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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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.
Questions? Comments? Reply. Or give us a call: 212-255-7075. Or write to info@writerstudio.com. Or check out our FAQ page here.
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Writers Studio News November 4, 2014- The essential mystery of being human & Writing Courses

Writers Studio News November 4- The essential mystery of being human & Writing Courses
update@writerstudio.com Bell
>> “THE ESSENTIAL MYSTERY OF BEING HUMAN IS ALWAYS GOING TO ENGAGE AND COMPEL US … POETRY USES WORDS TO PUT US IN TOUCH WITH THAT MYSTERY. WE’RE ALWAYS GOING TO NEED IT.” –Edward Hirsch, award-winning poet and president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, will visit the Writers Studio craft class on Tuesday, November 11 to speak about his book-length poem, Gabriel. If you register now for craft class now, you can attend this class and download podcasts of all nine classes.

>> REGISTER NOW FOR NYC LEVEL I WHICH BEGINS MONDAY NOVEMBER 10. This is the only workshop beginning this month, don’t miss this opportunity to study with Elliot Satsky, and benefit from his warm and supportive teaching style. Register here.

>> CHECK OUT THE WRITERS STUDIO CLASSES FOR 2015. A calendar of classes in NYC, Tucson, San Francisco, Amsterdam, and Online can be found here.

>> MORE PUBLICATION NEWS: Jennifer Kearn’s chapbook “The Hungry Gap” was selected to be published by Toadlily Press as part of their Quartet Series called “A Good Wall.” Each Quarter Series from Toadlily Press presents four exceptional poets in a single volume. Jennifer is a student in Peter Krass’s Online Intermediate Poetry Workshop. Peter’s next Online workshop start January 7, 2015. Apply for a spot by writing to peter@writerstudio.com.

http://www.writerstudio.com / 212-255-7075 / TWITTER /

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Writers Studio- THIS FRIDAY: PHILIP SCHULTZ READS WITH MICHAEL DICKMAN AT THE STRAND & Free Writing Workshops, and other classes

Writers Studio- THIS FRIDAYPHILIP SCHULTZ READS WITH MICHAEL DICKMAN AT THE STRAND & Free Writing Workshops, and other classes 
THIS FRIDAYPHILIP SCHULTZ READS WITH MICHAEL DICKMAN AT THE STRAND. Philip Schultz reads from his new book of poetry The Wherewithal (W.W. Norton, 2014) with poet Michael Dickman at the Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway at E. 12th Street, NYC on Friday, March 28 at 7 p.m. Admission: buy a copy of The Wherewithal or $10 admission. More information.

>> JOIN US FOR A VERY SPECIAL CRAFT CLASS LEAD BY POET EDWARD HIRSCH. Tonight, March 25, Edward Hirsch leads a discussion about a selection of poems by C.P. Cavafy. Edward Hirsch is an award-winning poet and advocate of poetry. He is the author of the best selling book How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999), a Mac Arthur Fellow, and president of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. His most recent book is The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (Knopf, 2011). Register now to attend and/or download all nine historic classes.

>> TWO FREE INTRODUCTORY WORKSHOPS AT THE BROOKLYN CENTRAL LIBRARY. If you or someone you know is interested in exploring your writing talents, sign up for a free introductory workshop held at Brooklyn Central Library (across from Prospect Park) on Sunday, March 30 at 3 p.m <wait list only> or Saturday, April 5 from 3-4:30 pm. For more information and to register: rebecca@writerstudio.com.

>> CHANGE TO THE LEVEL II ADMISSIONS: Writers new to The Writers Studio may enter the school at Level II if they have publications, an MFA or two post-graduate writing courses, and with permission of the teacher.
* Online Level II began Tuesday, March 18 <you may enter a workshop up to two weeks late, 2 spots remain>  joel@writerstudio.com for permission.
* Online Level II began Thursday, March 20  <you may enter a workshop up to two weeks late> rachael@writerstudio.com for permission.
* NYC Level II begins Monday, April 21peter@writerstudio.com for permission.
* Online Intermediate Poetry begins Wednesday, April 9. This class is open to students who have completed Level II or by permission of the teacher, peter@writerstudio.com.

* Online Level I begins Tuesday, March 27 ❤ spots remain> Register now.
* Online I begins Wednesday, April 2 Register now.
* NYC I begins Wednesday, April 9 Register now.
* NYC I begins Tuesday, April 15 Register now.
* To find out more about class times and to register, visit our website or call (212) 255-7075.

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The Writers Studio- Kudos, survey, and summer workshops

The Writers Studio- Kudos, survey, and summer workshops

May 15, 2012

“Celebrating 25 years of helping writers reach their potential”

CONGRATULATIONS TO JILL BIALOSKY, EDWARD HIRSCH, JULIE OTSUKA (FORMER WRITERS STUDIO STUDENT), AND JEAN VALENTINE FOR A MOVING CELEBRATION OF THE WRITERS STUDIO’S 25th ANNIVERSARY AND OF THE BRAVE WORK OF GLOBAL GOODS PARTNERS. The event, held in New York’s prestigious Players Club this past Friday, included commissioned stories from the women artisans from the Global South, who have started small independent businesses thanks to the help of Global Goods Partners. Keep supporting the work of Global Goods Partners and join us as we embark on our next quarter century of helping writers reach their potential. Summer session begins May 23, 2012.

–> THERE IS STILL TIME TO TAKE OUR SURVEY. In order to continually improve The Writers Studio, you are invited to complete a brief survey about our school. Please take a few minutes to answer these questions. Answers remain anonymous. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/83MY2MTwriterstudio

KUDOS TO JORDAN BLAIR, INES FATZINGER, CRAIG VAN ROOYEN, AND ALISON CARB SUSSMAN FOR THEIR NEW PUBLICATIONS. Jordan Blair’s short, “Pathfinder”, inspired by Jennifer Egan’s persona narrator and powerpoint technique, will be published by the online publication Hoot. Ines Fatzinger’s “The Ballad of Maggie Rose,” will appear in the next issue of The Electric Poet. Craig Van Rooyen’s “Take, Eat”, that started as a Dorothy Barresi exercise, has been accepted in the January 2013 of Pank. Alison Carb Sussman’s “Zion Unblooming,” published in 2006, is scheduled to be read on WIOX Radio (91.3 FM) in Roxbury, NY. Craig and Alison are students in Lisa Bellamy’s Advanced Poetry Class, Jordan in Lucinda Holt’s Online Level V, and Ines in Nancy Matsunaga’s Amsterdam Workshops. Read more success stories.

STAYING IN TOWN THIS SUMMER? STIMULATE YOUR CREATIVE ENERGY WITH A SUMMER WORKSHOP. Whether you’ve stopped writing because of the demands of a job and would like to start again, or whether you’d like to benefit from a constructive method in order to finish the story or poem you’ve started, we can help you. Choose from more than fifteen 10-week workshops offered in NEW YORK, SAN FRANCISCO, TUCSON, AMSTERDAM, AND ONLINE. Although personal attention is a trademark of our school, you’ll get more of it in the summer, as classes tend to be smaller. To register, call us at 212-255-7075 or visit our website. http://www.writerstudio.com

TUTORIALS ARE AVAILABLE. Work on an existing manuscript by working one on one with one of our trained teachers in person or over the phone. Read more or contact lisabadner@writerstudio.com

http://www.writerstudio.com / 212-255-7075 / TWITTER / FACEBOOK / question@writerstudio.com

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