WHY DO I WRITE?: (Re-)Discover Your Drive by Leah Claire Kaminski
START DATE: Monday, January 10, 2022
END DATE: Monday, February 7, 2022
DURATION: 4 weeks
LOCATION: Private online group
FEEDBACK: Positive instructor feedback and peer critique
COURSE DESCRIPTION: Essayist and novelist Joan Didion famously wrote, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” If only it were that simple for all of us: from the eye, to the brain, to the quick hands on the keyboard. But harsh critics, apathetic mentors, and innumerable rejections can turn writing from a means of self-discovery and self-expression into a task to fear or avoid. How can we sidestep the fear, if not banish it? How can we tell the inner critic to sit down for a minute? How can we create the habits of mind that give us access to our own minds? In short—how can we begin and continue to write?
In this four-week course, writers new to writing entirely and experienced writers who thought they’d given up at some point along the way will build community and gain valuable insight from the instructor, exploring together why they (want to) write, and how to write more regularly and with less difficulty.
Via instructor-created assignments and prompts, writing rituals, essays, interviews, and articles by authors and thinkers like CA Conrad, Julia Cameron, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott, and Bernadette Mayer, and aspirational short texts in poetry, fiction, and personal essay (particularly focusing on early published work by well-known authors), students will find inspiration for creating their own joyful writing habits, and discover what they burn to write—and what they want to do with it.
Topics include: Journaling with Purpose, Writing Rituals & Shutting off Your Inner Critic, and Exploring Genres.
During this asynchronous course, students will write or journal about their writing, daily. Students will be asked to post their work (photos of handwritten work are fine!) in a private group, and comment on other student posts. They will have access to the instructor via email, and in the group. You will complete several pieces of writing during the course: a manifesto about your own writing or self-portrait of yourself as a writer, a “conversation with the censors” who seek to stop you from writing, 1-2 creative pieces in any genre, a writing plan for yourself going forward, and multiple short reflections. You will post or turn in each piece for peer and/or instructor feedback.
This class was just what I needed! I enjoyed all of the reading and assignments, and feel reinvigorated and inspired to write. The instructor provided excellent feedback throughout the course, and went above and beyond by providing additional materials and resources to help us as a group, and individually. You can tell that she really cares about her students, and will do whatever she can to help them succeed. I highly recommend this class or anything else offered by Leah. It was a positive experience in every way. – Marcia P.
What an enjoyable, stimulating way to learn and develop writing skills with a wonderful instructor and inspired poet. Leah Kaminski had the right personality and enthusiasm and knowledge for this class and put a lot of thought into how class materials were presented; they were extraordinary—not only in ways to approach different forms in poetry, but also backed-up by great examples from a wealth of poets. After each session we received follow-up materials and previews of our next session, which continued to engage us until we met again. Here’s hoping we do meet again! – Pmfrank
Leah has been a great influence in my writing career and has taught me to explore creativity and find joy in writing. I am very honored to have had Leah be amongst my first college professors; she inspired me to see writing as a form of art. My past experiences with writing felt like playing Tetris, a task I absolutely hated. Leah gave us a space to practice. It was a space for judge-free and expressive writing, and a constructive space to learn and improve. I found her teaching technique to be rigorous yet extremely helpful. She pushed and encouraged us to do our best on writing projects, giving us the essential tools to learn and to figure out our strengths and weaknesses. The lasting impact on me was seeing how much faith she had in my capacity to grow as a writer. Leah motivates her students to learn how to think, rather than just what to write. Writing is a form of storytelling; an author’s body language is their rhetoric and with the right tools, these words begin to talk and dance. I am thankful for Leah and her passion to truly help and care for her students. – Sharon M.
Leah’s magic as a teacher is in how she helped me develop confidence in writing and reshaped my dreams. Leah’s first magical act was that she encouraged me to explore any writing style I was passionate about. Although a creative genre such as literary journalism or poetry in a second language was challenging for me, Leah was extremely supportive. She showed me how to control my writing and helped me build up the mindset of progressive revision: although I cannot write the best piece, I can always revise it towards perfection. Having this idea in mind, I was not intimidated by writing anymore. Leah helped me rediscover my interest in writing itself. Our discussion on various topics, from writing an efficient personal statement to appreciating the beauty of a poem, was the best experience in my undergraduate career. Now, besides continuing to do basic research in biology, I have also decided to become a scientific writer who can explain research findings to a broader audience in a concise and fun way. I hope that through this work I can show people how fascinating biology is, and at the same time, develop a life-long interest in creative writing. The best teaching is to inspire someone with her passion and expertise, which is what Leah and her magic have demonstrated to me. – Weiyi T.
The way Professor Kaminski taught this class was outstanding. She gives students opportunities for critical thinking by encouraging us to ask questions, to exchange ideas with her, and shape both our opinions and hers. She is such a humble and wonderful person that I enjoyed being the person to start debates in class. And every time, she listened to me patiently and never told me if I was wrong or right, but instead, challenged and communicated with me. – Yue G.
I first came to know Leah as a colleague in my MFA workshop, where I grew to value her vast knowledge of literature as well as her deeply informed and sensitive critiques. Leah’s comments have greatly improved both my individual pieces of writing and book-length manuscripts. I have also had the good fortune to be able to observe Leah teach writing classes in order to learn from her teaching practice. Leah offers a combination of personal creative vision and unique attention/empathy to individuals that makes her a truly great creative writing teacher. She also brings an inspiring sense of fun and invention to writing that will inspire those who have the chance to work with her. – Rachel H., poet and editor
WEEKS AT A GLANCE:
WEEK ONE: Drives
- Excerpts from Dillard, A Writing Life
- Excerpts from Fletcher, A Writer’s Notebook, and other handouts and texts on strting a writer’s notebook.
- Your choice from list of “Why I Write” essays, provided by instructor
Assignment 1: Write your own “Why I Write” essay (or other genre!) of up to 500 words. And/or, consider this a “Self-Portrait of the Writer.”
Assignment 2: Start a journaling routine: write at least 10 minutes a day in your own writer’s notebook, every day of the term (and beyond)! This journal is yours alone (unless you’d like to share photos of it in the group), so do with it what you will!
WEEK TWO: Roads/Blocks
- Excerpts from writers on being blocked and getting past blocks by writers like Julia Cameron, Roxane Gay, Rick Carson, and David Foster Wallace.
- Your choice from a curated list of early stories, essays, and poems by well-known authors.
Assignment 1: Write a 500-word conversation (in any genre!) between your desires and your censors. What do you want to write? Why do you want to write it? What’s stopping you?
Assignment 2: Write an honest accounting of your writing practice as it stands today.
WEEK THREE: Rituals, Process and Product
- Discussion of processes and rituals from writers like Stephen King, CA Conrad, Toni Morrison, and Bernadette Mayer.
- Your choice from a curated list of early stories, essays, and poems by well-known authors.
- Quick introductions to the big three literary genres: creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction, with hallmarks of the genres, tips, and a few select prompts.
Assignment 1: Experiment with the rituals and processes you’ve read about, and/or come up with your own rituals or journal practices, based on your own traditions/cultures/religions. Write a brief reflection on what you’ve come up with and how you’ve improved upon your writing practice.
Assignment 2: Write a piece in any genre (essay, short story, flash, blog, poem, you name it!), on a topic of your own choosing, 500 words or less. Include a brief reflection. What did you like about this genre? Does it feel like something you want to keep practicing?
WEEK FOUR: Recommitting, Plans
- Publishing tips for literary writing from the instructor.
- Goal-setting tips from instructor and various authors and creativity/writing coaches.
Assignment 1: Based on the whole of your reading and writing this term, rewrite your self-portrait or writer’s manifesto from week 1. What is new or different now? What core aspects remain the same? Based on your re-write, re-commit to yourself and your writing by creating a writing plan or a set of writing goals.
Assignment 2: Write a new 500-word piece. Consider writing in a new genre (unless you’re really committed to one already). Include a brief reflection. What did you like about this genre? Does it feel like something you want to keep practicing?
Materials needed: A journal or notebook + pens/pencils. A functioning computer + wifi.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Leah Claire Kaminski holds degrees from UC Irvine and Harvard. For nearly 15 years she’s taught students to read with attention and to write poetry, academic essays, and creative nonfiction. Leah’s poetry and stories are widely published in magazines and anthologies, and in two chapbooks, Root (Milk and Cake Press, 2022), and Peninsular Scar (Dancing Girl Press, 2018). Her collection Live oak nearly on fire has recently been named a finalist for the Laureate Prize from Harbor Editions and the Paul Nemser Prize from Lily Poetry Review. She’s at work on a new collection, Small Continent of Light, and is also at work on a horror novel. Originally from Miami, Leah lived in Boston and Orange County, California before recently relocating to Chicago with her partner, child, and two cats, Bernie and Betsy. She loves writing, and teaching writing, because the page never judges. Visit her website at www.leahkaminski.com.
COST: $150, which includes online copies of all reading, weekly feedback from the instructor, and a private group for peer critique and for general questions and conversations. Fee also includes 20% off your first package of Leah’s editing and mentoring services.
BUY NOW: Why Do I Write?: (Re-)Discover Your Drive with Leah Claire Kaminski (4 weeks, starting 1/10/2022) Limit: 10 students. Early registration is recommended.
For Class Session Starting 1/10/2022
Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. Before class begins, she will e-mail you with instructions on how to get started.
Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:
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