Writers get literal at COA Literary Festival

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Sylvie Green, a teacher at the College of the Albemarle, speaks to early college students about "Art Inspired Writing" at one of the Literary Festival workshops held at the grand opening of the Charles H. Ward Library at the College of the Albemarle.

040419 COA Library

By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Sunday, April 14, 2019

College of The Albemarle treated local writers to a blend of inspiration, camaraderie and practical advice at the recent COA Literary Festival.

The festival, held April 4 in conjunction with the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Charles H. Ward Library & Knowledge Commons on COA’s main campus in Elizabeth City, featured presentations by area authors Charles Oldham, Sharon Burtner and Eric Weil, and a keynote presentation by N.C. Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green.

Green’s address and poetry reading in the COA Performing Arts Center was followed by a meet-and-greet reception in the PAC Center Lobby.

The event also included students readings sponsored by the COA Writers Club.

Workshops for writers were held in the morning and afternoon.

The morning session offered a choice between “Seven Deadly Sins of Writing” presented by Aaron Bass and “Art Inspired Writing” presented by Sylvie Green.

In the afternoon the workshop options were “Local Voices” by Russ Lay, “Writing Effective Essays” by Michael Worthington and “There’s Something About a Sonnet” by Sylvie Green.

Anna Lewantowicz, president of the COA Writers Club, attended Sylvie Green’s morning and afternoon workshops.

“The first workshop focused on Picasso's Portrait of Gertrude Stein and Stein’s poem on Picasso,” Lewantowicz said, referring to the Art Inspired Writing workshop. “The idea was that art and written word can be related, and writing about a picture or a drawing can be a big inspiration. She provided paper and postcards for us to write something, and those of us who wanted got the chance to share it with her.”

The sonnet workshop also was interesting, she said.

“It’s a little more tricky to write such a structured form of writing,” Lewantowicz said. “She showed us a couple examples and explained the popularity of sonnets as well as gave us the common ways to write, like iambic pentameter. I had the chance to write a sonnet that I am quite proud of, and I think that as a writer it is definitely helpful to step out of your comfort zone and write in a new way.”

Ron Ben-Dov, a Perquimans County writer whose work includes poetry, song lyrics and non-fiction, attended “Art Inspired Writing” and “Writing Effective Essays.”

Ben-Dov said “Art Inspired Writing,” which used pictures as writing prompts, was a new and interesting experience for him.

“I had never done anything like that before and it opened up a completely different perspective in providing a different source of inspiration,” he said. “Also Mike’s workshop was an excellent refresher, as we tend to forget the basics as we get further away from school.”

Worthington said his workshop grew out of work with lateral entry teachers who were preparing to write essays as part of their testing to become licensed teachers.

The essay workshop taught a straightforward process for writing a clear, convincing 350-word essay built around three main paragraphs with an introductory paragraph and a final paragraph to communicate the conclusion.

Using a notion known as “the rule of three,” Worthington encouraged each paragraph to begin with a thesis or topic sentence followed by three sentences that together introduce three supporting examples, capped with a concluding sentence.

The resulting essay is five paragraphs of five sentences each, and is designed to come in at around 350 words.

Lewantowicz said the student readings also went well.

“We had eight readers including myself and a handful of people stayed in the den to see us,” Lewantowicz said. “I believe that even though it wasn’t quite as popular as seeing the poet laureate it was still a great opportunity for the members of the club to share what they’ve spent the school year working on.”