The Writer As an Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and With Others

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9781565650732: The Writer As an Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and With Others

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About the Author:

Pat Schneider is the founder/director of Amherst Writers & Artists and editor of Amherst Writers & Artists Press, has published widely in literary journals and magazines, including Sewanee Review, minnesota review, Ms. Magazine, and Negative Capability. She has published three books of poetry, Olive Street Transfer, White River Junction and Long Way Home. In addition, she has published a book on writing, The Writer as an Artist: A New Approach to Writing Alone and With Others and has edited a collection of the writings of women in low-income housing projects, In Our Own Voices. Her book, Wake Up Laughing: A Spiritual Autobiography, was released in 1997 by Negative Capability Press, and her NEW book, Olive Street Transfer, was released in 1999 by Amherst Writers & Artists Press.

Her libretti have been recorded by the Louisville Symphony and performed by Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony in Boston's Symphony Hall and in Carnegie Hall, New York City. Fourteen of her plays have been produced, nine published. There are more than 300 recorded productions of her plays in this country and in Europe. Pat is an alumnus of the Lehman Engel BMI Musical Theater Workshop. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, and an MA in Religious Studies from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA. She has been recipient of literary prizes, and grants from the Danforth Foundation, the Massachusetts Artists Fellowship Awards, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she is the Founder/Director of Amherst Writers & Artists and Amherst Writers & Artists Press, which has published twenty books of poetry and the national literary journal, Peregrine.

Pat is a member of the faculty of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, leading creative writing workshops in two sessions each year at Pacific School of Religion. She also leads annual workshops in Ireland, workshop leadership training seminars and several writing retreats. In 1993 Pat was keynote speaker and workshop leader at a women's retreat in Japan.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

A WRITER IS SOMEONE WHO WRITES

I have been a writer all my life. In the fourth grade, at age nine, I wrote my first verse: My name is Patsy V./And I'm in the class 4-B. In the moments of joy following that creation I was as much a writer as I was at age forty-five, sitting in Carnegie Hall, hearing the lyric soprano Phyllis Byrn-Julson; sing my words: Gold is gone from the hills,/The cedar stands grey in the dawn,/ The watchman has gone from the wall./ The heart, the holy place, is empty. I was not as skilled at nine, but I was as much a writer. When I was twelve, I lived in a tenement in the inner city of St. Louis, Missouri, where I would lean out a third story window at night, dreaming of writing like T.S. Eliot. At twelve, I was ironing my mother's starched, white cotton uniform every blessed day, but it did not once occur to me that ironing could be the subject of literature. This was long before Tillie Olsen; had written a story titled "I Stand Here Ironing." Literature was made by upper class men, wr! iting their views of the human experience. And I wanted desperately to sound like them, so I could make art, too.

But what I was taught was a lie. Art belongs to the people. It belongs to those who "stand here ironing," to those who clean city streets, to those who work in front of computer screens, as well as to those who read in the ivy halls. Almost all of us can tell a story to a best friend or lover so powerfully we move the other person to sorrow or to laughter, to deep feeling, to "denouement." You can write as powerfully as you talk to your closest friend. If you are safe enough. If you can forget yourself enough, if you can "let go" and tell the truth of what you have experienced or imagined, you can write. If you can tell a tale, if you can make one other person want to listen to you, "see" what you describe, "hear" the voices you repeat, "feel" the end of your story -- you can write.

Many of us talk around the supper table, tell stories, jokes, repeat what happened at the office, and never know we are creating fictions, dialogue, suspense, climax. If you can talk, not being able to write is a learned disability. It is almost always the result of scar tissue, of disbelief in yourself accumulated as a result of unhelpful responses when you have tried to write. Those wounds can be healed, those blocks can be removed. Even if you don't talk easily to others, but spin out stories in your own head -- if you talk to yourself -- you can write. You are already an artist; all you have to do is take up your pen and begin. What I believe is not believed by everyone. It is this: there is no place for hierarchies in the heart, and the making of art is a matter of the heart. Art is the creative expression of the human spirit.

Some artists (some writers) are geniuses. But what is genius made of? I think a large part of it is some amazing self-confidence that enables the genius to reach farther, go deeper, take greater risks than a person trapped in fear and self-protection will do. Often, whatever we may think of the form it takes, there is intimate support. Shakespeare worked in the intimate, supportive community of a strong theater that wanted his next play. Dickinson worked within the intimate community made up of her family members who loved her and protected her time and privacy. Where there is not intimate support, there is often the driving force of suffering, creating an intense personal isolation out of which the voice of genius arises. Each of us is capable of genius, but we need support, and we can give it to one another as friends, or in honest and supportive workshop settings. Genius is hidden everywhere; it is in every person, waiting to be evoked, enabled, supported, celebrated. It is! in you. It is in me. Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's vision. Dickinson wrote Dickinson's. Who will write yours, if you do not?

. . . .

A writer is someone who writes. The genius in her upstairs room writing I'm Nobody! Who are you?/Are you - Nobody - Too? is a writer (Emily Dickinson;). The grandmother in a frame house in North Dakota penning a letter on lined paper from the drug store is a writer. The child in third grade pushing her pencil to form cursive letters, "T-h-i-s s-u-m-m-e-r i w-e-n-t t-o d-i-s-s-n-y L-a-n-d..." is a writer. You are a writer. You are an artist. Accept it, celebrate it, use it, for the rest of your life.

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