The 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Summer Writing Retreat will be held July 18-23 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, the perfect summer escape. There’s something truly special and one of a kind about the stunning landscape of mountainous West Texas — not to mention the refreshing afternoon showers and cool summer evenings — that inspires writers to commune with each other and their natural surroundings and to, most importantly, dig deep and hone their craft.
During this six-day retreat, five intensive writing workshops will be taught simultaneously by five of Texas’ premier authors, offering a unique experience for participants to enjoy an intimate class setting during the day and a larger group dynamic outside of the classroom throughout the week. Open to all genres and categories within fiction, non-fiction, memoir and poetry, with classes for both beginners and more seasoned writers, this retreat is singular in its focus, its emphasis on community, and its low registration rates.
An Interview with Scott Wiggerman
Scott Wiggerman is the author of three books of poetry, Leaf and Beak: Sonnets, Presence and Vegetables and Other Relationships. He is also the editor of several volumes of poetry including Lifting the Sky: Southwestern Haiku & Haiga and Wingbeats: Exercises & Practice in Poetry, named in the 2015 Poet’s Market as one of “Six Stellar Sources of Poetry Prompts.” Recent poems have appeared in Decades Review, Frogpond, Pinyon Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, and the anthologies Forgetting Home: Poems about Alzheimer’s and the Lambda award-winning This Assignment Is So Gay. Wiggerman is chief editor for Dos Gatos Press in Austin, Texas, publisher of the Texas Poetry Calendar, now in its eighteenth year.
Scribe: What’s your favorite part about the writing process?
Scott Wiggerman: Without a doubt, my favorite part of the writing process is the initial part, the creation, taking nothing and turning it into something (the same holds true for other arts as well). I feel alive when I have taken a blank page and filled it, even when I know that what it’s filled with isn’t necessarily worth anyone’s attention; yet there’s always something there—a phrase, a metaphor, an image—that makes the time spent writing worthwhile for me.
Scribe: Where is your ideal writing place? What’s the benefit of a secluded writing atmosphere like in Alpine?
SW: My usual writing place is cushioned on the end of a couch, in a bathrobe, with a cat, and a cup of coffee. I always write drafts freehand, and I only keyboard them when the page gets so messy with arrows and cross-outs that I need to type them to follow what I’ve written. Obviously, Alpine is not my ideal writing place, but it’s extremely conducive to thought and introspection—the views, the space, the quiet are all marvelous stimulants (and probably much better for me than coffee).
Scribe: Your class will focus on revising poetry. Do you have a critique partner, or is revision a personal process?
SW: Ultimately, revision is a personal process, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value the opinions of others. I am fortunate to be married to another writer, who is always my first critique partner. For many decades I’ve participated in both a live workshop and an online workshop, and my poems have benefited immensely from the critiques they’ve received from both groups over the years. I believe writers should not revise in total isolation; we need the perspectives of others.
Scribe: As a poet, you’re typically working within a more structured format, where every word is significant. Does that make you a harsher critic of your other types of writing? Or even as you read? Are you more aware of when other writers should have cut a line here or there?
SW: I don’t think being a poet makes me a harsher critic of other genres, but it definitely makes me a harsher critic of poetry, especially as I’m reading it. I’m constantly reading poems that I feel would be stronger with a cut line or a removed stanza, or poems that should start a bit later or end a bit sooner—and this happens even when I read top-tier poets. Reading other genres gives me a break in a way, as I can enjoy them without critiquing.
Scribe: Revision is often described as “killing your darlings.” How do you kill your darlings? Do you smother them with a pillow, or push them off a cliff? In other words, do you find yourself reworking lines more often, or just cutting them completely?
SW: It took me years to accept the need to kill my darlings, and I now fully accept that brutality is a necessary part of revision. Yes, I often try to rework lines, but I just as often let them go, sometimes pushing them off a cliff, sometimes burying them alive, sometimes allowing them to live in a closed container for a future repurposing. No matter how much I may love a particular line or stanza, I let it go if I feel that the poem as a whole will be better without it, and my revision course will definitely encourage this same brutal behavior.
Click here to register for Scott’s Summer Writing Retreat workshop.
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