CHARLESTON, W.Va – The West Virginia Division of Culture and History in collaboration with the West Virginia Library Commission will present an intensive creative writing skills workshop on Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The workshop is free and open to the public.

The Writers’ Toolkit workshop will have two sessions of two-hour workshops: 10 a.m. – noon, and 2 – 4 p.m. Each session will feature two concurrent classes. The morning options include “Mapping Memoir: Family Life Placed in Time, History and Geography” with Cat Pleska; “Writing History – Your Own!” with Anna Smucker; ”Songwriting in the Folk Tradition” with Pete Kosky; and “What in the World is Geocaching?” with Robin Taylor.

Pleska’s workshop will help writers find a way to write about their late but essential family members from their past. Participants will learn how to explore their heritage and begin a family memoir.  They are invited to bring family photos, etchings, maps, diaries, letters, journals, official documents and other artifacts to use in writing their memoir.

Smucker will use her book No Star Nights as a model to teach students how to tap into their own life experiences through several fun writing excercises.

Kosky’s session will focus on songwriting with an emphasis on the influence of traditional balladry and folk songs. He will discuss the use of the folk process to adapt traditional melodies and themes to original lyrics as well as the use of alternative guitar tunings.

Taylor will discuss the rapidly growing phenomenon of geocaching. Geocaching is a free outdoor recreational treasure hunt in which players try to locate hidden containers using a mobile device or Global Positional System (GPS) receiver to hide and seek containers. Geocaches have been placed all over the world, ranging from extremely easy-to-find containers to containers that require more skill and stealth. The workshop will consist of a Power Point presentation that teaches the intricacies of geocaching and a hands-on demonstration of different types and sizes of containers used in geocaching. Participants also will gain experience using handheld GPS units.

Afternoon workshops will offer “Using Original Documents in Writing Family Histories” with Mary Glass; “West Virginia History – A Treasure Trove for Writers” with Smucker; “Writing Songs about History” with Kosky; and Taylor will repeat her workshop, “What in the World is Geocaching.”

Glass will explain how original documents can enhance any written work, what documents are available, where to find them and how to present them in a format for others to read. Participants should bring any family information and documents they have to the workshop.

Kosky will focus on writing songs about historical places and events by boiling down a historical event to its least common denominator in order to rewrite the event in verse and create a song. He will use examples he has written about occasions in American, Mexican and West Virginia history.

Glass is a family history consultant for the Buckhannon Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has presented workshops on family history research to various groups. She has been involved in family history work for more than 40 years. A retired school teacher who taught physics and chemistry in Kanawha, Cabell and Lewis counties, she received the Ashland Teacher Achievement Award and was recognized as a Lewis County Teacher of the Year. She lives in Buckhannon where she continues to research and write family histories for extended family members.

Kosky is a musician and songwriter from Charleston. Growing up in the Kanawha Valley, he was exposed to traditional music at an early age and was naturally drawn to traditional ballads and folk songs. He is known for writing original songs in the traditional style and began writing them in high school. In 2002, he won fifth place at the first annual Mountain Stage NewSong Contest.

Pleska teaches writing at West Virginia State University and is the director of the university’s Writing Center. An essayist for West Virginia Public Radio with more than 30 essays aired to date, she also is a regular contributor to Wonderful West Virginia magazine and has several articles published in state and regional journals. Pleska is the editor of Fed From the Blade, an anthology that comprises the work of West Virginia Writers, Inc. members.

Smucker is the author of No Star Nights, which received an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award in 1990. Her other books include Outside the Window, A History of West Virginia, To Keep the South Manitou Light, The Life of Saint Brigid, and a new picture book titled Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story, about the discovery of the Golden Delicious apple in Clay County. In collaboration with West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, Smucker has co-authored a new picture book about Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic house “Fallingwater” that is due out in 2014 from Roaring Brook Press, a division of Macmillan. A 2005 recipient of a West Virginia Commission on the Arts Fellowship Award in Children’s Literature, she makes her home in Bridgeport.

Taylor is the program director for ExploreWV GeoChallenge, an enthusiast group formed by the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts to promote tourism and educate people about West Virginia’s rich history. She, her husband and son have been avidly geocaching since 2005 and have found more than 1,200 geocaches. ExploreWV GeoChallenge runs three geocaching challenges that include 62 geocaches placed across the state.

Participants should bring pens, pencils and writing tablets. They also are welcome to bring a bag lunch to eat from noon – 1 p.m., or visit one of several eateries available within one block of the Culture Center.

After lunch, there will be a panel discussion with all the presenters, moderated by John Paul Myrick, library development director for the West Virginia Library Commission, in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater from 1-1:45 p.m.

For more information about the Writers’ Toolkit workshop, contact Caryn Gresham, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, Cabinet Secretary. The Division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the Division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

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