How swell to introduce another Guest Teaching Author to our TeachingAuthors readers: Birmingham, Alabama poet and debut novelist Irene Latham.
Irene appropriately titled her website “Heart-Touching Tales of Unexpected Adventure.”
Leaving Gee’s Bend is just such a tale.
Come meet Irene in the Q & A interview she recently granted me.
1. How did you become a TeachingAuthor?
Interestingly, one of the problems I’ve encountered in my poetry workshops is writer’s block, which seems to be more a “brain freeze” related to performance anxiety. I’ve always found coming up with ideas to be the easy part. So for me to discover this is often the hard part for students…. Well, I’ve learned to be very specific in my prompts. That seems to help. Also, reminding them that the only absolute in poetry is that there is no absolute.
3. Would you share a favorite writing exercise for our readers?
Oh my goodness, I could go on for days! Here’s one I was just reminded of in a workshop with author Kerry Madden. It’s deceptively simple, but guaranteed for good results: Think of your favorite secret hiding place. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you feel against your skin?
4. What one piece of advice do you have for teachers?
Remember: writing involves trust. For kids to open up on paper, they need to feel safe. Which means, don’t worry so much about form as substance. Praise kids for their effort, their creative thought… overlook poor grammar and punctuation errors. As soon as you start focusing on the nitpicky stuff, they will disengage emotionally. And the whole point is for them to dig deep, to discover something about themselves and their world as they put words on the page.
5. Can you share the Moment you knew you were a writer?
For many years writing was my secret life. Even my husband of twenty years says he didn’t know he married a writer. That’s because I didn’t pursue writing as a career in college, and I was very furtive about my writing efforts. Yet I was always writing. In fact, when that moment came ( sometime when I was pregnant with my third child), and I looked around and thought, wow, this motherhood gig is great, but I really need something just for myself, the answer was all around me: in stacks of paper on my desk, in drawers overflowing with notebooks and journals and folded slips of paper. I was a writer. And the time had come for me to take it to the next level – to be brave enough to show my work to other people and begin to pursue publication.
I offer Irene my sincere thanks for sharing her story with our TeachingAuthors readers.
Win an autographed copy of Irene's Leaving Gee’s Bend!
Post your name and email address to this April 27 post only + share the Moment YOU knew you were a Writer. If you're not a writer, you can still enter for a chance to win--simply share why you'd like a copy of Irene's book. Deadline is 11 pm (CST) May 4, 2010. (U.S. residents only, please.)
There’s still time to help TeachingAuthors celebrate their very first Blogiversary – and -win a critique of your work!
And please note: Your first entry must say how you follow us—via Google, Networked blogs, or email. You must post a SEPARATE comment to get a second entry. This makes tracking entries much easier. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Tuesday, May 4, 2010.