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Writers Workshop a chance for novice, lifelong writers to mix

As rain lashed against the windows of the ETSU Sherrod Library last week, a small classroom on the third floor filled with an excitement that was palpable.
Participants in the Buffalo Mountain Writers Workshop listened eagerly and chimed in with comments and questions as instructors mapped out the path for them to become better writers.
“All the teachers are very enthusiastic, and the students are really excited too,” said Doris Wyatt, an instructor at the workshop, and an adjunct instructor for the English Department. “Everybody seems to be very involved in our material, and I think the students are serious about writing.”
The workshop is the culmination of the work of Wyatt and several other English instructors, four of whom co-authored and edited the book “Touching All Bases: a Rhetoric of Self Discovery,” the text used in the weeklong program.
The curriculum was designed to push attendees toward new ways of thinking about the creative process.
“The ideas in the book are basically ideas about learning to think that can apply to writing and other forms of art,” said Wyatt. “We are so sold on these ideas. We’re trying to spread a new way of thinking about learning to create, and hopefully enable them to become better writers.”
Writers with varying degrees of experience and expertise attended the program.
“So far I’m learning how to describe things, that’s one of the things I’ve really been having trouble with,” said Jonah Nelson, a 15-year-old novice writer who lives in Elizabethton. “I’m good at building a story, but I’m just having a little bit of trouble describing things.”
Nelson has only been writing for about two years, and is currently working on a novel. He believes he’ll take home plenty of useful information from the workshop to improve his narrative style.
Lifelong writer Janice Hornburg of Johnson City believes her poetry and fiction writing will improve because of the lessons she learned this week.
“A lot of the workshops I attend rely heavily on prompts,” she said. “(But) I feel like this kind of organization is more valuable than that, because you are getting to learn from people who are experts and educators. I think that helps us expand our inner resources that we rely on to write.
“We are talking about the psychological resources that a person has to draw on, and the senses that you can put in your writing- the smells, and the sounds, and the sights that draw readers into the story.”
Retired English instructor and Pulitzer Prize nominated author Robert. J. Higgs opened the program on Tuesday, June 8. The workshop will wind down in Brown Auditorium on Tuesday, June 15 at 7:30 p.m. with a presentation by Neil Isaacs, Professor Emeritus from the University of Maryland, and author of more than 22 books.
Plans for a similar workshop next year are already underway in light of the success of this year’s program.
“We really would like to do it (again), because this one has been very successful,” Wyatt said. “Both students and the faculty have really exchanged ideas, and we’ve had some really interesting students.”