Award-winning Writer of Poetry and Fiction

7 Sentences with Maggie Stiefvater and Courtney Stevens in Richmond, VA

Giant Jenga played on a stage with huge cardboard boxes is an apt metaphor for the writing process. Stiefvater and Stevens used this visual symbol to end their day-long seminar on using the first 7 sentences of your manuscript to set the stage for and encapsulate the entire novel. They called volunteers on stage to nudge giant cardboard boxes out of a huge Jenga tower and stack them on top. Soon, someone had to go searching for a ladder.

It didn’t seem like the tower could hold for very long. Everyone held their breath as a daring volunteer pulled at a box near the bottom. Then it happened–the whole thing started to tilt left where Court Stevens was standing. Then bam! The tower was down and the stage a mess of boxes. Stevens jumped out of the way just in time.

This is what all writers experience–the collapse–the failure. But you keep playing the game. You go back to it and try to balance perfectly again and again, getting better, going longer. It is play and risk. And you repeat the process.

Stiefavter and Stevens are funny, personable, high-energy teachers–a sort of Laurel and Hardy team, with Stiefvater the comically stern Hardy to Stevens goofy Laurel. They packed a lot into 8 hours, leading 200 aspiring writers through exercises and examples. They shared stories about how their own lives have informed their writing and insights into the characters they’ve built, which kept everyone engaged and fascinated.

Audience members came from as far away as Seattle to hear from these two. We walked away with new tools, great insights into the creative process, and phrases our fearless leaders kept repeating: ideas are disposable, keep creating, it’s not about that first book–put it away and keep writing new things. Take those risks because it is what creators do–they keep creating.  jenga

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