By Roy Hoffman, Creative Nonfiction/Fiction Faculty
[Originally appeared in The Boston Globe, Ideas section, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020]
In December 1965, the 2,300-year-old words of Ecclesiastes vaulted to the top of the Billboard 100, thanks to a group of mellow rockers, The Byrds, crooning “To every thing there is a season.” That year, marked like this one with strife and division — the Selma march, the Watts riots, the Vietnam War — the clear-eyed pronouncements of a Biblical sage, situated near Proverbs and the Song of Songs, were steadying. On our radios those holiday weeks and well into 1966, with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” and the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out” also vying for dominance, The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” — its title from the 1959 version by Pete Seeger — offered no-nonsense philosophy with a beat: “A time to be born, and a time to die.” There was destruction, “a time to break down,” and restoration, “a time to build up.” I recall, going on 13, a sock hop where teens slow-danced to the ancient wisdom. Each of us, in our personal journeys, experiences “a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Today, more than most years, we also do so collectively.
So. I’m a Cleveland kid. Born and raised. Generations of my family – both sides – have straddled the Cuyahoga River. Making soups in the kitchen at Hallie’s Department Store. Stamping out engine parts in the small tool and die shops on the near west side. Cheering when Jim Brown broke another tackle at Municipal Stadium. Trudging through record snow and around burning rivers. We are Clevelanders, through and through.
I originally wrote this post in 2017, shortly after finishing shooting my feature film Seaside, when I was wading through the long, challenging, and often tedious process of post-production. While the world is struggling to overcome a deadly pandemic, I realize that being stuck in limbo can be a familiar, if challenging, territory for those of us who create. In life and art I often must remind myself that the magic is in the doing and the making; just putting one foot in front of the other each day is essential.
The Spalding School of Writing’s second all-virtual residency kicked off on Saturday with an especially exciting curriculum for our professional writing students, including digital storytelling, the inside scoop on the publishing world, and an exclusive viewing of a performance from Actors Theatre of Louisville. Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing is unique in enhancing graduate professional-writing studies with carefully curated experiential learning in creative writing and exploration of the arts.
by Katy Yocom, Associate Director, Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing
In 1909, while working for the Insurance Institute in Prague, Franz Kafka wrote a report titled “Preventative Measures Against Accidents Caused by Mechanical Brushes.” It’s accompanied by illustrations, including a drawing of a hand missing its index and middle fingers. The hand is truncated with a hard line at the wrist, as if it had never been attached to a human arm.
In a way, that severed hand is Kafka. He bewailed the six hours a day he spent at the office, six days a week, spending his writing energies penning pamphlets about accidental amputation. He had already discerned that creative writing was his purpose in life. “Naturally, I did not find this purpose independently and consciously, it found itself, and is now interfered with only by the office, but that interferes with it completely,” he wrote. “ … For me in particular, it is a horrible double life from which there is probably no escape but insanity.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky.(October 9, 2020)—Spalding University’s Festival of Contemporary Writing, the state’s largest fall-spring reading series, announces its fall line-up, featuring readings by faculty of the low-residency programs of Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. Academy Award-winning screenwriter Kevin Willmott makes a special appearance to accept the Spalding Prize for the Promotion of Peace and Justice in Literature. The festival takes place Tuesday, November 10, through Friday, November 20, as part of the School of Writing’s fall residency, which is being conducted virtually due to Covid-19.
All events take place virtually and are free and open to the public, but you must register separately for each event in order to receive the link to attend. Each session has a unique registration link, listed below.
By Lynnell Edwards, Associate Programs Director, Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing
On good days, mere chaos seems to swirl around us like smoke; on bad days it feels like we are staring down the apocalypse. Everywhere: the body oppressed and rent by violence, the body sickened (by virus, by fire, by flood) the body “distanced” or “essential.” Literature and the arts have always been part of healing in troubled and transitional times, but documentary poetry, with its arc beyond the interiority of the lyric and toward the external realities of the material world, has an especial urgency in these difficult days.
I am struck by how many of my students write beautifully in the midst of very dense lives. Some are working extremely hard on other jobs, some have young families, or run their own businesses, or care for elderly parents.
I ask them when they write. Some get up at four AM, or write after everyone has gone to sleep. Some write on their lunch hours.
Don’t wait for the right time to write. It won’t come. If you look around and there is no competition for your writing time, no one to knock and demand that you come out and play, no one to need you, you may have shut the door too firmly on life. Crack it open!