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March 2014

Faces of Revision

By Julie Hensley, Associate Professor, Bluegrass Writers Studio

I go back and forth on “required” revision. My students know this. One semester, I include a formal revision assignment, usually as a closing project, in my ENW 820 workshop; the next semester, I take it out in favor of a book review. How do you do real revision in a sixteen week course? Don’t you need to leave the file unopened on your desktop for at least that long? Don’t you need to shut all the hard copies of your manuscript in a drawer for three months or so? One of my own mentors was fond of saying that, optimally, when you come back to that poem or story, the words should no longer feel like your own. I think she was right, that the best global revision happens only with some serious distance; however, I think there are many ways to revise, not all of them global.

The Contract

By Joseph Nichols, Bluegrass Writers Studio

           A few nights ago, I decided it was time.

            I dimmed the lights, quieted my two sons, and cued up one of my childhood favorites:  E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.

            A little over an hour later, my seven year old, Isaac, ran and hid under the table. The room was painted in the blues and whites of E.T.’s death scene. Elliot was pleading with his alien friend, begging the little guy not to die, promising his friend that he wouldn’t leave his side. “I’ll be right here!” he screamed.

Finding My Way Back to a First Love

By Jen Parks, Bluegrass Writers Studio

My husband didn’t marry a writer. He didn’t even marry a reader. He married an almost-graduate nurse anesthetist and a wannabe mother. So when I asked my always-been-a-reader husband, nearly six years after our wedding date, “When you finish reading a book, do you ever want to, um, write one?” I got a “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?” look.

I know why I got the look, though. During the two years my husband dated me, I was in graduate school and had read exactly two books for enjoyment. In my defense, the seventy to eighty hours a week I spent in clinical rotations or studying didn’t afford me much time to “read for fun.”

My Own Private Impresario

By Ashley Parker Owens, Bluegrass Writers Studio

We’ve all seen it, from negative reviews on Amazon by consumers who haven’t read the book to blogs suggesting that JK Rowling should stop writing so others will have a chance to publish. Why do some writers think they can get ahead by tearing other authors down? It doesn’t work that way, at least not in my experience.

Fahrenheit 715

By Cynthia Behunin, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Last spring, Derek Nikitas challenged his Novel Workshop students to write 715 words every day. At this rate of creation, each of us could write a novel without losing years of our lives. Several of my peers thrived and were able to embrace consistently writing their novels and the structure this practice provided.

The first half of the semester, I did as directed, but simply put words on the page, not long thoughts or full-fledged ideas. I felt disconnected to my novel and struggled with motivation to write it at all. By mid-semester my writing stopped completely due to my pregnancy and family issues.

At the end of the semester, my 15,000 word deadline was approaching and I had to complete it. I spent twelve to fifteen hours straight writing (it was dubbed ultra-marathon writing). Finally, I felt connected to my manuscript. When I wasn’t writing I completed research, interviews, and planning.

The No-Longer-Lonely Writer

By Jen Parks, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Summer in Lisbon

By Kristen Thompson, Associate Coordinator, Bluegrass Writers Studio

It's Spring Break, and that means no deadlines! There's always reading to get lost in and writing to dream up, but this week we get a breather from class assignments. Most of our participants, if they take a break at all, will spend the week focusing on jobs, family, and melting the remaining snow with a blowtorch.

If you need a virtual vacation, escape in our new gallery of photos from last year's Bluegrass Writers Studio Summer Residency in Lisbon, Portugal. Do you have your ticket for 2014?

Before Character and Plot Comes THE AWESOME

By Dr. Derek Nikitas, Director, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Even the program director is sometimes blindsided by how awesome the Bluegrass Writers Studio low-residency MFA program can be. It’s a living, breathing, evolving thing with, surprising twists.

Case in point: this semester, we’ve got a genre-writing workshop with science fiction writer Maureen McHugh (China Mountain Zhang, After the Apocalypse). That’s awesome enough. But last week, Maureen rather casually brought along fellow science fiction writer(s) “James S.A. Corey” to have an online audio chat with the students about novel writing.

Clichés: A Dime a Dozen

By Jen Parks, Bluegrass Writers Studio

Two years ago, a friend encouraged me to start writing. Think Forrest Gump here. I had no idea what I was doing; I just started writing. Fifteen months and 250 pages later, I had reached the proverbial “end” of what became my first book. And it was bad. Really bad. And I didn’t know just how bad, until Tom Franklin gave a craft lecture at Bluegrass Writers Studio. 

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