Voices of the Kennebec at Gardiner Public Library

Whoops, my plan to write lots of short blog posts in order to keep up with myself hit a stumbling block last month! That block was called Handing In My Thesis for UNH, which I may also blog about one day.

In the meantime, here’s a workshop I ran on October 22 at the public library in Gardiner, ME. Dawn Thistle, the librarian in charge of archives and special collections at the library, arranged a series of literary events at the library in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Pulitzer Prize, and among the readings and talks, she asked me to run a writing workshop. The workshop was on how Place can inspire us, which is a subject I’m starting to feel expert in now, having worked with it as Hampshire Poet in 2012-13, and at the Jewett House, Gillette Castle, and now Gardiner.

I started with the library building itself, asking the writers to use close observation to find their inspiration and details to write about.  That led to some fine work, like the narrator who used the light and spacious children’s section upstairs to stand for the heaven of her lost childhood. Then I showed them how to transfer this work to remembered places, using freewriting and clustering to generate the details. After a visit to the Archives room to look at fascinating images from Gardiner’s past, they wrote about how change can work on a place, whether change that has happened or change that could happen. And lastly I had them write directly to a person whom they associate strongly with a place—just a little exercise to round off the day.

It was a very happy and friendly group, and I especially enjoyed teaching many people who didn’t identify as creative writers, such as a group of teachers who came for professional development. Everyone produced interesting and strong drafts, and there was even talk of doing it again next year! I hope that happens.

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