10 October 2009

The Virginia Woolf Writers' Workshop

by Danell Jones
If you can't spare the time or funds to go away for a week and sit in some beautiful spot in nature or linger at the feet of your favorite writing guru, buy this book instead and pretend, along with author Danell Jones, that you're being gently guided by one of the greats.

The subtitle is "Seven Lessons to Inspire Great Writing," so you can take your week away from it all a few hours each day during a week at home or away by yourself, or spread it out to fit your life.

Jones combines her 20 years of experience teaching creative writing with an intimate knowledge of Woolf, culled from years of scholarly study. In good Woolf form, she puts it all to playful use by assuming the grand dame's identity to impart writing wisdom to the rest of us.

Even if you're not a fan of Woolf's fiction, which was experimental in its time and remains challenging even today, don't let that scare you away from this book or some of Woolf's other work. Her journals and essays (when you can find them) are quite accessible and fascinating in their observations and insight, confirming for me she was someone I would have enjoyed living next door to even if I can't find it in me to plow all the way through Mrs. Dalloway. It's the everyday, conversational voice Woolf surely had that Jones conjures for us so convincingly.

The week's worth of chapters have simple headings--Practicing, Working, Creating, Walking, Reading, Publishing, and Doubting--and appendices include a suggested reading list, along with many fun exercises (Woolf called them "sparks") to supplement those in the main part of the text. You'll want your own copy to mark up and pull out whenever you need a writing lift.

Susan Is...

Storm-shot summer shadow.
   The sweet sleep of sunshine.
      A symphony of sordid screams!
         The smell of sea-spray--
      swim sweat on smooth skin--
   shake and sag, stop and see
...so some said.

PROMPT: Insert your own name in my title phrase and use lots of words that begin with the same letter as your name to describe yourself. I chose mine from my magnetic tile stash, but you could just as easily open up the dictionary.