Tuesday, February 15, 2011

[The Loft] The Writers' Block

At the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, they've been maintaining a blog of some very talented writers on a wide variety of subjects called the Writers' Block since June, 2010. Some recent entries they discussed last week include:

On Talent
by Swati Avasthi There is an old adage about a Russian ballerina. She is young and has met with moderate success, but she is getting to an age when she and her husband want to have children...

Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz
In collaboration with Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Loft presents a performance and discussion with composer Gabriela Lena Frank and poet and playwright Nilo Cruz, the first Latino recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama...

To My Welbelovyd Voluntyne
Although Valentine’s Day follows a familiar trajectory as a counterfeit pagan tradition re-formed by early Christian popes, it’s a holiday with a unique literary flair that’s been developing in the social and commercial world for more than 1500 years...

Two events that are also coming up of interest may be: McKnighty-Nights, Part II on
February 17, 2011 (7:00 pm) and the Telling True Stories Panel on February 23, 2011 (7:00 pm).

Throughout the year, Minnesotans are able to enjoy that the Loft offers hundreds of classes in standard genres like poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as offerings in creative process, children’s literature, young adult literature, playwriting, screenwriting, the business side of writing (finding agents seeking publication), graphic storytelling, blogging and travel writing.

In other words, just about the whole kit and kaboodle.

Whether you write novels or sestinas, memoir or 'zines, movies or blogs you’ll find it at the Loft.

But what many people might not know is the Loft offers a sliding scale for those classes. They want everyone to be able to take Loft classes, so they use sliding registration fees that are based upon your household income. Fees are based on the total number of hours the class meets.

If you're low-income (making less than $25,000 a year) a 12-hour class costs $130.20 or just a little over $10 an hour. Considering that you'll have the opportunity to learn from award-winning writers and the latest techniques and current trends in the publishing industry and ways to tap into your creativity, it's a worthwhile investment. Plus you'll often have a chance to really discover others who share your passion for the arts and make some great, inspiring lifelong connections.

As an Asian American writer, I admit, I'm fond of the Loft as a space because of the role I've seen it play as a resource and a friend to many of the refugee communities here. It was essential to the growth of Lao writers, Hmong writers and the emerging Somali writing community.

The Loft is also the space for the acclaimed Equilibrium Spoken Word series for artists of color that brings together national talents in spoken word with local talents and has helped popularize the literary traditions with the current generation. Later this year, the Loft will be host to the APIA Poetry and Spoken Word Summit, and it's been the space of choice for the debut of many books and special live readings by Asian American writers, including Li Young Lee, Ha Jin, Lee Herrick, Barbara Jane Reyes, Thavisouk Phrasavath and more.

Sometimes, I think it's easy to forget how rare spaces like these are in a community. As I take on the 500 Project with Kartika Review I've had many conversations with people in cities where it's still a struggle to identify and build supportive spaces where people can meet, write, learn and share their experiences. Not every writer needs that. But I think I've seen more than enough people whose confidence and lifelong love for literature has been strengthened because these kinds of spaces ARE available.

Looking ahead, I am excited for the day we will see spaces like these flourish in Laos and Southeast Asia. These spaces would be essential to strengthening the intellectual capital and vision of the nation. This is essential for reconstruction and the inner health of any people. But that's a discussion for another time.

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