -- the crowds, the wait, the likelihood of a breakdown-- we all had vastly different stories and vastly different styles. By the end of the night, it became clear: if writing had a red carpet, Joan Rivers would have nothing to say to us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Writing Swagger

Oh, Arnoldites, how I've missed you! It's a new year which means--GASP--the Bolton Writing Workshops are starting up again! Join me on Monday, January 23 at 7:15 to chit-chat about writing swag. We have the digs (the pens, the paper). Just bring your wonderful and, hopefully, rejuvenated selves!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Don't Get Caught by the Writing Fashion Police

Is your writing the equivalent of Bjork's swan dress -- it has moments of promise and is intriguing, but it's just a little off? Or, would Joan Rivers find nothing bad to say about your stylish sentences? Come to the Honors Hall tomorrow, Tuesday, January 17, where we will discuss, you guessed it, style and voice.

Highlights will include: writing in an inappropriate style, story swap, and examining how you already have your very own unique writerly voice.

RFL room. Honors Hall. Tuesday, January 17th at 6:30 p.m. Be there!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spring Workshops

Welcome back! We're gearing up for another great semester of Bolton Workshops. Hope to see you soon!

Fieldcrest with Ben Bishop: Jan. 24, Feb. 7, Mar. 13, Apr. 17

Brooke with Matt London: Jan. 25, Feb. 22, Mar. 21, Apr. 18

Dadisman/Stalnaker with Justin Anderson: Jan. 24, Feb. 27, Mar. 20, Apr. 17

Arnold with Connie Pan: Jan. 23, Feb. 13, Mar. 19, Apr. 9

Honors with Rebecca Thomas: Jan. 17, Feb. 26, Mar. 18, Apr. 8

Stay tuned for dates for Bennett, Braxton, and Summit.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Students at Work

We had an amazing group last semester in Braxton Tower--bright, funny, and talented. Here are pieces contributed by two of our stars, Patrick Burns and Moses Ajemigbitse. Thanks for sharing!

Patrick Burns

Artillery Shell

I scream loud like thunder
My voice echoing throughout the hills
I hit the ground yonder
Kicking up dust in the air

Moses Ajemigbitse

Awkward Moments

I stood under the shower head appreciating its warm and therapeutic jet. I let the water ease the knots in my neck, relieving the stress of the day. I picked up my sponge, applied some gel, and worked up a good lather. I began to scrub my body as I worked from my arm up to my neck, down my back, and ended with my legs.

As I straightened up, I heard the bathroom door open. Someone else shuffled into one of the toilet stalls and lifted the lid off the WC. I found it strange that someone tried to do that. I ignored whoever it was and returned my attention to the soothing shower. Just as I had relapsed into my serene environment, I heard a loud crash. Water splashed on the floor. Startled, I called out, “What’s going on?” As a response, I heard laughter and shuffling feet—two voices which I recognized as Zach and Bryant.

Suddenly, I realized what had happened. I remembered the words Bryant had spoken earlier that day. “I’m going to get you, Moses,” he said. “Damn,” I thought to myself, “he didn’t, he wouldn’t.” I quickly turned off the shower and busted out. I stared at the bare wall that had held my bathrobe. “Aaaah,” I screamed to no one, frustrated that I had let him get me. I could see him now; face brimming with pride at his accomplishment.

Two minutes later, Bryant stared up from his desk and said, “Moses, why are you wrapped in the shower curtain?”