On Monday, August 28th, Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix will host Daniel Magariel for a workshop and conversation about his new novel One of the Boys. Purchase the book and you’ll get access to his workshop, “Editing with Abandon.” After the workshop, join the author for a presentation about the book. More information can be found here.
On Saturday, August 12th Rachel Egboro will be conducting a two-hour introductory storytelling workshop. Rachel is the co-founder of thestoryline.org, a Phoenix storytelling collective. During the workshop, Rachel will give some simple steps to begin and develop a story for an audience. The workshop costs $25 and will be at the Changing Hands Phoenix location. You can find more information and buy tickets here.
This Saturday June 17th is the annual Juneteenth Valley of the Sun Festival. The Juneteenth festival is a state holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the United States. This one day free festival will be held at Eastlake Park from 4-9PM and features guest speakers, art, music, dance, sporting events, and vendors.
We Jazz June will host a Gwendolyn Brooks workshop at the event from 4-6PM. In addition to the writers’ workshop, the event will hold a discussion about Brooks’ poems, and an in-depth look at the Golden Shovel poetic form.
Sooner or later, we all have to deal with critics. The old chestnut goes something along the lines of “but my mom says I’m brilliant,” and so we’ll have to forego any maternal input on our literary efforts in favor of words less warm, but probably more honest. Whether we’re talking about a submission editor’s hasty notes, a mentor’s line-by-line markup, or an Iowa-style “dead author” workshop session, the writer’s job in the face of criticism is to learn from that criticism. It’s a herculean task, but one which you the writer must master since, well, go back and read the first sentence.
While it is tempting to rest assured of your own brilliance, know that you dismiss any piece of criticism at your own peril. You’ll get the occasional ill-informed vagary along the lines of “I dunno, I just didn’t like it” or something else equally unhelpful. You’ll often find this sort of criticism in low-level undergraduate writing workshops around midterm and finals weeks, or following a weekend of epic tailgating. No need to really pay that too much attention if you are not so inclined.
But I digress.
Assuming that the critic has indeed read your work, considered it, and wants to offer constructive and helpful notes, it’s important to humble yourself and to listen. Criticism can sting, badly. That’s not quite doing it justice: criticism can make you want to curl up into a ball and never write again. But that’s what happens when you let your ego get in the way of your craft, and if you’re going to write – and, as a consequence, deal with critics – you must let go of your ego.
Some critics are relatively easy to endure – pedants checking your spelling and grammar, for example. Others are easy to dismiss if they are trying too hard to inject their own style matter into your work – the minimalist who insists you could chop your complex character drama down to about the length of a sonnet.
But other criticism cuts deeper. When you’ve had a gaping and irreconcilable plot hole revealed, or if someone should point out that your story so strongly echoes something else already in the world that no publisher would ever show it the light of day. Or that your characterization reveals you to be, or perhaps suggests that you are, sexist, or racist, or misogynistic, or homophobic, or otherwise holding a deep character flaw that perhaps you didn’t even know you had.
When faced with such criticism, it’s important to remember your service to the words – if you’ve been called out over questionable or even hurtful politics, take the time to think about what you’re doing and where you’re coming from. This is the sort of criticism that must not be ignored for both your own sake and, in a very real way, for the sake of the societies and cultures in which we find ourselves. If your work has struck a nerve and offended*, then observe the awesome power that words have in the world, and strive to use that power responsibly.
And of course, sometimes we just have to torch a piece. Perhaps the plot isn’t salvageable, or we realize we have plagiarized something we’ve never read (or at least that’s what our critics say). Cheer up – burn the failure and use the ashes like fertilizer to nourish the next piece. If the worst thing that happens after an encounter with hard criticism is more writing, then consider yourself lucky and get back to work.
*Disclaimer: “You shouldn’t be offended,” “I didn’t mean to offend anyone,” and “explain it to me – how is that offensive?” are not appropriate in this circumstance. If you have offended someone, you listen to what they have to say. Similarly, “I’m being offensive on purpose” is debatable at best, and you’re probably not being as witty as you think you are – people’s failure to “get it” is more likely your failure to deliver it.
Hey readers! Superstition Review is proud to announce that Ruben Quesada, a former faculty member at Eastern Illinois University who was featured in the Poetry section of Issue 13, has been named a faculty member at the UCLA Extension, and will be teaching a course on Poetry and Popular Culture alongside Rosebud Ben-Oni this summer. Do yourself a favor, and check out Ruben Quesada’s poem “On Witness” here, and stay tuned to the blog for more updates on the beautiful happenings here at Superstition Review.
The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU is proud to offer three creative writing classes through the Piper Writers Studio. Classes are taught by acclaimed and award-winning writers from the community, and cover topics such as fiction workshop, publishing, and character development.
The faculty for the Spring 2017 session of the Piper Writers Studio are:
- Marylee MacDonald
- Chantelle Aimée Osman
- Sharon Skinner
Classes are open to individuals of all backgrounds, skill levels, and experiences, and are designed to fit around the schedules of working adults (taking place weekday evenings or weekend afternoons). Classes will be held at the Piper Writers House, the historic President’s Cottage on the ASU Tempe Campus. Class sizes range between 8 and 12 students in order to ensure an intimate, individualized educational experience, and start at $75 (with discounts for individuals who are members of the Piper Circle of Friends). Classes can also qualify for professional development credit with the Arizona Department of Education. If you register before December 31, 2016, you can receive an additional discount of $50 off 4 week classes and $15 off single day classes.
For more information, please visit the Piper Center’s website.
Spoken Word Poetry Workshop and Slam takes place on Saturday, November 5 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Aravaipa Auditorium, ASU Polytechnic Campus.7211 Innovation Way, Mesa. The workshop features Tomas Stanton.
Stanton is a poet, educator, teaching artist, hip hop thespian and community organizer. He is co-founder of Phoenix-based Phonetic Spit, which uses the literary arts, youth development, and social justice programs “to empower young and emerging adults to find, develop, and publicly present their voices as agents of societal change.”
The event is organized by Wendy R. Williams, assistant professor of English education in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. The event is free and open to the public. Make sure to RVSP here.