(RW) How did the idea for the Creative Writing Institute come about?
(JH) Dr. Robert Taylor, the Chair of the Humanities and Communication Department, learned of an inquiry in the local community for creative writing classes available to the general public. He set up the planning committee with Prof. Marcia Denius, Dr. John Lavelle, and me. From there, it was quite a struggle pulling everything together, since this wasn’t funded by a grant or specially allocated funds, but each year so far we’ve expanded the program. It’s been a great success overall, and I hope that some financial backing for this very important program is forthcoming.
How long has Florida Tech been hosting the Creative Writing institute?
This is the third year for the Creative Writing Institute.
Will writers be able to get some feedback on their writing during the institute?
Definitely. One of the distinctive features of Florida Tech’s Creative Writing Institute is that the instructors work closely with student writers. Many other writing conferences don’t offer that opportunity at all. Here, we have writers with international reputations (some have been published in multiple languages, like Florida Tech’s very own Communications major Michael Salazar, who writes military adventure novels), who are eager to work with students of all experience levels.
Why should someone attend the Creative Writing Institute?
It’s a fantastic chance to take the plunge to bring your writing to the next level, or just to get started. You’ll be able to socialize with like-minded writers and work with some of the best writers who live in Florida and can explain not only how to navigate the publishing industry, but also how to make the most of your efforts to improve your work from the sentence level to the complete poem, short story, memoir, news article, comic book, or novel.
The sheer range of genres and approaches offered is really remarkable.
Just to mention one example, this year’s keynote speaker, Susan Hubbard, has written short stories and novels—from literary fiction to the popular Ethical Vampire series. She’s also a professor at UCF and teaches the graduate creative writing program there, so just think of what this means: you work with a well-published author and teacher of writing in an intense and friendly atmosphere. She’s teaching a course titled Creating Haunting Characters which is fundamental to any writer’s craft. What holds our attention most in the books that we love? Compelling characters. Like many of the other writers here, she’ll also be hosting a free reading and will be on the publishing panel. Anyone who registers for even a single class at CWI will gain access to all bonus events (writing panels, speakers, film screening, open mic, etc.). Everyone on campus should at least come and check out the Keynote presentation on May 22 and sign up for at least one class if you haven’t yet. Tell your friends and family, too.
Which writers inspire you?
I’m inspired by so many writers it’s hard to pick just a few, and to even attempt to capture the qualities that move me is also a difficult task. I enjoy writers that talk to me: conversational narrators like Geoffrey Chaucer who had so many modes, handling the comedy and misery of life from fart jokes to unrequited love, and J.D. Salinger. I’ve heard so many people express that they identified with Holden Caulfield’s narrative voice. Then there’s the sheer energy of Russian writers like Dostoevsky and Gogol, blazing through the page with such vibrant personalities and descriptions, plots that scream for your attention and make you learn something along the way. Or take the scalpel-clean sentences of Hemingway—just what’s needed and no more. What an impression is made. His stories will be etched on your psyche for years to come.
Sometimes it’s the scope of the work rather than the sentence. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings remains close to my heart and is absorbed into my world view just as is Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye.
But how about a writer or two most people haven’t heard of? James Hogg is a great 19th Century Scottish writer who achieves a brilliant rendering of the fantastic through psychological ambiguity and folkloric metaphors. Florida’s own Thomas Ligotti is without a doubt the best horror stylist out there. He’s the most interesting writer of weird fiction since H.P. Lovecraft. His outlook is so grim, but his sentences are so purely wrought that to experience his brand of cosmic horror is to pass through a vision of the dark sublime.
Do you have any tips for beginning writers?
Read widely and write often. Liberate yourself to be prolific. Write in a journal to activate a daily routine of writing, and read authors who have a style that captivates you. Go ahead and imitate the writers who move you, but don’t be afraid to stand out and shout with your own voice. Experiment, yet also concentrate intensely on material that you are familiar with. If you’re tied up approaching a subject you know nothing about, the writing may end up clunky and clichéd. At least do some research first. Something that you are familiar with will usually provide a beginning writer with the ability to just focus on telling the story. Just tell what you have to say plainly. Write it out and edit later. Be prepared for many revisions. I just revised a short story I wrote over fifteen years ago. I had a writing teacher who would rewrite a single paragraph fifty times. Don’t become intimidated by what other people tell you.
Write with passion, and whether you end up being a best-selling author, a renowned Nobel Prize winner, or someone who is never recognized even posthumously, embrace the experience of writing. Writing is a type of thinking that gives shape to the human experience. Writing helps give our lives meaning.
So, sign up for the Creative Writing Institute and take that next step to unleashing the writing side of your life.
To register for the Institute, visit http://411.fit.edu/cwi.