One of the things I’ve been lucky enough to do over here at 27 Powers is to bring gifted writers and teachers from all over the country to the house to teach. Over the years I’ve had writers such as Marie Howe, Ellen Bass, Tony Hoagland, Stephen Dunn, Deena Metzger, actress Ann Randolph, Dorianne Lux, Joe Millar and Philip Gerard. I bring them so that my community of writers can study with these remarkable people, and learn things that I can’t teach them. But I also bring these folks for myself, so I can keep learning, not only about writing, but about teaching too. What I’ve found after having so many wonderful groups here is that writing in community encourages all of us to become a better writers. There’s just more smarts in one place – something my friend Andrea Scher calls “the intelligence in the room.”
I’m self taught, instinctual. I did get a degree in journalism, and while I’ve managed to cobble together a life around words these last 30 years, not much of what I know came from schooling. All the books and the articles came from a curiosity about people, and the stories I wanted to tell about them. If I’ve gotten anywhere, it is in large part due to friends like Brian Hill, my first serious boyfriend in the early 80’s, a journalist at the Daily Cal in Berkeley, and a terrific writer who cleaned up my pieces, re-routed paragraphs and sharpened my ideas so editors would print them. Add to that list of readers over the years, friends like Lisa Jones, Maya Stein, Jeff Greenwald, Joel Drucker, Sonya Lea, Stephanie Williamson, Sherry Belul, Kirsten Soares, Mark Wagner and Deborah Ollivier, who all said, “hell yes, send the piece,” when I asked for their eyes. Last week I got help from Eve Pearlman and Marc Mowrey, friends who took the time to read a story and tell me what worked and what didn’t. I would be lost without them. Everyone needs an editor, as well as the community of people who give you feedback so that you can become a better writer.
Teaching also benefits from a tribe. Though I do most of my teaching alone, I’ve been fortunate to have some partners like Lisa Jones, Jen Louden, Andrea Scher, and this past weekend I had the great pleasure of teaching with one of my dearest friends, and a writer who I hold in high esteem, Maya Stein.
Even though Maya and I were “teaching,” we created a circle of chairs in the room and we positioned ourselves on stools across from one another so that when we spoke and shared ideas with the group, we could also look one another in the eye. As I formed thoughts, I looked to Maya, almost as if I were talking to her, as if I were trying to get her to understand what I was saying. The nod of her head, the way, after I finished a thought, she picked it up and kept going created a buoyancy. The weekend became a never ending conversation about writing – a conversation that Maya and I instigated, but which we invited all of the writers in the room to join us in. The intelligence was alive in the room. Every voice was important to what the weekend became and what we created together.
I like writing and teaching in community. Every time I write with my students, I learn something about writing, but I also learn a lot about life. Rich stories, rich people, rich life.
If you want to craft stories, consider my 5-week Ecourse, Telling True Stories, which also starts on May 4th. Juicy writing prompts and even a deadline each week to keep you on your toes. And me, I’ll be in there with you, reading your work.
If the idea of stepping into a virtual writing studio — somewhere to practice your craft + create something meaningful — tugs at your heart, Telling True Stories was created for YOU.
I’ve got a few spots open for the Wild Writing (live, on a video platform) class. These groups are small – 6-7 other women from around the country and me – live for an hour and a half one morning a week for 5 weeks. It’s gorgeous, life changing work. Starts the week of May 4th. Write with us Live & Online (Video Calls)
And if you’re in Northern California, I’ve still got a few spots open in the live, in-person (in Alameda) Wild Writing classes. Coveted spots get taken quickly. Write with us Live & In-Person (at 27 Powers)