Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Q&A with author Rachel Kann

Later this week I’ll be sharing a full interview with Rachel Kann at, as part of the “higher learning” interview series. However, I wanted to share a brief excerpt from our interview to continue Monday’s blog discussion of writing workshops.

Rachel is an instructor with the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, which you can learn more about here. She is also an award winning poet and the author of 10 for Everything, a collection of short stories.

I spoke with Rachel about her pedagogical philosophy and the benefits of writing workshops. This is a brief teaser of our discussion:

You've experienced the writing workshop both as a student and as an instructor. How would you prepare a young writer who is considering participation in a workshop for the first time?
I would tell them to come with an open mind and an exceedingly positive attitude; that their ego will not be of much use to them in this environment. I'd advise them to be open to trying new things, but to stay true to their distinct voice. I'd urge them to be exceedingly grateful for the opportunity to mix it up with other writers in the workshop environment, and to focus on what is working in their fellow writers' pieces.

As someone who has a lengthy history of teaching, what is your response to the question, "Can writing be taught?"
Absolutely, yes. But more importantly, can writing be learned? Again, the answer is yes. It's up to each individual to decide how dedicated they want to be to any pursuit. Basically, I have a lot of faith in the human ability to achieve. I mean, people can survive concentration camps. Heather Mills, with a prosthetic leg (love her or hate her,) can ballroom dance and do flips on TV. I believe in any person's capability to reach whatever artistic goals they have, regardless of how long the journey may be. And it's a never-ending journey. For everyone. How hard is the person willing to work?

What other options might an emerging writer explore, if not a formal workshop?
The best part about workshopping is the opportunity to interact with other writers. So I'd encourage a writer to explore creating a writers' group with some fellow poets and/or prose writers, and meet regularly. The gift of a workshop (or a writers' group) is accountability.


Check Poets’ Quarterly at the end of the week to read the full interview with Rachel Kann. If you’re interested in taking a class with Rachel, her next open session is an online poetry workshop with UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. The class is "Writing The Poetry of Luminous Things" and it starts January 20th. More information is available here.

Thanks for stopping in for the Wednesday author Q&A. I’ll see you Friday with more musings, reviews, and news.

Photo credit: UCLA Extension Writers' Program website

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