Tag Archives: Westport Writers Workshop

Westport Welcomes New Writers’ Studio

Westporters love words. We argue, read — and write.

This town is already home to 2 thriving writers’ centers: Westport Writers’ Workshop and Write Yourself Free.

We’ll soon welcome a 3rd. Fairfield County Writers’ Studio opens in January at 21 Charles Street, near the train station.

Classes will be held by best-selling authors, well-known editors, top literary agents, television pros and publishing experts. Aspiring and established fiction and non-fiction writers can enroll in master classes and workshops.

Westporter Jane Green and Linda Fairstein head the list of instructors.

Hard at work at the Fairfield County Writers' Studio.

Hard at work at the Fairfield County Writers’ Studio.

Fairfield County Writers’ studio was founded by Tessa Smith McGovern and Carol Leonetti Dannhauser. McGovern is a top-selling Amazon author, and teaches at Sarah Lawrence’s Writing Institute. When her children were in Westport schools, she taught workshops for their classmates. She helped her son Phil and his baseball teammates publish an app of their sportswriting.

Dannhauser has written for the New York Times, Business Week and Good Housekeeping. She teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University.

“Our chief aim is to create a nurturing community where writers and artists can come together in our creative space, and find the instruction and support they need to have fun, write and publish — wherever they are in their careers,” McGovern says.

Write on!

Christine Pakkala’s Nightmare, Prize-Winning Trip

There’s a lot to learn at the Westport Writers’ Workshop. But it’s not all about the words.

Christine Pakkala has taken workshops, and been mentored, at the Sylvan Road center since 2008. Beyond important writing skills, she’s gained confidence. And learned to put herself waaay out there.

She did it so well that her essay — “The Vacation Nightmare That Changed My Life” — won 1st place in the prestigious Ladies’ Home  Journal writing contest. Chosen from thousands of submission, it earned her $3,000 — plus publication in the June issue.

Christine Pakkala (Photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

Christine Pakkala (Photo by Kristin Hoebermann)

Christine wrote grippingly about her fear of flying. She finally overcame it in order to spend Christmas in Costa Rica with her husband, attorney and author Cameron Stracher, and their kids (Simon, then 13, and Lulu, 10).

The vacation turned grim when Cam collapsed after a run. The only CAT-scan machine in the country was in San Jose — and the only way to get there was on a tiny plane.

Back in Westport — after a long commercial flight — the couple learned that a major artery was 90 percent blocked. He had survived only because his runner’s heart was so strong.

After a stent and medication, he’s back running. Christine has flown half a dozen times since then. And, of course, she writes.

A former Fulbright Scholar who received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she says, “I’ve had Pulitzer Prize-winning writing teachers. But the best advice came from Jessica Bram and Suzanne Hoover” — 2 of her Westport Writers’ Workshop teachers. “They taught me to first listen to myself, then listen to others.”

Now others are listening to Christine. Last month she taught students how to break into children’s books. She should know: She’s got a multi-book publishing deal.

Christine got interested in writing for kids when Simon was in kindergarten. Her tales incorporated his classmates as characters. She read them aloud, and teachers encouraged her to do more.

She listened. She wrote. She branched out from kindergarten to middle grade fiction, and now to a harrowing but healing account of her terrible trip to Costa Rica.

Which — thanks to confidence gained through the Westport Writers’ Workshop — is a prize-winning essay, shared with Ladies’ Home Journal readers everywhere.

Westport Writers Workshop

(To read Christine’s essay, click here.)

Shameless Self-Promotion

One of the advantages of having your own blog is being able to blog about teaching blogging.

So here goes:

I’ve teamed up with Westport Writers’ Workshop to offer a 2-evening session called “Be a Blogger.”  On Thursday, July 14 and 21 (7 to 9 p.m.), I’ll help aspiring bloggers — this means you! — learn how to:

  • Choose a topic.
  • Generate ideas.
  • Create content.
  • Find a voice.
  • Respond to the Dude, Anonymous, or whoever else comments on your stuff — and create a community in the process.

We’ll also cover the mechanics of choosing a platform, finding graphics, and marketing and maintaining your blog.

That’s the 1st Thursday.  In the hands-on, interactive 2nd session you’ll develop your own blog, write the 1st post, put it online — and hear immediate feedback from fellow workshop participants.

Here’s 1 free hint on how to start blogging:  Embrace action verbs.

But you have to pay for the rest.

(Westport Writers’ Workshop is at 3 Sylvan Road South.  Anyone age 14 and up is welcome.  For more information and to register, click here.  Space is limited to 12 soon-to-be-awesome bloggers.)

Avoid The Internet!

It may seem counter-intuitive to post a notice of this event here in cyberspace, but we live in weird world.

So here goes:

The Westport Writers’ Workshop has announced “Writing Hours Unplugged.”  Called “a nurturing program for writers who seek a quiet space in a setting conducive to creativity, free of the distractions of the Internet,” it takes place at the Workshop (3 Sylvan Road South) most days of the week, beginning at 8 a.m.  (Check email early!)

Writers can unplug when workshops are not in session — including Sundays, the traditional day of rest.

Not a workspace the Westport Writers' Workshop wants to see.

In addition to no whirring computers or chirping cellphones, the facility offers overflowing bookshelves, bright windows and stacks of resources.  (Plus a kitchen.)

The lack of internet access includes wireless.  Westport Writers’ Workshop founder Jessica Bram says “the single greatest impediment to productive writing is the distraction provided by access to the Internet.”

Of course, there is no such thing as free non-internet access.  Writing Hours Unplugged is available only to Workshop members ($150 per year; includes program discounts and free admission to speaker events).  Memberships are available to “any writer or would-be writer in the community.”

“06880” likes the theory of unplugging, and writing in glorious, undistracted, quiet, contemplative, sylvan solitude.

But how would we know when The Dude, Jeffxs or any of our other fans readers comments on this post?

(For more information about the Westport Writers’ Workshop and Writing Hours Unplugged, click on www.westportwritersworkshop.com, or call 203-227-3250.)