MARSHALL -? Workshops can be beneficial in a lot of ways for writers said poet Saara Myrene Raappana - from hearing feedback from a group of supportive readers that can help them figure out a piece they're stuck on and to figure out their own unique strengths as a writer.
"By reading other people's writing and figuring out how to discuss what works about it and what might need some tweaking or clarification, you start to refine your understanding of how audiences perceive writing," she said.
Raappana is conducting a writing workshop for writers of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction, starting Tuesday at the Southwest Minnesota Arts Council's office. The workshops will be from 6-8 p.m. every Tuesday for six weeks.
During the six-week period, participants will delve into different topics - Developing the Idea, The Art of Revision, Leaving Your Comfort Zone, Getting Published, Working After the Workshop Ends and Writing Out Loud. The workshops will include instruction and a guided workshop. When the six weeks are over, there will be a reading at the Marshall-Lyon County Library.
Raappana has taught workshops at the University of Florida and in China at the university she and her husband taught at while they were in the Peace Corps. She's also participated in several writing workshops as an undergraduate and graduate student.
The idea for a workshop stemmed from Southwest Minnesota State University English professor Marianne Zarzana, Raappana said.
"She's committed to providing spaces for writers to reach their full potential, and she's been hearing from Marshall's writers for some time that they want a workshop,"?she said. "There are a ton of writers in Marshall, and a lot of them have participated in workshops at SMSU. But once you leave university, it can be difficult to find and/or develop a writing community. Since I've moved here, I've already met a bunch of talented writers, and we're excited about providing them with a place where they can concentrate on their craft."
Raappana designed the curriculum based on her experience of learning how to continue to improve her writing after graduate school without the benefit of instructors and constant contact with other writers.
"The Marshall workshop will take just six weeks to cover the process I had to figure out on my own over years: we'll develop practical skills like how to identify the family of ideas in a piece of raw material so that you can shape it into something streamlined and amazing; how to differentiate personal themes from personal cliches and how to generate new material out of old routines; how to network and get published even if you're not plugged into a big city writing community; continuing to revise and improve after the workshop ends and how to squeeze writing time into a busy life," she said. She said she will cover a lot of practical revision exercises early in the workshop with the participants because she thinks that revision is the most important element of successful writing.
The goal of the workshop is for each participant to produce several new pieces in six weeks and to polish at least one of those into something he or she feels is exciting and finished, Raappana said.
One of the topics is about writers leaving their comfort zone, and Raappana said it's delicate balance.
"You need to feel safe enough to produce new material and take the risks that are essential to exciting writing but getting too comfortable for too long can leave you feeling stagnant and discouraged," she said. "So you have to figure out how to create a comfort zone without getting trapped in it. We'll cover some practical exercises to help writers figure out how to achieve that balance."
Raappana said there are so many tips she could give writers, but the one she's been thinking about a lot lately is determination.
"It's hard to overcome discouragement, whether it's from not having time to write, not feeling inspired to write, not feeling happy with the result, or being rejected by a publication or agent," she said. "Every successful writer experiences all of those things, and from what I've seen, both in the writers I know and in my own journey to publication, the only real difference between the people who give up and the people who go on to be published is determination, a willingness to keep moving forward and working to improve even when things feel grim. Having a workshop is one way to build the skills to make it through discouraging times."
To sign up for the workshop, call Raappana at 507-530-2111 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.