| An important goal and method of renaissance rhetorical |
instruction, copia is best understood in terms of the
textbook which earned the term its fame, Desiderius
Erasmus's De duplici copia verborum ac rerum,
"On the twofold abundance of expressions
I honestly had no idea what it meant to be the visiting writer at a writing retreat, save the fact that every time I looked at notices for retreats they always seemed to feature writers of renown like Tess Gallagher or Mary Oliver or Jane Hirshfield.
When asked to be the visiting writer at this summer's NIWP's Summer Writing Retreat, I hesitated. Me? Me? Why? I've published three poems and two essays and keep this blog. I'm not exactly Robert Bly. What's more, I don't teach poetry, fiction, memoir, or creative non-fiction writing in my job and these seem to be the primary areas of interest for the writers attending this retreat.
But, my sister, InlandEmpireGirl, and her good friend Bev coordinate this retreat and since they decided to invite me, I decided to trust their judgment and accept the task.
I hoped they knew what they were doing.
Would the ideas about writing that I present to my LCC students work when applied to poetry and memoir writing? Would my knowledge about poetry, earned from years of studying and teaching poetry, translate into helping people at this retreat write their own poetry? How about memoir?
I also was concerned that one or more precious, pretentious writers might have enrolled who might intimidate other writers and who might need to be reigned in a bit.
Things could not have turned out better.
My teaching ideas and methods worked. The writers were receptive to my instruction and very appreciative of each other. No prima donnas enrolled.
We shared humility in common. While a few in the group might have been, well, too humble, and in need of extra encouragement because of a lack of confidence, they came around and I think began to believe in their talent.
I teach writing with a few principles:
1. No writer wants to be pushed around; writers want to work with their own voices and their own styles. Writing teachers who impose their own ways of writing upon others are failing those they teach. I edit lightly and give a few, I hope, well-placed bits of advice.
2. Let it rip. Writers should always feel free to explore copiously the subjects of their writing in as much variety and with as much freedom as possible. Writers should always feel at liberty to write off the subject, to explore the many tributaries of the main river of an idea. This is what makes the brain happy!
3. Writing is largely a matter of being awake and receptive. I don't regard it as a special gift. I think most people have the ability to be awake, to be conscious, and to develop a vocabulary that suits what they see and experience and think and feel.
These were the basic principles I tried to put into action as the visiting writer and I'm very pleased, given the writing I heard individuals read aloud and given what was shared with me in individual conferences, that these principles worked pretty well.