I’m just back from teaching at the literary conference LitFuse, and I should be asleep, but I’m too wired; LitFuse did just what it promised. I’m reminded why we go to conferences: Writing is a solitary act and we need the energy and inspiration from others in our tribe, need the reminders that we’re not alone in this sometimes lonely pursuit.
I’d been hearing about LitFuse for years, since it was launched in 2006 in Tieton (near Yakima, WA) and was glad to have the opportunity to experience it myself. I knew it would be exhausting—the three-hour drive over on highways dense with smoke from the fires to the north—and it was. But I wasn’t prepared for how much I received back.
I taught two workshops: “Making Room to Write in a Crowded World: Mindfulness and Writing Practice,” using The Pen and the Bell, and a workshop on revision. Since I didn’t have much time to prepare, I decided to call on my former teachers—and all the collective wisdom in the room. It worked. I put together a list of revision strategies from workshops I’d attended and that spun into a lively discussion, everyone in the room bringing their own questions, examples, and strategies to the conversation. (I’m happy to send my list of revision strategies to anyone who asks for it.)
To prepare us, we read together a few lines from a poem by Jane Hirshfield, reminding us that revision is an opportunity to “re-vision” our work,
Toward the end, only revision mattered:
to look again, more deeply, harder, clearer,
the one redemption granted us to ask.
— “History of the Painter Bonnard”
Here are a few of the many suggestions from faculty and students in the workshop, with a deep bow of gratitude to all:
Karen Finneyfrock, a wonderful spoken word poet, took the important strategy of reading the poem aloud one step further: Memorize the poem! She finds that when she stumbles in a poem, that’s often a line that needs re-working. Along this line, Terry Martin, of Blue Begonia Press, reminded us that it’s helpful to hear your poem read aloud by someone else.
Katharine Whitcomb, a fine poet who teaches at Central Washington University reminded us of the importance of the integrity of the line and the importance of a strong title, one that adds tension to the poem. (Check out her poems for great examples of this!) Marjorie Rommel suggested looking at the poem as a musical narrative, even applying musical terms like adagio or legato to focus on the pacing, specifically. Dana Guthrie Martin suggested trying different sizes/shapes of paper to shift to a new perspective.
I hope you’ll visit the LitFuse website and check out the writing that will be posted from Dan Peters’ workshop, where participants wrote about the glittering sculpture pieces on display in the Mighty Tieton Warehouse. Many thanks to Ed Marquand and Michael Longyear for the vision of Mighty Tieton, and to Michael Schein, Carol Trenga and Sylvia Imbrock for the smooth execution of LitFuse 2012.
This week, tap into the creative energy in your writing community by checking out writing workshops or signing up for a class.
For writing this week, choose a poem or prose piece that’s stalled out, and try out one of the revision strategies listed here, then send us both versions. Or send us YOUR revision strategy to add to our list.
May we all find ways to be re-energized and to “look again, more deeply, harder, clearer” as we head into fall…