I enjoyed my time at the Callaloo Writers Workshop at Brown University. The pace of Providence (Rhode Island) is just right for an island girl (especially compared to the dizzying pace of New York where I am as I write this). The group I landed in is a cool crop of talented folks; and the workshop facilitators Maaza Mengiste and Ravi Howard proved to be a God send, setting the right tone and getting us thinking and talking about writing…and beyond that, actually writing. I look forward to reading both of their books because they both obviously know their stuff and if the workshop sessions weren’t enough to convince, then their joint reading from new and pending work as well as their lectures in concert with the poetry facilitators Vievee Francis and Gregory Pardlo sealed the deal. There was another reading – featuring celebrated poet Michael Harper and inventive fiction writer Percival Everett – but I have to say the reading with the workshop facilitators was particularly enjoyable for me.
Unusual for me, I didn’t even sweat the student reading, with me reading from Oh Gad! as part of the lineup, in great part due to the fact that by the time the actual reading came around, I’d already read it twice, @ Maaza’s insistence, before an audience with (i.e. my workshop group) and received tips for improving my presentation. I’m glad for the opportunity to share my work in a space like Brown University’s Rites and Reasons Theatre, at this esteemed workshop, a by product of the quality quarterly, Callaloo, which dates back to 1976 as a joint project between Texas A & M and John Hopkins.
I’d recommend Callaloo in a heartbeat. Of course, given the track record it’s built up since its start in 1997, having attracted, over the years, workshop leaders like Tayari Jones and Edwidge Dandicat, it hardly needs me to recommend it. But I do.
As I was saying to a fellow workshop participant, getting a good groove in settings such as these is not a given. You can’t predict chemistry. But the facilitator helps to set the tone; and both fiction workshop leaders ensured that our meetings were marked by respectful give and take as we questioned and challenged each other with respect to the pieces being workshopped. As for the pieces being workshopped, I look forward to reading all of them when finally they make it into print, as I have no doubt they all will.
Most significantly for me, I shared, for the first time, the scrappy beginnings of what I think might be my next book and the encouragement and insight I received make me eager to tackle what promises to be a challenging writing project. Of course, they’re also forcing me to consider if the short story I workshopped in week 2 may also be a novel which feels a tad overwhelming (especially with the limited time to write when I get home) but is an idea not easily discarded. I have the piles of notes re both these stories saved for careful review and consideration and for that alone consider my time at Callaloo well spent.
For images from Callaloo go here.
As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.