The West Virginia Division of Culture and History in collaboration with the West Virginia Library Commission will present an intensive creative writing skills workshop on Saturday, March 19, from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The conference, Writers’ Toolkit, will kickoff with a keynote address by featured guest writer Mary Calhoun Brown of Huntington on Friday evening, March 18, at 7 p.m. Her talk, Inspired by Dr. Seuss, will be followed by a reception in the Great Hall. The Friday and Saturday programs are free and open to the public.
Brown’s keynote talk will address the important role authors, songwriters and artists have as a voice for positive change in the world. She will illustrate how she uses her work to create change in classrooms and beyond. Brown also will discuss how writers can achieve that extra punch that can turn their words into a useful tool for educators and an award-winning book. The address will be followed by a question-and answer session.
The Writers’ Toolkit workshop will have two sessions of two-hour workshops: 10 a.m. - noon, and 1 - 3 p.m. Each session will feature several concurrent classes. The morning options include “Creative Writing: A Sensory Approach for Teachers, Students and Young Writers” with Brown; “Journalism Class” with Paul Nyden of Charleston; “Taking Off the Training Wheels” with Sherrell Wigal of Parkersburg; and “Writing Speculation Fiction Part One” with Michael Knost of Logan.
Brown will lead participants through a series of writing prompts to help them improve their writing skills. She uses a unique combination of humor and sensory awareness to bring out the best in young writers. She will encourage everyone to share portions of their in-session work and provide prizes for outstanding ideas and vocabulary.
Nyden will discuss the people skills necessary to get the best story. He will talk about the value of statistical information and how it is enhanced when you talk to people who give a human face to those statistics. He also will provide copies of a 1993 investigative series he wrote for the Charleston Gazette on coal contracting for which he received the George Polk Award for business reporting.
Wigal will emphasize tips, techniques and tricks to put the writer into an open and receptive mind-set. Participants will take part in hands-on writing exercises designed to free them from the fear presented by the blank page. The workshop is open to all ages and skill levels, and will end with a question-and-answer period.
Knost’s class will be the first of a two-part lesson plan that will serve any genre writer, especially those seeking to write science fiction, fantasy, horror, or supernatural thrillers. This workshop will provide a detailed study of what a story is and the necessary components of plot.
Afternoon workshops will offer “Creative Writing: Using Technology and Other Strategies to Enrich the Writing Process” with Brown; “Songwriting” with Kodac Harrison of Atlanta, Ga.; and “Writing Speculation Fiction Part Two” with Knost.
Brown’s workshop will help participants enrich their writing using both high- and low-tech methods and simple strategies. She will discuss how to end writers’ block, how to navigate changes in the publishing business and answer specific questions about the writing process. Brown also will talk about the benefits of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as tools to market your work and increase sales.
Harrison will cover all aspects of being a songwriter from what it means to be a songwriter, the elements of a good song, what to do with a song once you’ve written it, and how a songwriter makes money. Participants will analyze several types of songs.
The second part of Knost’s lesson plan will focus on how the writer can successfully suspend the reader’s disbelief with speculative nature of story or plot.
Brown is an award-winning author and speaker who started her writing career at the age of five when she “figured out that letters made words,” she says. She’s been creating stories ever since. Her most recent novel, There Are No Words is the recipient of 10 awards, including the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Eric Hoffer Award, International Book Award, Mom’s Choice Award, and USA Book Award. Brown advocates for children and adults with autism and serves on the board of the Autism Services Center. She stands firm on her soap box in classrooms and at conferences, encouraging kindness and an end to bullying.
Harrison is a long time Atlanta singer/songwriter and acoustic guitar player. He has released 15 recordings of original music and the spoken word in the last 30 years. Harrison is involved in the Atlanta poetry community as chairman of the non-profit Poetry Atlanta, and hosts the weekly “Java Monkey Speaks” poetry reading. In 2008, he produced and performed in a theatrical presentation of his music and spoken word at 7 Stages theater. In 2010 he held the McEver Chair in Poetry at Georgia Tech. Harrison has been named Atlanta’s best spoken word artist four times in Atlanta’s “Creative Loafing” and Atlanta’s best poet three times.
Knost is a Bram Stoker award-winning author, editor, and columnist of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and supernatural thrillers. His Writers Workshop of Horror recently won the Black Quill and Bram Stoker awards for superior achievement in nonfiction. He served as ghostwriter for several projects, including work with the Discovery Channel and Lionsgate Media. He is writing a Mothman novel slated for release in 2011.
Nyden has been a reporter for the Charleston Gazette since June 1982, covering political, environmental, labor and foreign policy issues. He also has written extensively about the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd. Since 1994, he has taught courses in sociology and labor history at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. Between 1979 and 1982, he did research projects for federal agencies, including the National Park Service. In addition to the George Polk Award, Nyden has won three first-place national awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.
A West Virginia native, Wigal focuses her writing primarily upon poetry and short fiction. She has been featured at events throughout West Virginia and the Appalachian region, both as a performer of her original poetry and as a workshop leader. Wigal is dedicated to helping writers establish their own voices in writing and to be confident in the creation and presentation of their work. Wigal is planning a creative writing workshop which she will conduct in Venice, Italy this fall.
Participants should bring pens, pencils and writing tablets. They also are welcome to bring a bag lunch to eat from noon - 1 p.m., or visit one of several eateries available within one block of the Culture Center.
For more information about the Writers’ Toolkit workshop, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.