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If Your Writing Hasn't Got Poetry, What's the Point?

Facilitator:  Sarah Zale

Workshop Syllabus

Good prose writing utilizes the tools of poetry. It believes in the spirit needed to write poetry. Good prose writing—be it essay, memoir, biography, or fiction—begins with a writer’s personal reflection about the world and his or her place in it. A good writer senses that the examination of her personal responses to what is happening in this world is key to both solving our world problems AND improving writing (e.g. ending writer’s block, eliminating stereotypes). A good writer knows that scenes and truths and characters touch a reader only if he does what the poet does—uses both the mind and the senses to find the right words.

Week One:  Remembering what we have forgotten

Society works very hard to direct us to the future, to blur the past. It severs our vocal cords, our memories, our “words.” Writing can forge a path back to our experiences and what they have taught us about the world.

Week Two: What do you know that isn’t being said?

A good writer is an observer and a listener. She or he understands what is between the lines and knows how to communicate the “unsaid” to the reader.

Week Three:  How do we know what we know?: Using the brain and all (15?) senses

Quality writing offers readers an experience to somewhere new or helps them revisit somewhere old. The success of this goal depends on arousing all the senses. How many are there, anyway? How many do we incorporate in our writing?

Week Four:  Opening new doors: communicating with nature

Not all good writers possess honed verbal skills, but all good writers are excellent listeners. They understand the art of communication. They study the relationships of people, of people with nature, of people with objects. 

By the end of the course, each student will have explored very new ways of approaching writing—“new” because she will have opened doors she didn’t know she had closed. He will “see” things that were always there but seemed invisible. As a result, all writing will seem easier to begin, richer in content, and truer to experience.


Required Materials:  None

About the Facilitator: Sarah Zale has a Masters in English Literature and a Masters in Rhetoric & the Teaching of Writing from the University of Colorado. Presently teaching at National University in San Diego, she is a freelance writer who has published her poetry, essays, and short stories. Most recently, her poem If the moon, if you dance prefaces the new book, By The Grace Of The Sea: A Woman's Solo Odyssey Around the World (2003), by Pat Henry.

Workshop Begins: September 15, 2003
Duration: 4 weeks  
Tuition: $80


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Books recommended on this page are not required reading for participation in the course. Required materials, if any, are listed in the course syllabus.

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within 

Natalie Goldberg's inspiring classic shows writers how to tap their creative energy by reaching deep and tapping emotional energy through freewriting.