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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Summit Hall Discovers Sushi in a Field, and Sunday's Bolton Reading!

In our last Bolton workshop, the writers, Hannah, and I discovered objects in a proverbial field--a tomato, a piece of sushi, and a circus peanut (and we got to keep them!). We also used Lia Purpura's haunting voice to inspire flash nonfiction pieces, which yielded surprising realizations: one writer's soon-to-be story about how a circus peanut in the crack of a sidewalk mimics her character's circus-like life; a symbolic rotting tomato behind a fence used to demonstrate grief at a loved one's funeral; a description of sushi's and rice's relationship as a metaphor for love; and some striking utterances: "Alice and her acid wonderland," "I'm too dense," "I spent all of August unearthing it," "I smashed a VCR in a church once. No one seemed to care."

One of our writers noticed that we covered each of the summer months in our writing: June, July, and August. We must be craving some sunshine, so we brought it to that comfy cinema room in Summit!

Join us Sunday, Dec. 8, at 4PM in Honors Hall for a reading by our wonderful Bolton writers and our guest reader, the equally wonderful, James Harms! The reading is free and open to the public.

Summit Hall writers, see you next semester for more fun exercises!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Bag of Goodies

See you writers and dabblers tonight in the Summit Hall cinema room at 6:30 for fun writing exercises and Hannah's bag of doodads and goodies, just in time for some pre-Thanksgiving break writing and relaxation!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Last night, in the Summit Hall cinema room, over powdered donuts and Hershey Kisses, we discussed poetry and the "you"--specifically, how the "you" appears in three poems, "Scary, No Scary" by Zachary Schomburg, "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams, and "Fierce Girl Playing Hopscotch" by Alice Fulton. Conversation turned to things that terrify us, sadden us, and, surprisingly, the toys of our childhood--legos, gloworms, furbies, barbies, baby-be-mine . . .

We then got to the good stuff; we wrote in the style of our favorite poem above to create specific scenes of Morgantown, our dorms/apartments, the playground, and our childhood homes. The challenge was to have a "you" appear.

With poetry, every listener seems to be dazzled by different things, and, indeed, we all liked various things about each other's resulting poems--the comforting imagery of a rural home, the confessions of simple wishes on the playground, energetic sounds sparking down the page, snapshots of High Street, like an abandoned Sprite can, an immediate setting giving way to discovery of the self. The theme was, we liked what we heard.

We discovered that it is amazing what you can write in just half an hour (counting our conversation, inspiration, and pre-thought as writing time). We all created nearly finished poems that both Hannah and I walked away still admiring. Thanks for the rarity of such listening and thought and meditation on why we write :)

Next meeting, Hannah will share more work to admire and write from. Come meet us in the cinema room (you really have to see it, to know what it is!) of Summit Hall, Monday, October 21 at 6:30PM!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I Write Because…

Terry Tempest Williams wrote a piece listing the reasons why she writes. Among them are things like, “I write to record what I love in the face of loss”, “I write as an exercise in pure joy,” and, “I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change.”

This year Christina Seymour and I, Hannah McPherson, invite you to join us at Summit Hall and find your why’s, the reasons that call upon you to write. We’ll experiment with different genres, and, in case you need an extra nudge, there’ll even be snacks!

We’ll be located in the Cinema Room in Summit Hall on Mondays: 9/16, 10/21, 11/11, and 12/2 at 6:30 each evening. A final reading will be held on December 8th. 
We look forward to writing with you! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Upcoming Fall Dates

Hi, everyone!

Patric and I (Morgan) are looking forward to holding writing workshops in Honors four times this semester. We look forward to seeing  and spending time writing with you all! 

The dates are:

September 23rd from 6:30-7:30 PM

October 7th from 6:30-7:30 PM

October 28th from 6:30-7:30 PM

November 11th from 6:30-7:30 PM

Final Reading: December 8th

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happily Ever After

Once upon a time there was a graduate student who went to the Honors Residence Hall about once a month for the Bolton Writing Workshop...

For our last Bolton Writing Workshop, the Honors Hallians and I discussed fairy tales. After being inspired by the phrases "once upon a time" or "there once was a..." or "in a ___ land," we decided that these phrases are almost magical. This storytelling part of us seems ingrained as a part of who we are as humans. Next, we read from a modern day fairy tale and created new fairy tales of our own. As always, I was impressed with the creativity and beautiful language that emerged after fifteen minutes of writing. These women focused on syntax and repetition and image to create vivid worlds.

I have loved being able to work with these Honors Hall Boltoneers the past two years. It really has been a pleasure.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Once Upon a Time in a Bolton Workshop

Was Snow White just on the paleo diet?

Did Cinderella drive a pumpkin because she was environmentally friendly?

Join us as we reimagine fairytales at the Bolton Writing Workshop this Tuesday, April 22, 7 pm, RFL apartment, Honors Residence Hall. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Truly Great Reading

Last night's Bolton reading was really terrific. First we heard from several talented undergraduate writers who have participated in this semester's Workshops, and then poet and fiction writer Jim Daniels read his work to a very appreciative audience. Here are some photos from the event.

After the reading, some of us had dinner with Jim Daniels. Here are four of the talented workshop leaders—Christina Seymour, Rebecca Doverspike, Rebecca Thomas, and Connie Pan—with their leftover pizza:

Thanks to everyone for another year of terrific Bolton Workshops! See you next fall!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Getting Our Evil On

A few weeks ago as spring was dragging its feet and winter was overstaying its welcome, life felt a bit monstrous... I blame it on the seemingly ever-present swirling snow. Feeling a bit downcast and dejected, us Honors Hall Boltoneers decided to give in to our darker sides and create villains. Because all good villains have good backstories and even better outfits, we decided to have a villain mash-up. On a piece of paper, we each wrote down a certain identifying item about a villain and then switched-off. What is a quintessential part to your villain's outfit? Switch. What is his or her secret? Switch. What is his or her habit? Switch. Secret Pleasure? Switch. Pet Peeve? Switch. First and last name? Switch. From there, we drew our characters and wrote a short scene about them. The results were legendary:
A man loves cocktails and dancing and whale-bone corsets.
A woman with fabulously long fingernails and a fish-tank belt.
You get the picture.

But then we discussed why we love villains so. They speak to fears and insecurities we have. We get to live out darker impulses. Better yet, we discussed what makes a good villain, and we decided that the really good villains, the ones that stick with us, have wonderfully human habits (we looked at Wilkie Collins's Count personal all-time favorite villain). But they also are inexplicable. They scare us because we can't explain them away. And so, armed with our new sense of villain-wisdom, we wrote about our own. But taking Count Fosco's love for animals into account, we wrote a scene where our bully or villain is sympathetic, because good characters are complicated ones. The results were wonderful with everyone creating complicated backstory and paying attention to details and syntax. We realized that if we wanted to create really great villains, we had to give their time on the page as much attention and care as our protagonists, too.

Come join us on Sunday, April 14, for our Spring Semester Bolton reading at 4pm in the Honors Hall. Maybe a few of our villains will show up, too.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sun Sets on this Writing Parade—But not before the reading this Sunday!

As the last wisps of fall Bolton workshops in the Dadisman/Stalnaker hall fall over this crisp night, I will share some of the work I’ve gathered from our writers over the semester. Just two hours ago, we sat on RFL Debbi’s porch eating Al’s pizza, looking over Woodburn Hall to a pink sunset on one of the warmest nights of the year. We wrote anything we wanted with a few quotes from Basho, Chuck Klosterman, Jill Bialosky, and Chuck Palahniuk guiding our way. What came out was a memory of a raccoon stealing your backpack at age seven; a fast food drug deal; an ode to our fabulous RFL :); an ode to awkwardness; and a tender poem for a suffering friend. Oh, and I wrote about the sky, in typical MFA fashion.

Bob Ross says that the moneymaker of any seascape is that little spot of yellow in the waves—the sun’s reflection on the ocean. That sky tonight had an orange-sun moneymaker that stole the show—any other pink stripe or deafeningly blue cloud was upstaged by that sun. We took moments to compose ourselves looking at the quickly changing sky, and we were glad to share it, until many of our RA participants had to shuffle off because a fire alarm went off (don’t worry, there was no real fire).

Our writers are like that spot of sun, the showstoppers of these long school days at WVU.
Enjoy these few highlights from this semester.

An excerpt of Shannon Ballard’s poem that skillfully captures the suffering of a grieving woman:
“The pain is too great and I’m not that strong”

The words spill from her lips like the neverending
pour of the tears that burn down her cheeks
laying splayed upon the crumpled covers of the bed
surrounded by the crushing darkness that has
become her friend. Her breath puffs out a potent sigh
that makes her whole body shudder as the pain
settles in her chest like a weight pressing
down making each breath a labour.
“The pain is too great and I’m not that strong”
It echoes around the room bouncing in her ears
reminding her of how much it hurts,
just how weak she is.

Karli Neff’s anti-ode to physics. Notice how her clipped sentences express her annoyed tone-of-voice:

Oh Physics how I hate thee

It kills my brain
I can’t stand these days
I sit there for an hour
nothing makes sense
the formulas
the rules
it’s all ridiculous
there is no logic
there is no reason
it’s a waste of my time
if it never existed life would be glorious
It’s a trap that pulls me in
like a spider wanting to attack
then everything shuts down
and I want to run away
escape it and call it quits.

Nick Sturniolo’s comparison of a hospital and a funeral home. Notice his subtle humor and precision of image:

Hospitals are filled with sick, injured, dreary people, half of whom are probably trying to get a prescription for their “back pain.” The funeral home had three elderly gentlemen, smiling, even though I don’t know them they were smiling. The lights in the hospital are white and very bright, you have to stare at the floor to see. The rooms in the funeral home are filled with soft incandescent light being emitted from shaded lamps and chandeliers. Their furniture also resembles their light, soft colors, complex patterns and thick fur rugs, while the hospital is filled with laminated floors and furniture made out of plaster and metal.

There’s more where that came from. See you all at the Jim Daniels/Bolton Writers reading this Sunday, April 14, at 4pm in the Honors Hall!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Very Exciting Reading...

Well of course I mean our every-semester, end-of-semester Bolton reading... made extra special this time because our student readers will be joined by author Jim Daniels. Jim is a poet, short story writer, and screenwriter. He's also a terrific reader and a really nice guy.

We'll have some free (!) copies of Jim's books on hand, so join us on Sunday, April 14, at 4:00 p.m. in the Honors Hall.

Here's a poem by Jim, as a little preview:

Winter Notion

I have this idea—imagine
a hawk sitting in the sun

in a bare December tree
and the woman jogging

past you on the city park trail
turning back to point at the hawk

so you won't miss it
and the hawk swooping low

over your head, raising hair
on your neck with the breath

of its long wings, and when she passes
you again, she asks did you see it?

and the sunlight catches her smile
and you stutter yeah—yeah—

it flew right over me. Red-tail.
Trail gently hugging the hillside,

the hawk embracing its silence.
No one to tell about it—the hawk,

the woman, the air swirling inside
like pagan grace, burning water,

red-tailed regret. Blow into your hands
for luck. See, that's my idea.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Remembered Words Bubble Up in Summitt Hall

For our first Bolton workshop in Summitt Hall this semester, I read from Lia Purpura’s essay, The Lustres, in which she describes her first encounter with certain words and the experiential meaning those words held long before she knew what they signified.  Vienna became distant train sounds out her grandmother’s window, contradict a moment on the fourth rung of a ladder between two brothers, and when one of them said, “Don’t contradict me,” she knew it to be a borrowed word, too large in his mouth.  She studied the syllables’ match to the anger she heard in his voice and by sitting with the word, she borrowed it, too.

Our lively group wrote about our own remembered first experiences with words and all kinds of amazing material bubbled up (not dissimilar to the actual bubble that rose to the table and captivated our attention as two women were washing dishes behind our gathering).

One student wrote about infinitesimal, the oddness of its large length and small syllables sharing space.  Another wrote hearing elocution pronounced in a particular accent and how that word continues to hold such a voice in each encounter with it still.  One wrote about a church sermon in which being became something whole for the first time, something more than being this or that in part, but rather believing or enacting something with one’s whole being.  Some wrote about other languages—similar sounding words to English that can cause confusion, odd glances and stares, or even, in one case, using a swear word that was then provided a different meaning for the recipient’s benefit. 

Several of us wrote about swear words, actually; that moment when you sound something through your mouth and realize it was disastrous as it hits the air, but as a child you don’t know why, remains vivid.

Someone also wrote about her first moment of understanding it was possible to lie.  Her friend had told her something and she didn’t understand how it could have been true.  “She was lying to you,” her mom explained, and it was strange to realize that it was possible to say something that was not true.

The writing held excellent descriptive detail from a focused moment.  Words can cup the particular experience surrounding our first impression of that word, and it was thought-provoking to hear all these stories!  Wonderful conversations ensued during our reading.

Thank you for a lovely turn-out was and I hope you all will join us again for our next workshop on Wednesday, March 13th (tomorrow!) at 8:00pm in the RFL Apartment. (Please note the change from the original dates: There was a time conflict in the dorm.  Our new dates for the rest of the semester are as follows: March 13, March 20, and April 10, all at 8:00pm., with an exciting time to share this material with a larger group at a reading on April 14th at 4:00pm.  More information on that at our next Workshop!)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Giving Our Right Arm for Original Description

Last Tuesday, the Honors Residence Hall Boltoneers had a cliche off. It turns out, we know a lot of cliches. But that's to be expected. We're surrounded by cliched language. Cliches provide easy access for getting one's point across, but when it comes to writing, it does the exact opposite. In writing, cliched language calls attention to itself. It reminds us that we're reading, and it doesn't allow us to see an action or emotion or image anew.

To combat cliches in our own writing, we each chose one of our favorite cliches and wrote a scene inspired by it. What resulted was fresh, exciting language: we heard about spicy tears, a description of a dug out potato patch, and the way an eye turns red right before tears come. Yes, with our new focus on fresh description in our writing, cliches are dead in their tracks.

Come join us on Tuesday for our next Bolton session. We'll be building our own villains. Tuesday, March 11, 7:00 pm, RFL Apartment, Honors Hall Residence. See you then!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

This Blog Post is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Are you green with envy when you see amazing description? Would you give your right arm to write such dazzling sentences? Are you sick and tired of stale prose? Have you ever cried like a baby over a great line? Okay...maybe some of these are a stretch, but I know I certainly get a wonderful twinge in my stomach when I stumble on a great moment of description.

This Tuesday for the Honors Residence Hall Bolton Workshop, we're going to practice avoiding cliche in our description. Join us as we find our own unique ways of description while eating delicious goodies.

Tuesday, 2/26, 7 P.M. RFL Apartment in the Honors Residence Hall.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Upcoming Spring Workshop Dates

We hope to see you at one of these upcoming workshops!

In Dadisman/Stalnaker with Christina Seymour: March 11, April 8

In Honors with Rebecca Thomas: February 26, March 12, April 23

In Summit with Rebecca Doverspike: March 4, March 18, April 15

In Arnold with Rebecca Childers: March 11, April 8

And stayed tuned for a very special announcement about a reading... details soon!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's Not You. It's Me.

It was all about subtext at the Honors Hall RFL apartment last night. Just in time for Valentine's Day we tried our best pick up lines and break up lines, and let me tell you, these Honors Hallians have some good ones. 

We started the night subtext free. We each came up with a break up reason, passed it to the left, and then wrote the scene without subtext. We struggled, finding out that when we talk to people by saying exactly what we mean, the conversation kind of dies. It turns out, we like to evade the truth. 

So, we ended the night doing just that. We each came up with a location and an activity (Starbucks ordering coffee, buying one item at the grocery store, someone ordering carnations, etc) and wrote a romantic scene, a scene where two people like each other but haven't yet worked up the nerve to ask each other out. Innuendoes ensued as did charm and romance and a few moments where we all said "aw" together. It was a lovefest just in time for the loveliest day of the year. 

Come join us for our next writing session, Tuesday February 26 at 7:00 p.m. There will be goodies and prizes and plenty of writing galore, so stop on by the Honors Hall RFL apartment. You won't be sorry (and that was said subtext free). 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Serial Killers, Hospitals, Funeral Homes, and Lasagna

We have been busy writer-bees at the Dadisman/Stalnaker hall Bolton Workshops. (Can’t you wait until there are real bees?!) Two weeks ago, we used Chuck Palahniuk’s and Bret Easton Ellis’s character-monologues to inspire our own serial killers. Warning: such an exercise surprises not just your friends but also yourself, especially your answer to the question “Who is your killer’s favorite victim?” *Chills*

Last night, Nick, Karli, Morgan, Lacey, Shannon, and I covered the topics of hospitals and funerals: not much less chilling! I was so shocked at the material these writers have. I told them to quit talking, start writing, and get those nonfiction essays published immediately. There was a stunningly elemental comparison of hospitals and funeral homes, a five-year-old girl who bit her dentist and got smacked for it, a very compressed expression of “I hate hospitals,” vials of blood, a broken ankle from a painful horse-kick,  and multiple blown veins when a nurse, this writer supposed, plotted for her to look like a drug addict.

Among this conversation, the lasagna was cheesy-good, the garlic bread was buttery-good, and George the dog rustled playfully upstairs. Thanks for Debbi and David for always creating the warm, happy atmosphere.

We will meet again on Monday, March 11, at 6:30pm for a poetic ode-frenzy. See you there!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Using Our Words

Last week, we found inspiration in paintings. A storm was coming--as storms do in January--and we sat around the table in the Honors Residence Hall apartment looking for warmth and inspiration. We found it in paintings of sunshine, Greek gods, and Icarus falling into the sea. We read poems inspired by the art and shared our own thoughts on them. The statue of Apollo reminded one Boltoneer of meringues. It made me look at the marble statue differently. And that's exactly what such writing should do, we said. It should make us re-see, rethink, reimagine our world. With that task in mind, we each wrote about a painting from either Monet, Manet, or Hopper. The results made each of us notice something different about the art. 

Below is a poem from Boltoneer Emily Buras writing about Monet's "An Artis's Garden"

A (young) Artist's Garden, A Response to Monet's Painting
Emily Buras

In a tangled jungle of sunflowers, 
behind the red brick house
the trees follow daylight.

An abandoned work basket becomes old Indian ruins, 
ripe for exploring.
Mud-stained, weary, his play clothes a mess, 
the famous adventurer braves 
garden cat attacks and
fierce cicada war cries.
Playtime lasts for weeks, 
on end.

While fording the river of 
stepping stones 
El Dorado comes into view. 
"Tea-time!" cries the queen of the natives.

The explorer sheathes his butter knife machete, 
stolen from the kitchens, 
and leaves the jungle for another day.

The sunflower trees turn to follow his retreating
golden head,
mistaking him for the sun.

Join us this Tuesday, February 12, at 7 p.m. in the Honors Residence Hall RFL Apartment. We will be writing about all things love--both falling in and out of it. See you then!

Monday, January 28, 2013

What is a Picture Worth?

Welcome back, Boltoneers! This semester is going to be fun-packed at the Honors Residence Hall. Our first meeting is on Tuesday, January 29th at 7:30 p.m., and we will be exploring ekphrastic poetry. So, come one, come all, and find your inspiration in art. 

If you can't make tomorrow, never fear. We are meeting 3 other times, too. Join us February 12,  February 26,  March 12, and March 23. All times are at 7:30 p.m. in the RFL apartment, Honors Residence Hall. 

See you then!