LU writing students grow via Writer's Studio
This semester, Tayler Otten, a junior majoring in English and creative writing, is creating content for the Lakeland blog, as well as the social media pages for Lakeland’s School of Humanities & Fine Arts. This is the latest in a series of blog stories she’s written. Photos by Rachel Pagel.
In the last week of March, Lakeland hosted its annual Writer's Studio in which students in the writing program get a chance to work with a published author. This year’s published author was Amy E. Casey.
Casey is a Wisconsin native who followed a career path in teaching before deciding to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Now working full time at Riveredge Nature Center, she writes professionally by day and creatively by night. After over six years of sporadic writing and editing sessions, she released her debut novel, “The Sturgeon’s Heart.”
Throughout the weeklong Writer's Studio, students had the opportunity to workshop their own work with Casey. Meeting with the author individually, writing students Christian Gartner, Maxwell Kutz, Marian Kramer and Leah Henckel had their own timeslot to review their work with Casey and discuss stylistic and developmental work on their piece.
“My experience with the visiting author was amazing,” said Henckel, a sophomore. “She took time to understand my style and goals as a writer to offer the most relevant advice possible.”
Writer's Studio is all about helping writing students find their voice and work toward a polished piece that, for many, the goal is to publish. Through the guidance and recommendations of visiting authors like Casey, students are able to see these goals as a real possibility. However, Casey did not sugarcoat the challenges authors face to get published.
"Push through the self-doubt that will inevitably accompany working on a book-length project,” Casey advised. “Creating a quality manuscript can take years. In many ways, writing a book is a test of belief in one's self and one's artistic contributions. Perhaps the best advice is to keep going."
Gartner, a senior, took these words to heart. As he continues to work on his book for his senior writing project, he has felt the struggles Casey spoke of. However, he is determined to persevere.
“The biggest takeaway for me,” Gartner said, “was while writing may be something that I enjoy more as a hobby, when I do plan on potentially publishing things, to not get discouraged and always look back and see if my goals are obtainable, reasonable, and realistic.”
Students of all stages in their writing journey joined the Writer's Studio to learn from a professional. Since the Writer's Studio is part of the writing curriculum, the choice was easy to attend the workshop. But for Casey? She found this opportunity through networking.
After visiting a workshop at the local bookstore, WordHaven, the owner Kelly D. Holstine introduced Casey to one of Lakeland’s own, Madeleine Wattenberg. Wattenberg, seeing the opportunity to bring a local author to her students, quickly offered Casey the honor of visiting author for Lakeland’s Writer's Studio.
"Supporting other writers is important to me,” Casey shared. “Working with students in the Writer's Studio is a setting for me to share what I know, helping writers who are earlier on in their journey to hopefully benefit from the insight I've gained in my own experiences."
Networking, as can be seen in Casey’s case, is an important part of entering the writing industry. Learning from experienced writers and getting advice on one’s own work is invaluable. However, Casey also imparts another important lesson for aspiring writers.
"Reading voraciously is crucial for a writer,” Casey said, “especially contemporary work in the same genre that they hope to publish in."
Just as learning through workshops can shape a writer, so can reading. Casey suggests that writers not forget the importance of reading as a writer. Reading not only gets the creative juices flowing, but it also allows for writers to understand the market they hope to publish in.
In the cycle of literature, reading fuels writing as writing fuels reading.