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Approaching Difficult Material With Craft and Courage

5 Tuesdays, Oct. 12th-Nov. 9th, 7-9:30 p.m. Berkeley
$185 members/$215 others

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Writing about physical illness, emotional pain, childhood trauma, addiction, and other difficult circumstances can present writers with some unique challenges, and also some unique opportunities.  How can we ensure that deeply personal writing will be compelling and even luminous for our readers? How can we avoid getting mired in emotional or linguistic ruts? That’s where both the craft and the courage come in!

“When we dive consciously and skillfully into personally difficult material, whatever the genre, we can deepen our ability to see and hold complexity, name truth, and, ultimately, connect with our readers – as well as with ourselves – more powerfully,” says instructor Ruth L. Schwartz.

“Poet Bruce Weigl says, ‘Say it clearly and you make it beautiful, no matter what.’ In this class, we’ll explore what kinds of clarity – and what kinds of beauty – Weigl is referring to.  We’ll explore ways to cultivate the breadth and depth that the best writing requires of us.  And, in the process, we just may help ourselves heal.

“This class will offer a variety of resources, approaches and techniques to help you cultivate both depth and craft.  You’ll read and discuss published examples of extraordinary personal writing, including poetry by Bruce Weigl, Sharon Olds and Robert Hass, and prose by Joy Harjo and Lauren Slater.  In-class and take-home writing exercises will offer multiple ways to approach material effectively.  You’ll use tools like visualization and humor, “and in the process,” says Ruth, “we’ll find ways to honor the enormous, messy, magnificent complexity of our truths – and write them well. Ultimately, we’ll expand the range of (e)motion available to us, as writers and as human beings.”

Note: 10 CEUs are available for licensed MFTs or LCSWs.

Ruth L. Schwartz is the author of four award-winning books of poems, including Edgewater, a 2001 National Poetry Series winner selected by Jane Hirshfield.  Her memoir, Death in Reverse, documents the year following her donation of a kidney to her former partner.  Her poems and essays have appeared frequently in The Sun (sometimes under a pseudonym, at the editors’ request), and she has received numerous literary fellowships, honors and prizes. Ruth is currently a Distinguished Visiting Writer in the low-residency M.F.A. program at Ashland University and also teaches privately.  In addition, she is a practicing hypnotherapist and shaman who honors and wrestles with pain, beauty and truth in all their disguises.


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