In fifteen days, the participants for the Voices workshop (http://www.voicesatvona.org/) will arrive in San Francisco. Our two weeks of workshops at USF are run by 9 master writers and bring about 100 participants to town. They come from all over. A quick survey of my two classes, Political Content in Poetry, Story and Memoir, and Memoir, is delivering writers from Canada, Pittsburgh, Southern California and other places east and south, as well as here in the Bay Area. As i write the materials for each of the classes, I plot. How can I make this one week change them as writers, give them authority in their voices, significance to the world?
Or should I go for smaller reaches? Create a safe environment for them to talk about their writing, inspire community building and affirmation in the creative self?
The Voices Workshop can't be duplicated in other environments. This two weeks where we are literally shackled to each other, breathing, eating and roaming aorund each other, feeling important, that our work is vital, that we count. Some times in the world of the academy or mainstream literary world we fade in the soapy waters of the world outside of VONA. We lose our color in one sense...sometimes not being seen-- and in another sense, our color, our difference becomes more saturated, pronounced, something others want to dip their fingers into and taste.
At VONA we don't explain our families, our cultures, our ways of survival--we define our own topics and we speak our own languages. it's compelling, heartening, sensual and grounding. We aren't the exotic, we don't have a lingo, we trace our histories farther back that the folks outside the walls.
The workshops can be harsh too--calling us to be change agents, transformational and transformed. i ask them to read masterful and provocative texts and i create exercises that will motivate them and take them to a higher level, but it's ridiculous in a way because they come with their own desire and talent and ambition, their sense of interaction and satisfaction. They hardly need me.
So, I put important quotes on my syllabi
In this country American means white. Everybody else has to hyphenate. ~Toni Morrison
But i'm mulling over the 20 ish pages of directions and readings and waiting. Bated breath and door open. Waiting for them to come in where it's warm inside.
Causes Elmaz Abinader Supports