CHARLOTTE—Poet Maureen Ryan Griffin is the author of three poetry collections and two nonfiction books, including a guide through grief. Most impressively, perhaps, she has been recognized for her commitment to local and regional writers through a career that has spanned a quarter-century.
Maureen will lead the Master Class in Poetry "The Art and Craft of Polishing a Poem (AKA Re-Vision)" at the North Carolina Writers' Network 2018 Fall Conference, November 2-4, at the Hilton Charlotte University Place.
Registration is now open.
Maureen Ryan Griffin has taught the art and craft of writing for twenty-five years through a wide variety of venues, including Queens University and Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, the John Campbell Folk School in the Appalachian Mountains, and Chautauqua Institution in New York. An award-winning poetry and nonfiction writer, Griffin has published in numerous publications, including Calyx, Chelsea, Cincinnati Poetry Review, and The Texas Review. She is the author of Spinning Words into Gold, a Hands-On Guide to the Craft of Writing, a guide through grief titled How Do I Say Goodbye?, and three poetry books. A poem from her latest collection, Ten Thousand Cicadas Can’t Be Wrong, was featured on The Writers’ Almanac. Recipient of the 2018 Irene Blair Honeycutt Legacy Award honoring a community member who has contributed outstanding service in support of local and regional writers, Maureen offers individual coaching, as well as retreats, workshops, and classes, through her business, WordPlay (www.wordplaynow.com).
This year, NCWN has been celebrating publishers based in North Carolina, so we asked Maureen to answer the following prompt:
"Congratulations! You've inherited a large fortune, on the condition that you use it to start your own publishing house. What kind of books are you going to publish?"
Here's how Maureen answered:
"Hurray! If you are reading this, I am likely to publish the kind of books you write. That is, if you write, as U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith puts it, as 'a way of affirming commitment to the belief that our lives can and should matter to one another and to ourselves.'1
"Because we are living in a polarized world, a disconnected world, a world where we can endlessly ingest and spit out trite or vitriolic or pandering words that do not touch our own hearts and souls, much less the hearts and souls of others. We are surrounded by people disconnected from, not only the people in their own cities, but the people in the same room, including themselves. You and I, though, are writers who strive to shake people awake with our words, as Tracy K. Smith does, with soaring beauty and searing honesty.
"Will your work allow readers to notice their own breath, recognize that all our hearts are beating, see and hear and smell and touch and taste the moments of their lives? Will your manuscripts, to quote again the marvelous Tracy K. Smith, use 'not the language of sharing and following, or buying and wearing, but rather that of bearing deep and unabashed witness to the urgencies and upheavals of lived experience, that comes closest to bringing us into visceral proximity with the lives and plights of others?'2
"If so, then please submit your work for consideration.
"Of course, being a member of the North Carolina Writers' Network, you’re savvy. You don’t send your precious manuscripts to just any press. You want to be proud of your finished book. You want to know your publishing house has experience, and is committed to excellence. So here is a little about me:
"My publishing career spans, literally, five decades. My first foray into 'printing' the work of others was in the seventh grade: an article about horseback riding written by a classmate named Nancy. I entered her handwritten words via my dad’s Royal typewriter straight into my one-copy only newspaper, The Gossiper, that was then passed hand to hand around the classroom. (There was great interest from both sexes—my mother was the school’s dietician and I was the sole source of important information: what would be served at lunch all week.) Seeing Nancy’s happiness to have her passion for—and knowledge of—horses shared with others was pure bliss for me, and I went on to publish a number of issues featuring the work of others.
"Though my interests took me in different directions than publishing the works of others for a number of years, I continued to hone my own writing and editing skills.
"Fast forward to a few years after I became a creative writing teacher, when one of my poetry students was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her lifelong dream was to publish a book of her poetry. I could do that for her, I thought. And so I did, founding Floating Leaf Press so her book could have an imprint. Again, I experienced a surge of joy when I saw her face as she held her own chapbook in her hands. Hope’s book is still a beautiful example of 'bearing deep and unabashed witness to the urgencies and upheavals of lived experience' and I’ll always be proud that I am her publisher of record.
"Now, back to you! Thanks to the largesse of the North Carolina Writers' Network, I have the resources to bring your book, your book that forges connection and understanding into being. Shake us awake with the soaring beauty and searing honesty of your words. Don’t be afraid to make us laugh and cry, to think as well as feel, to open us to a new way of seeing."
1 from “Tracy K. Smith, America’s Poet Laureate, Is a Woman With a Mission” by Ruth Franklin in The New York Times, April 10, 2018.
Interested in registering for Maureen's Master Class in Poetry?
What is revision, after all, but bringing a sparkling fresh vision to a piece of writing and its possibilities, the way you would facet, then polish, a gemstone? Maureen once heard gifted poet Linda Pastan speak at length on revision, which she called “the main act of writing.” She writes her first draft by putting herself in a trance-like state, she said. “And then come 100 revisions. It would be wonderful if there were right and wrong choices.” No one can tell us exactly what to do with our work—writing is an art as well as a craft. But while there aren’t right and wrong choices, we can get crystal-clear on our options in the areas of content, sound, and form and understand why—and how—some serve a particular poem better than others. That’s just what attendees will do in this master class—learn and practice specific revision tactics, as well as get detailed feedback/critique on at least one of their poems. Registrants will take home a handy reference chart and descriptions of all the strategies covered—which, by the way, can also help them write more brilliant poetry and prose.
Each registrant should be ready to handle the intensive instruction and atmosphere of the Master Class.
Fall Conference attracts hundreds of writers from around the country and provides a weekend full of activities that include lunch and dinner banquets with readings, keynotes, tracks in several genres, open mic sessions, and the opportunity for one-on-one manuscript critiques with editors or agents. Additional Master Classes will be led by Judy Goldman (Creative Nonfiction) and Randall Kenan (Fiction), who, as a 2018 inductee into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame, also will give the Keynote Address.
The nonprofit North Carolina Writers’ Network is the state’s oldest and largest literary arts services organization devoted to all writers, in all genres, at all stages of development. For additional information, visit www.ncwriters.org.