by Kacee Baker
The Writing University Podcast provides free access to craft talks from the University of Iowa’s annual Summer Writing Festival. The University of Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop is one of the most prestigious writing programs in the country, and the talks featured on their podcasts are hosted by experienced workers from all areas of the writing process: editors, publishers, writers, and teachers. They have advice to offer for writers with questions about any area of the writing process. The episodes, which are generally around 40 minutes long, allow writers to improve their craft and get inspiration from the advice of experienced writers.
Writers of all types of literature will find an episode they’re interested in. The podcast features presentations on all genres, and a broad range of subjects. Some of the most listened to episodes include “How Poets See the World: The Art of Description” by Juliet Patterson, “Finish the Thing” by Beau O'Reilly, and “’Productivity’ and ‘Failure’ for Writers” Eireann Lorsung. Each of the episodes provides advice for writers struggling with a certain area of writing. In his talk “Finding Inspiration from the Work Itself,” Marcos Villatoro discusses finding encouragement in rewriting and rejection. On developing characters, John Dalton advises writers who want to base characters on themselves to treat themselves as a piano: “instead of writing from the center chords of who you are, write from the extreme ends of your personality.” In her discussion of productivity, Eireann Lorsun says “all that we do is part of our writing lives…we can do [everything] as writers when we do these things with attentiveness.” In my favorite episode, “Ten Ways of Thinking about Character,” John Dalton gives advice for character writing. He advises writers to create characters that are motivated to act and that reveal themselves through action, dialogue, background incident, and description.
The podcast as a whole provides writers with access to great advice on many aspects of writing and enables them to choose a subject relevant to their interests. The talks are generally interesting and contain good and applicable tips that new and experienced writers will find useful. Although the episodes occasionally contain moments of low sound quality and references to visual aids unavailable to the listener, this rarely detracts from the content. Overall, the Writing University Podcast is a great resource for writers. The presenters offer encouraging and positive advice that will motivate and engage writers of all genres and experience levels.
You can find the podcast on any podcasting service, or at https://www.writinguniversity.org/podcast.
by Deidree Friesen
Poemcrazy, written by poet and teacher Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, is a creative and inspiring book that teaches readers the wonders of poetry. Based in Chico, California, Wooldridge travels across the United States teaching writing workshops to a variety of age groups. This testimonial found on the front page of her website, susanwooldridge.com, captivates her writings perfectly, in my opinion.
“Susan doesn’t teach poetry so much as unlock it. Her teaching itself is poetry.” – Amy Tullius, Poetry and the Piano Workshop
This book focuses on learning ways to creatively write poetry. It is comprised of five different sections each concentrating on different aspects of poetry. At the end of each chapter is an exercise that assists the reader in practicing the advice entailed. The exercises contain practical and creative challenges for the reader with built in inspiration. Each chapter is equipped with examples that make the process of poetry fun and relatable. Wooldridge makes the reader feel welcome with her comforting tone and helps shed a light on how inspirational even little things in life can be when writing a poem.
I personally enjoy how practical she is. This is not an ordinary textbook decorated with formulas or right and wrong ways to construct a poem. This book digs into reality, helping the reader reflect on life as a poet. Not all of Wooldridge’s ideas are extravagant, but she makes even the smallest things beautiful and helps readers do the same. I like how she uses stories to creatively teach poetry in this book. She captivates the reader with snippets of who she is. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter Three: “Collecting Words and Creating a Wordpool.” Wooldridge explains how we can take life experiences and collect words from them. She talks about the power a single word can hold, the freedom we have to use and create our own words, and the rhythm we are able to produce just by playing with the way we use words.
Students and teachers would enjoy this text because it is a simple, easy to read, and is effective at teaching fundamentals of poetry while staying relatable and fun. Even if you’re not a teacher teaching poetry or a student in a creative writing class, you would still love the creative and fun elements of this book.