Creative nonfiction workshop discusses writing through inspiration

Brianna Titi December 7, 2017 0

Nov. 16, the Bowers Writers House hosted a creative writing workshop and reading from two English professors from Elizabethtown College. Adjunct professor of English Cass Daubenspeck and lecturer in English and Etownian co-advisor Erica Dolson were asked to co-host the event by professor of English Dr. Carmine Sarracino. Director of the Bowers Writers House Jesse Waters coordinated the workshop and readings.

Daubenspeck was excited that Sarracino asked her to co-host the event.

“Bower’s Writers House is a really special place,” Daubenspeck noted.

Dolson remarked that she “felt honored by the request.”

“It was an excellent opportunity to share my manuscript, conduct a creative writing workshop and read my piece in a relaxed environment,” Dolson said.

Both Dolson and Daubenspeck conducted exercises at the craft talk early in the afternoon.

Daubenspeck’s writing workshop entailed a lesson on the importance of creative nonfiction and a writing task. She advised writers to read because it helps them better understand the craft of writing. Daubenspeck recommended that audience members observe the types of tones they enjoy reading. She also advised writers to make templates when writing because it helps organize their thoughts.

Chair of the English Department and associate professor of English Dr. Matt Skillen enjoyed the experience.

“Globally, I learned something special about my cohort,” Skillen said. “Their passion for writing came through their work and by the way they answered the questions.”

First-year Katie Carter attended the session and enjoyed Dolson’s writing activity.

“I was interested to see the split between the two sections of what I would personally feel comfortable sharing and what I would not,” Carter said.

Daubenspeck read her manuscript “Post New York,” a piece about her life in New York. She decided to share it with the audience because she knew that students would be in attendance, hoping it would connect with the students, especially those who want to write for a living.

She moved to New York City when she was 19 and “ached with the romance of it all.” However, a few years later, things got really difficult. Daubenspeck lived in an apartment with three other women. She worked in a bakery. Daubenspeck learned to save every cent she had, and she did not have enough money to splurge on things such as new boots for the winter, even though she needed them.

She used all the time she had earning money to stay in her apartment. Daubenspeck became accustomed to taking cold showers, eating cheap food and never having enough time to write. She later realized that it was time to move out of the city. Many individuals glamorize it, but those who live there do not agree.

“People who choose to live in the city do because they have lots of money or they have no art to make,” Daubenspeck said.

“When I left home I wrote a lot about my experiences in New York because it was such a complicated place, so much happened there, and I tried out so many versions of myself there,” Daubenspeck remarked.

Dolson’s manuscript discussed her experience with the Special Olympics event at Shippensburg University. A little boy named Anthony who had Down Syndrome was the focal point of the beginning of the story. He was swimming, and his friends and family encouraged him to do his best. Dolson wanted to be a Local Program Host (LPH), so she applied to help out with the event.

“An LPH’s was assigned for to a delegation of athletes,” Dolson said.

She was rejected the first time. Dolson had a personal connection to the event because her brother Nicholas, who had Down Syndrome, died when he was four years old.

Dolson did not put this information in her application because she did not want to obtain the position out of pity. At the time, Dolson was not ready to share her story.

When she applied for the position again, Dolson wrote about her brother Nicholas. The words came from her heart, and she was ready to talk about him. This time, she got accepted to be an LPH. Dolson had fond memories of her brother. She often wondered what Nicholas’s life would have looked like had he lived.

“Nicholas has shaped my life in the short amount of time he lived,” Dolson stated.

Both Nicholas and Anthony’s uniqueness compelled Dolson to share her story. Her manuscript took a lot of time and patience, but it was one she felt was worth sharing.

“The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that writing is a process, every single time you do it,” Dolson said.

“Some days, writing goes well, and other times it doesn’t,” Dolson laughed. However, she encouraged writers to not give up.

Dolson advised students to “believe in your own work and ideas. Trust that if you find something interesting, then others will too.”

“We all have something important to say, we just have to think hard enough,” Daubenspeck said.

Daubenspeck advised students to know that “time is precious in the writing life. Do not chase another career just for the money, hoping that you will do your writing on the side.”

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