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March 5, 2015
by: Tad Phippen Wente

School of Writers: “19 Writers” speak out about what they do

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In her foreword to Caroline Sharp’s The Writer’s Workbook: Daily Exercises for the Writing Life, Elizabeth Gilbert recounts the following conversation with a friend:

“What would you rather do,” Joe asked. “Would you rather wash all your dirty laundry, run it through the drier, fold it, put it away in your drawers, and then take those same clean clothes out of your drawers, unfold them and wash them all over again, or...would you rather spend the same amount of time writing?”

“Laundry,” I replied without hesitation. “I would definitely do the laundry twice.”
She is talking about the hard work of writing (and how easily writers can be distracted from doing this work they love).

Trimester 2 at IDEAS Academy, 19 writers gathered every morning in The Writing Room first block to focus, access their minds, and write. Except for Workshop days they pretty much ignored one another. Each huddled over a Chromebook or a notebook, fingers working, maybe earbud leashes connecting sound and thought, or maybe not. They independently, collectively, entered ‘the zone.’ Writers. It’s how they work.

On Workshop days they became professionals, either risking their work or offering their perspectives, all for the good of the craft. During my conferences with them I again heard these professional voices sound confidently with experience. (They’ve all been writing for awhile.) They shared the work, defended it, listened to how it might be better, and described their processes and creative choices.

I wanted to capture this last part—how they do what they do, why they write, what they write about and where that even came from. Writing is such a silent, lonely art that, even for writers, it isn’t always easy to explain.

But the “19 Writers” are explaining, via podcast on the Étude SoundCloud or through writing published in the IDEAS literary magazine, Énthologie (due out this spring). Each is discussing their approach to the work and sharing an excerpt.

Authors are among us. Please enjoy this talk about writing from Sarah Williams, a sophomore and author of the 110-page novel Tightrope.

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