Berkshire Writing Workshop Returns to Simon’s Rock
Alison Lobron is a professional journalist and a longtime writing teacher. She’s also the founder and director of the Berkshires’ newest crucible for summer creativity, the Berkshire Writing Workshop (BWW).
Now in its second year, the BWW is an intensive, five-day immersion in craft. Adult students spend the week in the Berkshires on the campus of Bard College at Simon’s Rock. They enter a focused learning environment, complete with support from both experienced teachers and engaged peers.
That environment sounds a lot like the one experienced by Simon’s Rock students, doesn’t it? In fact, says Alison, “I think the BWW taps into the Simon's Rock spirit of ‘education when you're ready for it’— not when you're a certain age or at a certain life stage. Our adult students are at all different phases of life, but they share a desire to devote themselves to writing for a week and a willingness to carve time out of busy schedules to do it.”
The opportunity to focus intently on writing, without the usual distractions of family and work responsibilities, is a particular delight for adults. And a boon to productivity. Says Alison, “For getting a lot done in a single week, I think the BWW model can't be beat.”
Running a program like this was an ambition for Alison. “I taught writing to adults for many years at Grub Street, a non-residential school in Boston, and I often fantasized about what it would be like to whisk the group off for a short, intensive workshop.”
This summer, BWW participants will select from three different tracks. Simon’s Rock professor and award-winning author Brendan Mathews’ “Fact into Fiction” will focus on translating lived experiences into fodder for rich storytelling. Alison will help students develop “The Personal Essay”, drawing on readings and exercises to craft compelling non-fiction, and Joan Wickersham, a novelist (The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story) and columnist for the Boston Globe, will lead “Finding the Story,” designed to help both fiction and memoir writers identify and communicate the substance of their stories.
Visits from other professional writers serve as inspiration and motivation for workshop participants. This year, Susan Orlean, longtime New Yorker staff writer and author of numerous books including The Orchid Thief, will speak with workshop participants. Joel Lovell, deputy editor of the New York Times Magazine, will also visit.
But the best thing about the Berkshire Writing Workshop, says Alison Lobron, may be the way it has encouraged participants to sustain the kind of collaborative work they begin at Simon’s Rock. “Certainly, it delights me every time I talk to a former student who describes the week as ‘magical’ or tells me how much she accomplished during her time at Simon's Rock,” she explains. “I was recently thrilled to hear from one student that she has an agent interested in the project she was working on last summer.
But most gratifying of all, I think, is knowing that several students who met in my workshops last year are still meeting and exchanging drafts. To know that in a small way, I helped facilitate the creation of an ongoing writing relationship—that gives me a lot of joy.”
Learn more about the Berkshire Writing Workshop.
2012 BWW participants gather outside the classroom building