From Yoga teachers to CDL holders
Writers of all ages, walks-of-life and levels of experience met at the Hillsboro Library last weekend, part of the New Voices series. Megan Moriarty, an AmeriCorps VISTA working at High Rocks Educational Corporation, organized the workshop. She said the program is funded by a grant through the West Virginia Humanities Council.
Originally from Staten Island, New York, Moriarty is a poet herself, and has been working as project director for the program since 2011. She said for the past two years she's been coordinating creative writing workshops and inviting visiting writers to come to Pocahontas County to teach classes. This past weekend's event focused on both poetry and fiction writing.
Mark Derks, of Washington, D.C., was asked to lead the class. Derks is a fiction writer and an editor with a publishing house, Yes Yes Books.
"The instructor was focusing on poetry and fiction, more specifically, the power of language," said Moriarty. "He was talking a lot about what he called objects and actions, and how they can really move a poem or short story forward, or create more of an impact for the reader."
Moriarty said the event started with a group poem.
"It's an exercise called an exquisite corpse," explained Moriarty, "There are a number of different ways to do it, but it's kind of a surrealist poetry game. You fold a piece of paper up like an accordion, one person writes one line and folds it over. The next person writes the next line, so you can only see the line that someone wrote before. Then you unfold it and it's this unexpected poem. We did ours on a board, but it ended up being a really beautiful poem."
Derks said he wanted to facilitate discussion about some poems and stories, and tried to give participants an opportunity to produce some creative work of their own. He said he had a few goals he wanted to focus on.
"One of the objectives was to expose everyone to a range of contemporary writers," Derks said. "The second thing was to give participants an opportunity to write something they're proud of. The third thing was to highlight the importance of concrete and specific language, and use it in any writing that they do."
Derks said there was also an overall benefit as a result of the workshop.
"The larger objective was to build a sense of community, trying to sort of spark a community of writers," he said. "That definitely happened at the workshop. The participants said they were interested in attending the other workshops and maybe starting a writing group. So I think that larger objective was pretty successful."
Derks said he was really impressed with some of the writing he read. He said he had never been to the area before, but he really enjoyed his visit.
"The people that I met were all super-welcoming and super-kind," he said. "Everyone seemed really engaged in the workshop and genuinely interested."
Moriarty said she was really happy with how everything came together.
"There was this nice harmony, kind of a balance there that I thought was great," she said. "The diversity of it is what made me so happy. The classes in the past have been like this too — a combination of teenagers, twenty-somethings, and older people, and everyone just gets along so well. In the evaluations I collected, a lot of people said that one of their favorite parts of the class was connecting with people."
Moriarty said Pocahontas County has a rich history when it comes to poetry, and it seems like the New Voices series is catching on.
"Louise McNeel for example, is a source of a lot of pride for people around here. I think this an area where a lot of people are interested in exploring poetry, so it makes sense that more and more events like this are happening," she said.
Moriarty said the New Voices series is a great chance for people to explore writing and a great opportunity to meet other people.
If you missed last weekend's event, there are three more courses scheduled this year. The next workshop will be held on April 20 in Lewisburg at the Greenbrier Public Library. Another workshop is scheduled for May 18, in Richwood at the Richwood Public Library, and the last event in the series is scheduled for May 25 at the McClintic Library in Marlinton.
All of the New Voices workshops are free of charge. For more information contact Megan Moriarty at 304 653 4891.