Matthew Adams started writing in high school, mostly poetry journals in which he tried to document his experiences and interest in art, nature, and a life lived in transition as a troubled son of troubled times. He recognized that writing and art were a way of reworking and recording his emerging perspective and understanding of the world and helping him transition with it, a way of discovering, expressing, and growing through his longing and resolution, loss and discovery. To this end, he has dabbled in theatre, radio, film, and photography, but his most fulfilling interests have been realized in creative literature, specifically fiction. After graduating Penn State University with a degree in Mass Communications and a special emphases on Film, Television, and Literature, he went on to achieve his MFA in Fiction Writing from Bennington College. Currently he is at work on a collection of short stories based on his upbringing in Fort Hill, PA.
In addition to the pursuit of writing and art, he recognized early on that vital to any student’s development is an inspiring and demanding teacher, one who would not only encourage the student’s intellectual development but help him or her negotiate the complex emotional minefield that comes with the successes and failures of that pursuit. Adams was supremely grateful for the guiding hands of his high school teachers and found continued inspiration in such notable college professors as Bill Urichio, William E. Coles, Jr., Jill McCorkle, Alice Mattison, Askold Melnyczuk, and Amy Hempel. He received his PA Instructional I Certificate in Secondary English from the University of Pittsburgh and went on to teach at the Wesley Institute and the Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh while pursuing his MFA, whereupon he embarked on his college teaching career. He has taught writing at Penn State, Point Park, Frostburg State University, Duquesne, West Virginia University, CCAC, and others, and has earned a reputation for being an accessible and exacting, sometimes exasperating, teacher with a talent for addressing students’ individual needs while maintaining an explorative, energetic, and honest classroom environment.
“Transformative Writing: The Art of Journaling,” and "The Continuum" are the first in a series of writing workshops that focus on a range of writing disciplines for students with a variety of goals, interests, and experience levels. This is writing for the sake of not just the writing itself, but the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth of the writer, which often gets dismissed. There is a special emphasis in these workshops on the students’ interaction with place and community and on using their life experiences to form the basis of their artistic development. For full CV, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Sessions:
Session 1 :: Inspiration
Inspiration is interesting in that it is almost always sparked by things that occur externally but that, once taken in, become distinctly internal, creating a chasm between the causing-event and our attempts to place ourselves with it that we use the practice of art, specifically writing, to try to bridge. As important as recording these experiences and our reflections on them is, traditional journal writing too often fails to effectively capture all the various dimensions of these moments. Part of the reason for this is that traditional journaling doesn't really aspire to be much more than that record of our experiences, and thus, the essence and meaning of those experiences--which more artistic approaches attempt to uncover--remain unrealized. Another reason for this is that we lack a sense of immersion in the process of journaling, the appreciation that comes from uncovering through writing what things mean to us. Thus we should journal with a sense of exploration, experimentation, and wonder, not a sense of recording what we already think we know.
Session 1 is a day-long workshop that explores the particular intellectual, emotional, and spiritual needs for, and challenges to, inspired journal writing. Participants will experience introductory explorations of the inherent nature of journaling as well as activities that will help identify and develop a variety of sources of inspiration, including the meaning to us of place, object, and character, covering such concepts as the potential and identity of the source, the various blocks posed to the “I” as it tries to place itself with the source, and how to create lasting intention through the continued practice of journaling.
This is a stand alone workshop, meaning that participants will be able to take from the experience the tools they need to keep feeding themselves as writers, and that participation in further sessions of the workshops is not necessary.
Session 2 :: Crafting
Crafting is the application of formal structure to a basic piece of journal writing with the purpose of shifting the focus of the piece onto smaller, more submerged elements of the subject. While the initial journal piece might record the larger impressions of the inspiring place, object, or character, the crafted piece deconstructs those impressions and reinterprets them as literary art--various forms of poetry, fiction, drama, and nonfiction--with the purpose of bringing their nuances to the surface. The importance of this lies in reinventing the experience in another literary form; with the new interpretation, keys pieces of the whole rise to the surface of the writer’s thinking. This is done both individually and in "group writing," where other members of the group rewrite one or a number of the writer's initial pieces. Another key importance is to make of the journal something more dynamic and experiential so that the writer can more adequately and effectively recreate the echo of themselves that their experiences create, feeding that to others, and thus developing their understanding of their work, themselves and each other.
Session 2 activities will include interpreting, both individually and in groups, individual submissions more fully as poetry, fiction, drama, and/or nonfiction, debriefing the participant’s experiences with each, and preparing to reinterpret them again (for Session 3). This will include a basic introduction to these forms of literary art, some reading samples of each, and will be subsidized with introductions to visual and performance artistic techniques in order to further understand and utilize the experiences that generated the original submission. For those interested in taking both Sessions 2 and 3, individual consultations with the instructor will begin after this second session, with more focus on the emerging elements of literary craft as well as the writers' particular strengths and needs.
Session 3 :: Revision
Once the starter piece has been worked across the scope of literary forms, with whatever attendent exercises completed, we can reassemble the initial piece into some more effectively structured, revised whole. This is bound to entail more rewriting, more debriefing of the writer's experience, and more deconstruction of the initial piece (as well as its crafted version), before a consistent and fully realized piece of writing can emerge. Here, however, the expression of other artistic formats will be called more directly into play, meaning that we'll focus on subsidizing the initial piece with those elements of visual and performance art that will remain in the final version. And here, again, we'll be working both individually and in groups, experimenting, reworking those initial experiences, debriefing the work, and setting up the potential for Session 4, in which we'll work into the writing a sense of the full performance of the piece.
Session 4 :: Reinvention
Reinvention takes a piece of journal or crafted writing and matches it with appropriate visual, musical, and performance elements in order to find the fuller expression of the inspiration of the piece. Here we'll discuss the general possibilities of working with other artistic mediums, including music, acting, and multi-media presentations, to accentuate the written work, but mostly we'll be working with the available resources to find what's possible for each participant's piece (available resources meaning not just what's made possible by the performance space, but by what each member of the group brings to the space, as well). This means that we will work with the other talents we have to offer our writing, both individually and as a group, and participate in each other's presentations. This we will also debrief and, in closing the workshop, will discuss ways of using these techniques on our own and applying them across a variety of disciplines and pursuits.
Individual Sessions 1-4: $30/each or $99 combined
*All fees include a 20% donation to the host site.