“Be in Love with Yr Life”*: A Spring Writing Course
by Mark Chmiel
Like Sontag and Beseda, many of us are tempted to be intolerant of the ambiguity and intimidated by the risks of photography and other art forms. Ultimately, I believe we are most daunted by the mystery, the question, the possibility: “It could be us.” Through my own photography I strive to bridge the distant worlds of our small globe. I contemplate the mystery: It is us.
This spring will mark ten years since The Book of Mev was published. Over the years I’ve been gratified by the responses to that story, from people I’ve known a long time and those I just met. It appears the book has encouraged some people on different aspects of their journeys.
I’ve often noticed how many readers recognize themselves in Mev’s words, say, from her letters and journals. I’m reminded of the French novelist Marcel Proust, who wrote: “In reality every reader is, while she is reading, the reader of her own self. The writer’s work is merely a kind of optical instrument which he offers to the reader to enable her to discern what, without this book, she could perhaps never have perceived in herself.”
For this spring’s writing class, I invite you to read (or reread) and write off of stories, themes, and questions from The Book of Mev.
I hope that reading and discussing this particular text may give you insight and encouragement on a writing project you’re in the middle of or one you’ve long wanted to start. It could be a series of letters to someone, a blog, a long and rambling essay, a one-act play, a chapbook of poems about life in Fenton. You know what is inside you calling for more attention.
So we’ll engage such topics as being present, community, accompaniment, faith, spirituality, the state of the world, the state of our soul, friends, mentors, teachers, creative arts (e.g., photography), travel, breakdowns, breakthroughs, solidarity, illness, celebrating, grieving, letting go, poetry, El Salvador, Palestine, Haiti, schools, gospels, letter-writing, gratitude, bearing witness, and much else.
Here are the specifics:
How Often: 7 weeks, 2 sessions a week, beginning Wednesday March 18 and ending Sunday 3 May.
Where and When: (1) On Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8:15 pm, we meet at the home of Marty and Jerry King, 830 DeMun (Clayton, 63105) and (2) On the weekend, we have a second weekly session for which you choose either meeting with us Saturday or Sunday at Café Ventana, 2-4 p.m. (3919 West Pine Boulevard, St. Louis, 63108).
Format: Class sessions will have at least an hour for concentrated writing; there will also be some time for paired and group sharing.
Essential text: The Book of Mev.
Recommended texts: Joe Brainard, I Remember; Eduardo Galeano, The Book of Embraces; Mev Puleo, The Struggle Is One.
I am happy to meet up with participants to discuss whatever is on your mind during the seven weeks (at a time convenient for you).
Tuition is $125. For people outside of Saint Louis, I’m happy to offer an on-line writing/reading/sharing experience ($75).
Please contact me if you are interested in this class! Or pass this information on to someone who might be looking for some time and community for writing.
*Jack Kerouac, epigraph to The Book of Mev