By Sarah Ellen Berman
Photo by James Estrin, The NYT
Aspiring and established writers take heart, there are a multitude of effective methods to lead you on the path to successful writing. Courses, books, and fellow writers eagerly await.
10. Education. An excellent way to embark on a writing career and ameliorate an existing one is to sign up for a class. One of the closest physical resources for authors is the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center, located in Sleepy Hollow. This vibrant organization is dedicated to helping writers find their voice. Programs at the Center afford “the opportunity to see life through new eyes and expanded visions” Executive Director Frank Juliano explained.
Student and Chappaqua resident Suzanne Shiner is a strong proponent of the Center. “I’ve had a great experience there,” she related. “The atmosphere is very nurturing and very positive. It’s been a great creative outlet for me.”
The eclectic mix of courses at the Center includes “How to Write Page Turning Fiction,” “The Business of Writing” and “The Poetry Manuscript.” “Writing About Food” is taught by Carol Durst-Wertheim who hails from Chappaqua. Residents may know her from the popular series “Menus in the Movies” at the Chappaqua Library.
Online offerings abound. In courses offered by The Gotham Writers’ Workshop, the classroom is perfectly simulated. The teacher delivers a lecture, poses questions, and moderates discussions. Students meet in the virtual lounge.
9.Begin writing. Start a daily journal, in hardcopy or as a blog. Setting the goal of quotidian creation will instill discipline in your practice. This method often morphs into a published memoir. Lit by Mary Karr and Closing Time by Joe Queenan are two exemplary examples in this category.
8.Incorporate new techniques. To enhance the flow and rhythm of your sentences, add alliteration. Employ descriptive adjectives to paint a picture.
7.Read for inspiration & guidance. In Reading Like a Writer, Francine Prose says “Like most, maybe all, writers, I learned to write by writing and, by example, from books.” Analyze excerpts like this one from Deborah Eisenberg’s short story, Broken Glass: “I pored over it, studying the thrilling colors that were unfaded by previous exposure to memory.”
6.Listen. Established writers impart wisdom on their craft during readings and author talks. These events open a window into the creative process. The poet Elizabeth Alexander–who read her work at the inauguration of President Barack Obama–is one of the illustrious professionals who have appeared at the Center. Author interviews on NPR provide another valuable source of insight.
5.Read your piece out loud. In this step, errors–unseen by even the most careful proofreader–are revealed. As the master, Eudora Welty wrote in One Writer’s Beginnings, “When I write and the sound of it comes back to my ears, then I act to make my changes.” Click on “speech” on a mac, and your prose becomes music to your ears.
4.Editing. An indispensable step. In the writer’s bible, The Elements of Style, Strunk & White stress, “Revising is part of writing.” Be meticulous. Experiment with your composition by transposing parts and rewriting. Keep copies of previous versions.
3.Feedback. Once your piece is ready for primetime, consider open mike night at the Center. “It’s the most democratic of all the events we have,” Juliano said.
Writing groups also provide a forum in which work is presented and discussed. Constructive criticism is encouraged.
2. Contests. A great incentive to polish your work. There are many places to submit including the Center’s play reading series “Setting the Stage,” for budding dramaturges. Three plays are chosen and produced.
1. Just For Kids. Despite the prevalence of electronic games and other distractions in their lives, Juliano remains optimistic about the younger set.“There are a lot of exciting young thinkers who are out there. They’re still writing, sharing, and reading,” he observed. At the Center, tunes soar in “Junior Tin Pan Alley” and creative writing is taught in “Words with Wings.” In the magazine, “Stone Soup” every piece is written by kids. Submissions are welcome.
Sarah Ellen Berman is a regular contributor to Inside Chappaqua. Many additional stories by Sarah can also be found through the “New Castle News” link