Advice to Writers from Billy Collins

Even if it keeps you up all night,
wash down the walls and scrub the floor
of your study before composing a syllable.

Clean the place as if the Pope were on his way.
Spotlessness is the niece of inspiration.
The more you clean, the more brilliant
your writing will be, so do not hesitate to take
to the open fields to scour the undersides
of rocks or swab in the dark forest
upper branches, nests full of eggs.

When you find your way back home
and stow the sponges and brushes under the sink,
you will behold in the light of dawn
the immaculate altar of your desk,
a clean surface in the middle of a clean world.

From a small vase, sparkling blue, lift
a yellow pencil, the sharpest of the bouquet,
and cover pages with tiny sentences
like long rows of devoted ants
that followed you in from the woods.

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We’re Super Proud

We’re super proud of our newest member, Aliina Hopkins.  She worked the hell out of a short story and submitted it to Glimmer Train’s new writers contest, and PLACED in the top 25!!!!

Way to go, Aliina!

Listen to what she has to say about submitting, writing, revision, and having a supportive writing group.

 

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New Digs

East Hill has some new digs.  We’ll be holding our workshops in the very charming space above The Sweet Shop in historic Collinsville.

7 River Street is going to be the vortex of some major creativity.  We’re just hoping the townsfolk can handle it.

Watch this spot for some open house offerings.  It’s our goal to get every creative man, woman, and child (within reason) on our doorstep with pen and paper in hand.

Poetry, memoir, fiction, young adult, we’ve got it all!

Check out one of our upcoming fall workshops:

Advanced Workshop

For writers experienced in the workshop method of reading and discussing one another’s work, this workshop will guide you in developing your fiction or creative non-fiction project.

Areas of focus will include development of themes, scenes, and characters; weaving exposition, scenes and dialogue; beginnings and endings; over-arching structure as well as the internal arcs of scenes and chapters; suggestions for revision.

Maximum class size: 10

Where:  7 River Street in downtown Collinsville, CT

When: Monday evenings, 7-9: Beginning October 14th, and running for 6 consecutive Mondays (ending November 18th).

Cost:  $260

Method of payment:  Check to East Hill Writers @PO Box 1008, 59 East Hill Rd., Canton, CT  06019, or PayPal.

For further information: 860 559-8051 or 860 836-8416  or info@easthillwriters.com

 

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Poetry is HERE!

East Hill Writers: Poetry Workshop with Chivas Sandage

This 6-week poetry workshop offers supportive and insightful feedback, inspiring discussions, and creative explorations within community.

We explore:

  • remarkable poems by contemporary writers from around the world
  • your questions about poetry, your work, and the practice of writing
  • multiple perspectives on what’s strong and what can be stronger in your poems
  • accessible and intriguing writing prompts
  • craft issues including “the poem as score”
  • creative strategies for cultivating, revising and editing poems
  • traditional and alternative publishing options
  • the art and pleasure of reading your work for others

Facilitator: Chivas Sandage, author of Hidden Drive (Antrim House, 2012), holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA from Bennington College. ForeWord Reviews has just selected Hidden Drive as a finalist for its Book of the Year Awards. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and the anthologies Paradise Found (Levellers Press, forthcoming in ’13), Morning Song: Poems for New Parents (St. Martin’s Press, ’11), and Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience (Univ. of Iowa Press, ‘06).

When: Six Sundays, 7-9 pm: June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 & July 7

Where: East Hill Writers in Canton, Connecticut

Cost: $260

Method of payment: Check to East Hill Writers c/o 46 Gildersleeve Avenue, Canton, CT  06019, or PayPal.

For further information: 860.559.8051, info@easthillwriters.com, or http://easthillwriters.com/

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Workshops

Poetry Workshop with Chivas Sandage

This 6-week poetry workshop offers supportive and insightful feedback, inspiring discussions, and creative explorations within community.

We explore:

  • remarkable poems by contemporary writers from around the world
  • your questions about poetry, your work, and the practice of writing
  • multiple perspectives on what’s strong and what can be stronger in your poems
  • accessible and intriguing writing prompts
  • craft issues including “the poem as score”
  • creative strategies for cultivating, revising and editing poems
  • traditional and alternative publishing options
  • the art and pleasure of reading your work for others

 

Facilitator: Chivas Sandage, author of Hidden Drive (Antrim House, 2012), holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA from Bennington College. ForeWord Reviews has just selected Hidden Drive as a finalist for its Book of the Year Awards. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and the anthologies Paradise Found (Levellers Press, forthcoming in ’13), Morning Song: Poems for New Parents (St. Martin’s Press, ’11), and Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience (Univ. of Iowa Press, ‘06).

When: Six Sundays, 7-9 pm: June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 & July 7

Cost: $260

Method of payment: Check to East Hill Writers @PO Box 1008, 59 East Hill Rd., Canton, CT  06019, or PayPal.

For further information:

info@easthillwriters.com

860.559.8051

http://easthillwriters.com/

http://www.writelikeariver.com/

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What a Difference Revision Makes: Before

This past semester, we had a new student join us on the Hill.  Ann Travers hadn’t written much in a few years, but she wanted to polish one essay during the six-week session.  And polish she did.

This is the draft she submitted for approval into the workshop.  Pretty good, we thought.  See if you agree:

I used to sew dresses with my mother when I was young. Sitting on tall stools, we flipped through the big Simplicity and McCall’s books, found a pattern we liked, then picked out material and notions listed on the back. My mother worked her way around the fabric store efficiently and with occasional extravagance. Quickly matching fabric to thread, hem tape and zipper, but pausing over colorful buttons, eyelet lace and ribbon. I would follow behind her, already seeing myself in that red plaid dress with a wide white lace collar, the ends of the bow tied at my back streaming behind me as I pumped higher and higher on the swing hanging from the maple in our back yard.

My nine-year-old patience wore thin as my mother carefully laid out the fabric and pattern pieces. She said the first part of dress making took more time than actually sewing it together. Folding the fabric with selvages even, lining up the plaid with arrows on pattern pieces, marking dart lines with carbon paper and tracing wheel. I helped fill in with straight pins securing the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut along the straight edges working carefully around notches and corners. With a final snip of the scissors I ran outside to swing as my mother continued, straight pins held between smiling lips.

I watched her as she pinned the front bodice piece to the back, right sides together, and stitched up the side seam. She had me sew the other side. I slipped the edge of the fabric under the presser foot, pushed my toe down on the foot pedal, and heard the slow whir of the motor. Forward then reverse to secure the ends with the 5/8 inch line marking my seam width. When I reached the end of the seam, I snipped the threads and turned the sewing machine stool back over to my mother. I pressed open seams for her with the steam iron, turned the sash right-side out using a safety pin to tease out the corners, sewed pearl buttons on the cuffs and hemmed the dress by hand.

I never really enjoyed sewing. It required more patience than I had to offer. I would rather be doing something else. When I was 17, I should have been sewing the peach satin bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding while my mother was at work. Instead, I made a quick pincushion out of a burgundy velveteen print with white lace around it. Exasperated, she asked what had possessed me to make a pincushion. I had nothing to say for myself except that the slippery peach fabric was no fun to work with.

My mother sewed two sleeveless cotton dresses for me the summer I was pregnant with our first daughter. One in soft lavender, the other a cornflower blue. They slipped easily over my head and were crisp and cool in their loose fitting waists and hems falling just above the knee. Perfect seams lying flat around the arm holes, fitting comfortably without pulling.

When my daughters were four and six, she made them identical cat dresses. White kitten faces on hot pink jersey with ribbed knit collars and cuffs on the short sleeves. They loved the sway of the skirts as they ran around the yard. It was my mother who taught them how to use the sewing machine. They would come home with their projects, blankets for dolls and eventually quilts for their own beds.

 

The day following the service, my father and I cleared out her closet and dresser drawers. He put clothes too worn to pass along in one bag. The others he wanted me to take. Beautiful pieces in soft satins and wools he’d bought to bring her pleasure over the years of caring for her. He kept only her wedding bands. Everything else he wanted gone, and I brought this small part of his grief home with me.

Her clothes sat in the corner of the extra bedroom to go through later when there was time. Weeks passed and they remained in the corner still smelling of her favorite scent. I would press a blouse to my nose and breathe in its faint aroma of lavender soap. Dipping in, putting them back where they stayed until there was time. Until her scent was gone.

I hadn’t sewn in over 30 years. But the day after planting tulip bulbs on her birthday in the raw October wind, I took a silk blouse out of the bag. I had decided to make a purse for my oldest daughter using this blouse. I thought a purse would be easy, a simple clutch with straight seams. Something small that would go together in time to get under the Christmas tree.

It was the last blouse my father bought her and she wore it last Christmas. A soft fawn color textured along the top with lace netting, overlaid with crisscrossed satin bias. I washed it in cold water and mild soap watching the color brighten and the fabric turn crisp. My hands ached in the water as I gently wrung it out and wrapped it in a towel before hanging it on the rack to dry.

I took the blouse to the store to find a pattern, but I was nothing like my mother in a fabric store. What should have been a 10 minute trip soon stretched to half an hour as I studied the instructions and searched through bolts of fabric for fusable fleece and interfacing. Deciphering cutting layouts with pattern positions and keys for fleece, wrong side of fabric, right side, lining, interface. Magnetic closures for which I was to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, but found nothing to follow on the package itself. I took my purchases home where they sat until Thanksgiving.

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What a Difference Revision Makes: After

Ann has found the heart of her story: what it is to miss your dead mother.

Pieces

     The day following the service, my father and I cleared out her closet and dresser drawers. He put clothes too worn to pass along in one bag. The others he wanted me to take, beautiful blouses in soft satins and wool sweaters he’d bought to bring her pleasure over the years of caring for her. He kept only her wedding bands. Everything else he wanted gone, and I brought this small part of his grief home with me.

Her clothes sat folded in bags in the corner of the extra bedroom to go through later when there was time. Weeks passed and they remained in the corner still smelling of her favorite scent. I would press a blouse to my nose and breathe in its faint aroma of lavender soap. Dipping in, putting them back where they stayed until there was time. Until her scent was gone.

The day after planting tulip bulbs on her birthday in the raw October wind on the back hillside, I took a silk blouse out of one of the bags. It was the last blouse my father bought her and she wore it last Christmas, a soft fawn color textured along the top with lace netting, overlaid with crisscrossed satin bias. I hadn’t sewn in over thirty years, but I had decided to make a purse for my daughter using this blouse. I thought a purse would be easy, a simple clutch with straight seams. Something small that would go together in time to put under the Christmas tree. I washed it in cold water and mild soap watching the color brighten and the fabric turn crisp. My hands ached in the water as I gently wrung it out and wrapped it in a towel before hanging it on the rack to dry. Then I took the blouse to the store to find a pattern, but I was nothing like my mother in a fabric store.

I used to sew dresses with her when I was young. Sitting on tall stools, we flipped through the big Simplicity and McCall’s books, found a pattern we liked, then picked out material and notions listed on the back. My mother worked her way around the fabric store efficiently and with occasional extravagance, quickly matching fabric to thread, hem tape and zipper, but pausing over colorful buttons, eyelet lace and ribbon. I would follow behind her, already seeing myself in that red plaid dress with a wide white lace collar, the ends of the bow tied at my back streaming behind me as I pumped higher and higher on the swing hanging from the maple in our back yard.

My nine-year-old patience wore thin as my mother carefully laid out the fabric and pattern pieces. She said the first part of dress making took more time than actually sewing it together, folding the fabric with selvages even, lining up the plaid with arrows on pattern pieces, marking dart lines with carbon paper and tracing wheel. I helped fill in with straight pins securing the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut along the straight edges working carefully around notches and corners. With a final snip of the scissors I ran outside to swing as my mother continued, straight pins held between smiling lips.

Back inside, I watched her as she pinned the front bodice piece to the back, right sides together, and stitched up the side seam. “Now you do the other side,” she told me. It was the moment I knew was coming, but dreaded. At times it seemed the machine had a mind of its own, chug-chugging along slowly then zipping ahead like a thing possessed. I cautiously slipped the edge of the fabric under the presser foot, pushed my toe down on the foot pedal, and heard the slow whir of the motor. Forward, then reverse, to secure the ends, the 5/8 inch line marking my seam width. I fought to keep my foot steady on the pedal, holding my breath until I reached the end of the seam. I snipped the threads and turned the sewing machine stool back over to my mother with a sense of relief that I tried to hide, but suspected she knew. The process of sewing seemed endless to me. Every step had to be completed in the correct order. No short cuts, no skipping steps. It tried my patience to the point of sulking, but one look from my mother out of the corner of her eye put me back in my place. With a heavy sigh, I pressed the seams open with the steam iron, turned the sash right-side out using a safety pin to tease out the corners, sewed pearl buttons on the cuffs and hemmed the dress by hand.

I never really enjoyed sewing. It required more patience than I had to offer. I would rather be curled up in a chair reading about mustangs and Chincoteague ponies. When I was seventeen, I should have been sewing the peach satin bridesmaid dress for my brother’s wedding while my mother was at work. Instead, I made a quick pincushion out of a burgundy velveteen print with white lace around it. Exasperated she asked, “Whatever possessed you to make a pincushion?” I had nothing to say for myself except that the slippery peach fabric was no fun to work with. She turned and left me with my pincushion, biting back words of frustration.

The summer I was pregnant with our first daughter my mother sewed two sleeveless cotton dresses for me. One in soft lavender, the other a cornflower blue. They slipped easily over my head and felt crisp and cool with their loose-fitting waists and hems falling just above the knee. Perfect seams lay flat around the arm holes, fitting comfortably without pulling.

When my daughters were four and six she made them identical cat dresses, white kitten faces on hot pink jersey with ribbed knit collars and cuffs on the short sleeves. They loved the sway of the skirts as they ran around the yard. It was my mother who taught them how to use the sewing machine. They would come home with their projects, blankets for dolls and eventually quilts for their own beds.

My mother took up knitting about the same time she taught the girls to sew, and as the years passed it became a full-time endeavor. Her work baskets overflowed with yarns and half-finished projects. On our visits she pulled out woolly sweaters, sleeveless tops in cashmere merino silk, and miles of scarves. The yarns were soft, earthy tones blended with variegated tapestries of the blues and greens found in stained glass. Blends too beautiful to leave behind on the shelves of her favorite yarn shop. These gifts of love she crafted over the last years of her life, despite the bony knots that formed in her finger joints. Another lesson I learned, like the sewing, but not fully realized until she was gone.

Thanksgiving weekend, struggling over making that first cut in the fawn silk fabric that would take me back in time to a task that tried my patience to the point of tears, I sat down at the Singer 500 sewing machine that had originally been my grandmother’s. She had handed it down to my mother, and it was the same one I had used as a nine-year-old. It was a workhorse of a machine. The 1961 manual praised its fabulous features and intricate stitching abilities.

From the moment you see the new SLANT-O-MATIC, you’ll know it’s excitingly different. You’ll marvel at its truly remarkable sewing … its almost unbelievable ease of operation. It outsews all other machines in both straight and fancy. And remember … it’s made entirely in America.

 

As I sewed, my mother was there—in the pinning and the stitching and the craft. Gifts of love. The simple clutch was wrapped and under the tree in time for Christmas. And a second purse joined it, a jaunty seersucker plaid in turquoise and teal made from my mother’s cool summer blouse. A gift for the daughter who now knits like the grandmother she learned from, with both the skill and keen eye for exquisite colors and textures. And my other daughter, who I could see going out in a cocktail dress with her elegant clutch, picked up a second-hand sewing machine the other day to work on curtains for her new apartment. I heard the excitement in her voice over the phone as she described the machine that was just like ours and about bold-patterned fabric she’d picked up on sale. I smiled to myself as she talked about threads, needles, and the new bobbin to go with her machine, and wished I could give her a hug. Because I could see where this was headed. The poor girl’s patience runs like mine.

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Two New Workshops in May and June 2013

1. Advanced Writers’ Workshop

Six Mondays, 7-9 p.m., beginning May 6 (none on Memorial Day) $260.00

For writers experienced in the workshop method of reading and discussing one another’s work, this workshop will guide you in developing your fiction or nonfiction project. Areas of focus will include development of themes, scenes, and characters; weaving exposition, scenes and dialogue; beginnings and endings; overall structure as well as the internal arcs of scenes and chapters; suggestions for revision.

2. Poetry Workshop

Six Sundays, 7-9 p.m., June 2 – July 7, $260.00

This 6-week poetry workshop offers supportive and insightful feedback, inspiring discussions, and creative explorations within community.  We explore:

  • remarkable poems by contemporary writers from around the world
  • your questions about poetry, your work, and the practice of writing
  • multiple perspectives on what’s strong and what can be stronger in your poems
  • accessible and intriguing writing prompts
  • craft issues including “the poem as score”
  • creative strategies for cultivating, revising and editing poems
  • traditional and alternative publishing options
  • the art and pleasure of reading your work for others

Facilitator: Chivas Sandage, author of Hidden Drive (Antrim House, 2012), holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA from Bennington College. ForeWord Reviews has just selected Hidden Drive as a finalist for its Book of the Year Awards. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and the anthologies Paradise Found (Levellers Press, forthcoming in ’13), Morning Song: Poems for New Parents (St. Martin’s Press, ’11), and Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience (Univ. of Iowa Press, ‘06).

To register:

Call 860 836-8416 or 860 559-8051 or email us at info@easthillwriters.com

 

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Success Story!

We’re super excited here on the hill.  This is Mike Dipinto, one of our students from way back when.  See what he’s holding?  Yah, that’s right.  His very first PUBLISHED BOOK.

mikedipinto

Are you thinking that if a nice guy like Mike can do it, so can you?

Hmmm, so are we.

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We’re Thrilled to Offer Poetry Now

Check out our new poetry workshop offering.  We’ve brought in Chivas Sandage, author of Hidden Drive (Antrim House, 2012).  She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she writes like a river.

POETRY WORKSHOP

 Six Sundays beginning in May

This 6-week critique workshop offers participants supportive, insightful, and inspiring critiques within a community of writers. Bring in one poem or revision each week. Critiques include discussion of relevant craft issues and publishing options.

Yah, we know we’re cool.

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