The Writers Studio @ 30-Five Pieces of Writing Advice From Philip Schultz

We all write for the same reason: to reveal what lies hidden in ourselves, to uncover truths that we would otherwise be too self-conscious to unearth.
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Update For People Who Write

From Lit Hub, May 3, 2017

Five Pieces of Writing Advice From Philip Schultz

Beware The Shitbird
By Emily Temple

In 1987, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Philip Schultz founded the Writers Studio, which grew from a casual workshop in a West Village living room to an established school with four locations, online programs, a reading series, and a nonprofit branch that gives students free access to writing workshops. Last Saturday, May 6th, the Writers Studio celebrated its 30th anniversary and the release of the anthology The Writers Studio at 30 (Epiphany Editions)—which contains work by current and former faculty and students, as well as Writers Studio Advisory Board members including Jennifer Egan, Robert Pinsky, and Edward Hirsch—at an event at the Strand’s Rare Book Room.

Schultz himself is a longtime teacher—in addition to the Writers Studio, he also founded and directed NYU’s graduate program in creative writing—and so, in advance of this weekend’s celebration, we asked him to share some of his valuable insights on writing with us.

From Philip Schultz:

1. Aim high

Tell yourself your life depends on what you might write that day. That a great truth lies beneath the surface, just within reach, waiting for you to find the courage to discover it. Hemingway got himself to write each morning by reminding himself that he’d always written before and would now; all he had to do was “write one true sentence,” the truest sentence that he knew. The truth, after all, is what readers most want to hear; a truth that only you can tell, that is personal, peculiar to you. Because it’s theirs, too.

2. Escape the Shitbird

At the Writers Studio, the school I started some thirty years ago, we have a name for the negative force that makes writing so hard: the Shitbird. It’s a black bird that perches on our shoulders, whispering perverse, ugly things designed to stop us from finding the truth. Its purpose is to cleanse us of all our desires and dreams, to censure how we really feel. It tells us we’re not smart or gifted enough to say anything of value. It feeds our fears and undermines our confidence, tells us we can’t possibly stay cooped up in a room alone, that under no circumstance can we render ourselves vulnerable to others by revealing who we really are through our writing.

The Shitbird’s main weapon is invisibility. It can’t sell us its negative theology if we recognize who’s speaking. When we hear ourselves being negative, fearful and doubtful of our abilities, we can be sure it’s there, behind the curtain, saying things like I don’t know what this story is about, or Even if I knew, I probably wouldn’t be able to write something like this. Once we teach ourselves to recognize the voice of the Shitbird, we can ask ourselves out loud what we’re so afraid of in this material, what exactly feels so shameful. Surprisingly, more often than not, we know. And knowing will allow us to think about good things like form, structure and music, which will then allow us to move forward and write. The Shitbird works undercover, in a fog; the last thing it wants us to do is see it in a bright conscious light.

3. Try writing from someone else’s perspective

The method we teach at the Writers Studio is persona writing: using another writer’s narrator or personality to tell our stories. It’s a technique that allows us to look at our stories through the prism of an invented speaker who doesn’t suffer from our fears and inhibitions, who’s, say, more ironic, or funnier, or crazier than we are, and to whom we can therefore give permission to say what we can’t ourselves. A thirty-year-old J.D. Salinger used a seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield to dig up old buried feelings we all identified with; a fifty-year-old Mark Twain pretended to be young Huck Finn to recreate the lost world of his youth. Men write from the point of view of women, women from the point of view of men, all for the same reason: to reveal what lies hidden in themselves, to uncover truths that they would otherwise be too self-conscious to unearth.

4. Don’t be afraid to switch genres

I wanted to write fiction but discovered the brevity and depth of poetry allowed me to develop further as a writer. The poetic persona suits me better than the fictional one. At our school poets discover they’re really fiction writers and vice versa all the time. The right technique gives us permission to be wrong, and bad, and unfair, things we perhaps always longed to be; it allows us to be ourselves, irrevocably.

5. Become both ventriloquist and dummy

It helps to distance yourself from your characters’ anxieties so you can look at them more objectively. A good way of doing this is to imagine your story being played out on a stage, with your narrator, first person or third, directing all the characters. You can do this with a poem by turning it into a scene in which your narrator describes his or her feelings about what’s taking place. I once wrote a poem about fathers standing in the cold waiting to get a popular electronic game for their sons. In speaking about others, the narrator was free to reveal his own fears and vulnerabilities about fatherhood in a way I hadn’t been able to previously.

The ventriloquist isn’t responsible for what the dummy says; he isn’t really speaking, after all. By pretending to be a ventriloquist, we underscore the difference between ourselves and our characters. We might even be horrified by what they do and say.

As for the dummy: imagine your story being told by a favorite writer. Imagine how he or she might go about describing your most intimate fears and desires. Find the pleasure in the telling, the imagining. Objectify yourself to the point of casual indifference. Surprise yourself by what you hear yourself saying. Is this really the story you intended? It seems so strange suddenly, so unfamiliar. Try to amaze yourself with your own imagination.

$30 Discount To Celebrate 30 Years

Early Bird Discount for early registration.

Take $30 off any Summer Workshop.

Discount must be taken at time of registration, Online or by phone 1 (212) 255-7075. Offer may not be combined with any other discount.
Valid while supplies last. Expires 6/2/17.

Summer Schedule

Online Level I starts
June 5 Details and registration here
July 1 Details and registration here
July 25 Details and registration here

Online Advanced Poetry starts
June 1 Details and registration here

NYC Level I starts
June 21 Details and registration here
July 10 Details and registration here

NYC Advanced Poetry starts
June 5. Details and registration here

Hudson Valley Workshop starts
June 20. Details and registration here

Tucson Workshop starts
June 29 Details and registration here
July 1 Details and registration here

San Franciso Workshop starts
June 14 Details and registration here
June 17 Details and registration here

Take $30 off any Summer Workshop.
Discount must be taken at time of registration, Online or by phone 1 (212) 255-7075. Offer may not be combined with any other discount.
Valid while supplies last. Expires 6/2/17.
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University of Arizona Poetry Center- Upcoming Workshops for Teachers

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If you are or know a classroom teacher in Tucson, be sure to let them know about this fantastic professional development opportunity, hosted at the Poetry Center.

Upcoming Workshops for Teachers

Transformative Learning: A Digital Storytelling Workshop for Teachers

June 5th and 6th, 8th and 9th

Daily Schedule: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Registration Fee: $35.00**
Required materials: Laptop with the ability to connect to UA’s free Wi-Fi
Instructors: Jen Nowicki-Clark & Josh Schachter
This professional development workshop for classroom teachers will support educators in crafting digital stories about their own transformative learning and teaching experiences.

You will be asked to reflect on what learning experiences were transformative as a child, how that shapes your teaching, and how that informs your vision for the future of education and the role of the community in realizing that vision.These stories are intended to spark wider community engagement and conversation around how to collectively create an education system that ensures that all students and teachers have the resources and support to reach their full potential.

Participants will learn the basics of digital story development and production. By the end of the workshop, each participant will have completed their own 2-3 minute video.

Click here to register!

**The usual fee for this 4-day digital storytelling workshop is $550/person, but thanks to the support of our sponsors, we are able to make this workshop financially accessible. In addition to this registration fee, participants are responsible for their own parking fees for the course of the workshop. Parking is managed by the University’s Parking and Transportation and not by the Poetry Center. Garage rates are $8 per day. The Poetry Center is also located near a streetcar stop and we encourage carpooling or streetcar use.

Interested in participating in a Writing the Community workshop for the fall?

You can check out what we’re all about at our upcoming book launch!

Book Launch Party!
Saturday, May 13 at 10 a.m.
UA Poetry Center
Celebrate the publication of youth writing in a new anthology featuring the poems and stories from students who participated in the Poetry Center’s 2016-17 Writing the Community program in schools across the City of Tucson.

Writing the Community students will read from this new book and sign copies. No RVSP required!

Click here for more information on the book launch.

Click here for more information on the Writing the Community program and application.

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Copyright © 2016 University of Arizona Poetry Center,  All rights reserved.

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Tucson, AZ 85721

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The University of Arizona Poetry Center-Check out the exciting events happening here in May 2017

Check out the exciting events happening here this month!
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Speedway & Swan returned for a special episode with special host Susan Briante and her guest, Alison Hawthorne Deming. Check out the hour of incredible poetry and conversation here.
Writing the Community student Wren Awry wrote this heartfelt letter to U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera after his visit to Tucson, specifically Davis Bilingual Elementary School.

Awry writes, “Your picture books, poems, activism, humor, and exuberance are testaments to a life lived this way, where poetry is action and action is poetry. ” The whole letter is well worth your time, and it even got a shout-out from Herrera himself on Twitter!

May Events

UA Student Broadside Exhibition: May 1-May 26 /  Presenting a broadside exhibition of 2016-2017 contest-winning writing and art by students at the University of Arizona, presented in partnership with the UA School of Art.

Creative Writing MFA Graduate Readings: May 4, Thursday at 7:00 PM / Students graduating from the University of Arizona MFA in Creative Writing program read from their work.

Community Event: Open Mic: May 6, Saturday at 12:00 PM / Poetry Center Docents host an Open Mic Event and all are welcome. The open mic will be round-robin style, which means each attendant will have the chance to share their own or a favorite poem. This event takes place in the Hillman Odeum at the Poetry Center.

Spring Classes & Workshops Reading: May 11, Thursday at 7:00 PM / Students and instructors who participated this spring in the Poetry Center’s Classes & Workshops program read from their work.

Book Launch for Writing the Community: May 13, Saturday at 10:00 AM / Celebrate the first annual publication of Writing the Community’s anthology. Featured writers are from Tucson K-8 schools.

Main Library Poetry Circle: Native American Poets: May 20, Saturday at 10:30 AM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.

Kirk-Bear Canyon Poetry Circle: Walt Whitman: May 22, Monday at 1:00 PM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Kirk-Bear Canyon Library.

Oro Valley Poetry Circle: The Poems of e.e. cummings:  May 25, Thursday at 2:00 PM / Led by UA Poetry Center docents, Poetry Circle is a program to expand participants’ knowledge and appreciation of poetry. No prior poetry experience necessary. This event takes place at the Oro Valley Public Library.

Copyright © 2017 The University of Arizona Poetry Center, All rights reserved

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New Works of Merit Playwriting Contest Prize $1,000

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Playwrights Foundation- Rough Reading BERTA, BERTA BY ANGELICA CHERÍ Directed by Steven Anthony Jones


  • An imagined origin story of the prison song “Berta, Berta” from an emerging playwright, directed by Lorraine Hansberry Theatre Artistic Director, Steven Anthony Jones
April 28, 2017


Directed by Steven Anthony Jones

Dawn Troupe-Masi*
Toby Windham*

*Actor’s Equity Association

 Eventbrite - Playwrights Foundation ROUGH READINGS Series

After committing an unforgivable crime, Leroy retreats to his long-lost lover Berta’s house to take refuge and make amends. Their electrifying reunion swells from an agitated argument about the past to an impassioned plot to escape fate and start a new life. Angelica Cherí weaves an intimate and imaginary origin story that explores the reality of incarcerated African Americans in the 1920s.

Angelica Cherí is a playwright, musical theatre book writer/lyricist, screenwriter and poet. Her play The Sting of White Roses, Part Two of the Prophet’s Cycle, was produced at the North Carolina Black Repertory Company for a limited run. Part One of the Prophet’s Cycle, The Seeds of Abraham, was produced at the Billie Holiday Theatre and workshopped at the Pershing Square Signature Center, under the mentorship of playwright Lynn Nottage. Angelica is also currently an I AM SOUL Playwright Fellow at the National Black Theatre, developing I Will Not Lie to David, Part Three of The Prophet’s Cycle. Her original TV pilot Derailed is currently a semi-finalist for the Showtime Tony Cox Episodic Screenplay Competition for the 2017 Nantucket Film Festival. Angelica received her BA in Theatre from UCLA, MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University and MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from NYU.
Learn more about the play HERE

Lineup to be announced soon!

Dipika Guha, Christopher Chen, Lauren Yee and Don Nguyen


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Arizona International Film Festival- ENVIRONMENTAL DAY (APRIL 24) at the 26th Arizona International Film Festival

at the 26th Arizona International Film Festival
Keri Pickett
United States, 2017, 94 min.
The “Prophecy of the 7th Fire” says a “black snake” will bring destruction to the earth. We will have a choice of two paths. One is scorched and one is green. For Winona (Ojibwe for “first daughter”), the “black snake is oil trains and pipelines. When she learns that Canadian-owned Enbridge plans to route a new pipeline through land granted to her tribe in an 1855 Treaty, she and her community spring into action to save the sacred wild rice lakes and preserve their traditional way of life.

Winona dreams that she is riding her horse against the current of the oil. Launching an annual spiritual horse ride along the proposed pipeline route, speaking at community meetings and regulatory hearings.

Monday, April 24, 6:00 p.m.
$6 admission
David McIlvride and Roger Williams
Canada, 2016, 95 min.
Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, RiverBlue follows international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, on a journey that uncovers the dark side of the fashion industry.
Spanning the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most polluting industries, and speaking with fashion designers and water protectors worldwide, RiverBlue reveals stunning and shocking images that truly change the way we look at how our clothing is made.
This groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future. An exquisitely crafted, fascinating, emotional and moving documentary turned global agent for change.
Monday, April 24, 8:00 p.m.
Preceded by
Dawn George
Canada, 2016, 6 min.
Up close, mold is an intricate mass of branching filaments and delicate fruiting bodies creating a colourful connected web. When viewed from a distance, mold loses its complexities and a more destructive nature is realized – much like the world we live in.
Monday, April 24, 8:00 p.m.
$6 admission
All films will be screened at The Screening Room

located at 127 East Congress in downtown Tucson

26th Arizona International Film Festival |
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Arizona International Film Festival, The Screening Room, 127 East Congress, Tucson, AZ 85701
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Ruminate Magazine-The 2017 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize

Contest closes May 15th
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Friends, distill that moment.

 “I like having a phrase lying around to get poems started.
It’s like having a key.”  — Shane McCrae

If you’re like us, you have poems everywhere—half-hidden in files and folders and titled things like “Renewal,” “Family,” or “Conflict.”  They creep into margins, install themselves in the pages of your notebooks. And sometimes, you can watch them crystallize around a single photo, a single phrase, a single second.

Our finalist judge, Shane McCrae thinks of these phrases as keys, unlocking the truth hiding in that moment. The poem that forms around those phrases makes that truth accessible in a way no other form can—it invites the reader to experience it for themselves.

So return to that poem, the one that is only partly done but already rings true. Sit with it. Return to the phrase that created it and unlock that door.

The 2017 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize closes May 15th, with a $1500 cash prize and publication in Ruminate awarded to the winning poet and $200 and publication in Ruminate awarded to the second-place poet.

Please, accept our invitation to submit your poems.  It’s time to share that truth.



Kristin George Bagdanov

Poetry Editor
Ruminate Magazine
P.S. Want to submit but don’t know where to start? Get our Poetry Prize Bundle!
Poetry Prize Bundle
Our days are often busy and loud, yet we feel empty and asleep. Storytelling and art reminds us to slow down and live more fully awake with compassion, creativity, and curiosity. 

Subscribe and join our community—let’s stay awake together! 

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