New College Lectures Offer New Writing Paradigms

Arts & Culture

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY APR 2, 2021

When someone imagines life as a professional writer, particularly when the adjective “creative” comes before it, the first picture to materialize often takes the form of a bespectacled individual in a heavy sweater staring out a window wet with rain as they await the divine spark that will get their fingers click-clacking on a keyboard. A cup of coffee or tea or whiskey sits on the desk, the liquids with which a writer, racked with self-doubt, hopes to fuel the masterpiece that will immortalize them. For Dr. Emily Carr, New College’s Visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, this stereotype of a writer in isolation ignores an important part of what she calls the “writer’s life.” And last weekend, she premiered a trio of writing workshops called “Words in Action” in which she sought to offer a more complete picture of life as a writer.

“When I think of a really nourishing writer’s life,” she says, “I think it requires interaction with others.” Those periods of intense solitude spent in front of a keyboard must be “broken up by moments of intense community,” she says. To demonstrate this, Carr invited two artists whose careers exist well beyond the written word.

Performance poet Michelle Tea uses the written words of her narrative poetry as a way to explore issues and themes around class, queer identity and feminism. She has also published four memoirs, three novels and a collection of poetry. Cristy C. Road, who graduated from Ringling College in 2004 with a BFA in Illustration, has published several graphic novels and fronts the punk band Choked Up. The pair are also avid users of tarot cards, with Tea once writing horoscopes and Road making tarot the central theme of her MFA thesis. The program’s opening night saw them explore the use of the written word as a tool for dismantling historical inequities in gender and race, queer memoir writing and deconstructing the biases baked into tarot imagery.

“Every year when I pick the artists, I’m thinking about how they engage in their community and with their audiences,” says Carr. She also chooses artists based on the notion that a creative writer does not have to write for an existing audience. “You don’t have to write for the audience that’s already out there,” says Carr, “you can create readers in a much more natural, organic way.” The key, again, is the other half of that writer’s life—following up those intense bouts of writing in isolation with periods of connection. And that lesson presented itself in both Tea and Road.

“I spend a lot of time talking about multiple selves,” says Carr, “someone who can be intensely vulnerable and then have another persona that can go out in the world and be a charismatic, social person. With this series, we wanted to give the students that really communal experience to balance the solitude of writing.”

Pictured: Poet Michelle Tea (right) and Christy C. Road (left) showed how the written word can build community and break barriers.

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