How to Begin When Your Head is Empty – From Writing Exercise to Finished Prose

I’m teaching a class this winter at the Hugo House in Seattle! Classes run Wednesday evenings from 7 – 9pm, February 25 – April 1.

There are days when we sit down to write and nothing comes. In this hands-on generative class, we’ll use a series of writing prompts to generate ideas and get our pens or fingers moving. Over the course of the class, as the exercises uncover hidden ideas and surprising connections, we’ll refine our focus and develop the our explorations into structured finished pieces. We’ll look at a few examples of how to structure these kinds of essays and stories from short nonfiction and fiction for inspiration. Class may include a peer workshop of drafts.

Good for prose, and poetry too!

Registration opens on December 9th for members, and the 16th for the general public. You can get to the registration here, and see a funny picture of me.

YOU CAN GET A PREVIEW OF MY CLASS, AND TAKE SOME OTHER GREAT SESSIONS, AT THE UPCOMING WRITE-O-RAMA, THIS SATURDAY (12/6)! A FULL DAY OF GENERATIVE FUN AND ARM-CRAMPING GOODNESS. CHECK IT OUT: http://hugohouse.org/classes/write-o-rama/

Feel free to email me if you’d like a reminder email once registration opens: samantha [dot] updegrave [at] gmail [dot] com.

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ENCOURAGING WORDS

I keep a folder — one of those manila-like tabbed folders with fancy birds on it — labeled Encouraging Words.

This week I’m feeling discouraged so I dug it out. Seems that it was last updated in 2012. Which is when I started it. There’s only a few things inside — an email from a writing instructor about an assignment I totally flubbed and one from my friend Sarah an about essay I wrote, a letter of recommendation written by my friend Sean, and 1995 article my best friend and I were interviewed in, written by Sara Sherr, thee rock journalist extraordinaire of my youth, at a Huggy Bear show.

A good start. But clearly in need of additions.

Which got me thinking about all the good words I’ve encountered in the past month, from various people in various places, and how they are saving my ass through this discouraging spell. Instead of giving up, I’m acknowledging that while some piece of my heart is still breaking over and over, I can still be open. I can still write. And I can definitely pass along these encouraging words to all of you.

“Your subconscious knows more than you do.”
Pam Houston, author, January 24, in a Hugo House class, Tennis Without A Net

“The biggest rule I’m going to break is to keep writing what I need to write.”
Natalie Diaz, poet, February 21, at the Hugo House Lit Series

“Permission granted.”
Karen Finneyfrock, poet and YA author, February 22, in her Hugo House class, Writing Toward the Dark Places 

“Write about the lost good thing.”
Kim Stafford, poet and memoirist, AWP Panel, Invisible Geography: Writing Trauma, Pain, and Loss

(Hey, there was a lot of Hugo House in there. You should check them out. Seriously. Inspiring. Place.)