Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Become a Story Catcher

by Deborah Nielsen

Retreats and Workshops Can Inspire

Writing is storytelling. Be it fiction, non-fiction or poetry, when we write, we tell a story.

I just got back from attending a writers’ retreat and workshop called the Story Catcher Summer Writing Workshop & Festival sponsored by the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society and Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.

What an appropriate name for a writers’ workshop where the purpose is to learn new or better ways to tell a story, to let the story catch you, or for you to reach out and catch a story before it gets away. This was my third time learning new ways to capture a story of my own. The format differs from a writers’ conference in that the focus is on the craft of writing; there are no agents or editors. 

Mari Sandoz Center at CSC
This year I took part in the writers’ retreat held at Fort Robinson State Park on Thursday and Friday. Each morning we had a craft lecture. In the afternoon, we were given time to work on that assignment from the discussion or we could work on a personal project. Everyone chose to work on the assignments.

For most of us, the work took us out of our comfort zones, and we rose to the challenges. Fiction and poetry can be a challenge if they’re not your forte. Most of the group were non-fiction writers. Although we did have a couple of poets and a sci-fi/fantasy writer among us. After our two-hour writing stints, we got back together with the instructor and shared our work and got feedback from each other as well as from the instructor. In the evenings, we had readings and discussion time before retiring for the night.

Saturday we moved to the Mari Sandoz Center at Chadron State College for the general workshop portion. We spent the day in general sessions made up of  lectures on different forms of writing that included short writing exercises and ended the day writing haiku.

Itchy eyes no good
Cottonwood fluff flies like snow
I need out of here

Mari Sandoz statue at CSC
Sunday morning we had one final presentation and then were given the opportunity to read from something we had worked on.

This workshop has remained very casual and intimate over the years. There is usually no more than a couple dozen participants and most are repeat attendees. The instructors are always first rate.

This year we learned fiction techniques from Kim Barnes, how to write poetry from Robert Wrigley, non-fiction techniques from Joe Wilkins, personal essay techniques from Carey Berman, how to write haiku from L. Cal Hitzrot and how to be a successful freelancer from Alan Wilkinson.

Carey Berman ended her presentation with a quote by Mary Oliver. “Pay attention. Be astonished. Write about it.” 

If you’d like to learn more about the workshop, check the website

1 comment:

Matthew Evertson said...

Thank you Deborah for your continued support and wonderful contributions to our writing community!

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