Saturday, May 18, 2013, the Oregon Book Awards & Fellowships held free writing workshops and a reading at Cook Memorial Library. Award winning authors, Ismet Prcic, Carter Sickels and Toni Hanner taught the three different workshops.
Prcic, a Bosnian-born fiction author, was the recipient of the 2010 NEA Award for fiction and is a 2011 Sundance Screenwriting Lab fellow. His novel, “Shards,” won the Oregon Book Award. Prcic told workshop attendees, “In Bosnia, there is no word for fiction or non-fiction. It is all a story.” He wrote his book based on his own experiences, with a dash of fiction thrown in to make it more interesting. “I tried to write it as it really happened, but couldn’t because it wasn’t interesting enough,” Prcic said.
In the fiction workshop, Prcic instructed attendees to free-write on the highest and lowest moments in their lives: the most joyous, the most fearful and the most shameful. The purpose of the exercise was to write with sincerity. “Look straight in your soul and write without mercy; that makes the best writing because that is what people want to read—because they feel it too,” Prcic said. He also said, “If you are going to put your name on something, it better be good. Future generations may read it.”
Sickels’ workshop, “Starting the Big Project,” taught attendees about the difficulties of getting a project started. Sickels, author of “The Evening Hour” and finalist for the 2013 Oregon Book Award, gave several tips on the creative process behind such a project. One tip, such as keeping a notebook handy to jot down details on plot; characters; scenes and setting, emphasized Sickels’ organization process during a large project. Sickels said, “The (organization) process may change from project to project—it’s all about keeping the momentum going.”
In Hanner’s poetry workshop, attendees were treated to a speed-date- like round of writing exercises. In one such exercise, Hanner instructed guests to write a poem in which they leave instructions on what should be said in their obituary, using anaphora. Simply put, this means to repeat the same word or phrase at the beginning of each verse. Hanner’s poems “Tin Cup” and “After” in her book “Gertrude: Poems and Other Objects” follow this style. Hanner also suggested many tips on getting the writing process started: “Don’t cross out—don’t edit as you write, lose control, don’t think or be logical and go for the jugular (if something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right for it. It probably has a lot of energy),” she said.
Each author read from their works immediately following the workshops.