West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture & History

West Virginia Division of Culture and History and West Virginia Library Commission to present free creative writing skills workshop


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 17, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. The conference, Writers’ Toolkit, will kick off with a keynote address by featured guest writer Sarah Sullivan of Charleston at 7 p.m., on Friday evening, March 16. Her talk, Bright Streets and Dark Paths: The Often PainfulSometimes Glorious Journey from Rough Draft to Polished Manuscript, , will be followed by a reception in the Great Hall. The Friday and Saturday programs are free and open to the public.

Sullivan’s keynote talk will offer a behind-the-scenes look at writing her latest book Passing the Music Down (Candlewick Press, 2011), a picture book based on the lives of Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, two old-time fiddle players from West Virginia. She will give participants a look at the illustration process from the writer’s point of view, plus some observations on writing a novel for young people, or “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Revision.” Passing the Music Down is the true story of what young people can learn from their elders, the importance of remembering our heritage, and a reminder that friendship knows no age difference. Wine was Krack’s mentor and their friendship began with the boy asking Wine, “Will you teach me all your tunes? . . . I want to play like you.” The student and his teacher’s relationship spans many aspects of life, culminating with the student becoming a skilled musician in his own right and a mentor for younger students.

The Writers’ Toolkit workshop will have two sessions of two-hour workshops: 10 a.m. – noon, and 1 – 3 p.m. Each session will feature several concurrent classes. The morning options include “Craft and Creativity in Picture Books” with Sullivan; “Screenwriting for Beginners” with Danny Boyd of Charleston; “Short Takes: Writing from Life” with Karin Fuller of South Charleston; and “The Seven Deadly Sins” with Sandy Tritt of Parkersburg.

Sullivan’s workshop will touch on all elements of picture-book writing, including word count, pacing, plot, language, genre, page turns, when to rhyme, revision tips and figuring out where to submit a polished manuscript.

Boyd’s session will focus on the basic building blocks used to develop and construct stories for cinema. He will discuss the particular formatting style and available screenwriting software. Boyd also will present a general overview of the screenwriting process from concept to final script.

Fuller’s workshop will concentrate on selecting material from our lives that can be used to craft creative columns, fun flash fiction, and memorable memoirs. She will present principles and writing prompts that can be used to find and draw out personal stories, and tips on how to spin straw into gold.

Tritt’s session will examine the seven common mistakes or “deadly sins” of writing: poor grammar and spelling; not showing; passive voice; purple prose; repetitiveness; point of view breaches; and gawking characters.

Afternoon workshops will offer “Using Place to Spark Creativity” with Sullivan; “The Graphic Novel” with Boyd; “Romance with a Twist” with Fuller; and “The Life Cycle of a Character” with Tritt.

Sullivan will use examples from award-winning works of fiction and nonfiction for both adults and children to help participants look at ways writers draw on place to enliven and enrich their work, and conclude with an exercise designed to explore the places that inspire and haunt us.

Approaching the graphic novel as “cinema on the page,” Boyd will cover the basic components of graphic narrative creation/construction, and present a general overview of this growing medium with the art, literature and film world.

Though romance stories are popular, they can be surprisingly difficult to write. Fuller will lead participants in the writing exercise “40 Facts and One Lie” and show them how to find the kind of details that make characters real to the reader, and how to use those details to build short romantic stories that stand out from the crowd.

Tritt will discuss how to breathe life into a limp, two-dimensional character so he jumps off the page and into the reader’s heart. She will focus on the conception of a character and how to slowly bring it to life by giving it wants and fears. Handouts will be provided including character trait charts, character growth charts, and personality component checklists.

Boyd has been a professor of media studies at West Virginia State University (WVSU) since 1983, actively involving his filmmaking students in his professional projects. In 1994, he established the Paradise Film Institute at WVSU to support filmmaking in the state through resource services, production support, foreign exchanges and continuing education. His first feature film, Chillers, was released in 1988. Still in international video and television distribution, this horror feature was awarded the Silver Scroll for excellence from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror films in Los Angeles. Rekindling his childhood love of comic books, he has embraced the modern graphic novel format as his primary creative outlet. His graphic novels Chillers and Carbon are now in production.

Fuller has been writing the weekly column, “Smell the Coffee,” for the Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail since 1977. She is a two-time, first place winner of the Writer’s Digest romance genre short fiction competition and her stories have appeared in such publications as Family Circle and Woman’s World. She has previously taught workshops at the West Virginia Writers Conference and the West Virginia Book Festival.

Sullivan is the author of three other picture books, including Once Upon a Baby Brother, which was included on the Bank Street College Best Children’s Books list of 2011. Other titles include Dear Baby: Letters from Your Big Brother and Root Beer and Banana. Her poetry has been published in Cricket magazine and her first novel for middle-school readers is set for publication by Candlewick Press. She has taught writing workshops at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md., and at the Highlights Founders Workshops, as well as in libraries and schools throughout the country. Sullivan holds a master’s degree in writing for children from Vermont College where she won the Harcourt Post-Graduate Scholarship.

Tritt is a writer, ghostwriter, editor and speaker. The founder and chief executive officer of Inspiration for Writers Inc., an international editing and critiquing service for aspiring writers, she has edited hundreds of manuscripts. She serves on the editorial staff of rosedog.com and author-me.com, and acts as the publication consultant for Confluence Literary Magazine. Her short stories have received many awards and have been published in literary magazines and local journals, including Gambit, Confluence, Allegheny Echoes, The Northwestern and Mountain Echoes. Tritt has ghostwritten one award-winning screenplay, two memoirs, two novels and five nonfiction books.

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.

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 www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.


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