The Veterans Writing Workshop provides veterans, military personnel, and their family members a creative space to develop their writing skills and to tell their stories. The Missouri Humanities and the St. Louis Public Library will host this five-session workshop on Saturdays, from March 30th through May 4th (except April 20th) from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm. Workshop participants are led through writing exercises with meaningful feedback from facilitators, Kent Walker, a combat Army veteran, and Stacey Walker, lecturer at University of Missouri. Both hold MFAs in writing. Participants are not required to write about their military experience.
Session 1: Writing Overview and Point of View
Bring a piece of writing, prose or poetry to be reviewed by workshop facilitators Stacey and Kent Walker. If you don’t have a first piece, don’t worry. Learn to create a meaningful critique that will help you and your fellow writers improve on literary works. Participants will enjoy instructor and group discussion using video clips and sample writings to learn about Point of View, Voice, and Considering Your Audience.
Session 2: Characterization and Dialogue
In this session participants will explore character more closely and determine who is telling the story. Participants will look at main and minor characters and how they work together to help reveal plot and tension. Guest speaker, Angela Mitchell, will help facilitate this session.
Angela Mitchell is the author of the story collection, Unnatural Habitats & Other Stories (WTAW Press, 2018). Her work has appeared in Colorado Review, New South, Carve, Midwestern Gothic, storySouth and other journals. Her story, “Animal Lovers,” was awarded Colorado Review’s Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction and given special mention in The Pushcart Prize XXXV; more recently, her work has been featured in The Best Small Fictions 2018 (Braddock Avenue Books). A past Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Mitchell has also directed a community writing workshop and served as an associate editor for december magazine. An eighth generation native of the Ozarks of southern Missouri, she now lives in St. Louis with her husband and sons.
Session 3: Developing Plot and Beginning Character Development
This session will explore plot structures, setting, and how characters are intertwined. As each event of the plot unfolds, the character will grow a little in order to cope with that event, and so the plot development leads to character development. Participants will explore literary examples and participate in low-key writing exercises. Workshop facilitators Stacey and Kent Walker will show participants how writers can use these techniques in any genre they choose: biography, family memoir, short story, poetry, and/or essay.
Session 4: Setting, Imagery, and Details
By studying examples of memorable, imagistic writing, workshop participants will learn how writers creatively engage the senses of touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste to create vivid scenes, paragraphs, and stories. Participants may either bring their writing from the previous week, or begin a new piece with suggested writing prompts. Guest speaker, Ron A. Austin, will help facilitate this session.
Ron A. Austin holds an MFA from the University of Missouri – St. Louis and is a 2016 Regional Arts Commission Fellow. Avery Colt Is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar, his first collection of linked stories, won the 2017 Nilsen Prize. The book will be released in fall of 2019. Austin’s short stories have been placed or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Story Quarterly, Ninth Letter, and Black Warrior Review. As co-director of the River Styx Reading Series he works to share local and national literary talent.
Session 5: Polishing the Details and Publication
Participants will learn the tools of the trade in the all-important job of shaping their writing for personal use or final publication. In conclusion, we will explore how all previous sessions combine to support your writing skill set. Participants may choose to receive advice and critique from the workshop facilitators, and/or the group, on writing they produced in the various sessions or at home. Participants will discuss how to move forward in their craft and continue to improve their writing.