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Lynda Barry and Dan Chaon to host writer’s workshop

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Mira Braneck

Dan Chaon and Lynda Barry will lead a creativity workshop, hosted by Writers@Grinnell with partnership from Artists@Grinnell and the Public Events Committee, this afternoon from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. in JRC 101. The duo’s famed workshops will offer Grinnellians the opportunity to explore their creative selves in new ways.

Barry, a famous graphic novelist, and Chaon, a critically acclaimed author, have been developing their workshop for several years, and are currently in the process of writing a collaborative book, “Workbook 52,” based on their work together.

“Lynda is known as kind of a giant in her field, and Dan, among fiction writers, is known as one of the great writers’ writers,” said Professor Dean Bakopoulos, English.

“They really are two of the best creative writing teachers in the country,” Bakopoulos said. “People pay a lot of money to go to conferences where these kinds of workshops are offered, so it’s really exciting that we can offer a free community workshop, which is a taste of what they do in the classroom.”

Though Barry and Chaon are well known in academic communities, Bakopoulos and Professor Alissa Nutting, English, both stressed that the workshop would be fun.

“[Students who attend the workshop] can expect to laugh … but also to do stuff that feels very non-academic. You’ll be doing drawings, you’ll have to share memories. It’ll open you up in ways that a traditional classroom might be more reserved or more focused on the teaching element,” Bakopoulos said. “You have to be prepared to share some stuff and look silly.”

The workshop will also help those in attendance to use memory as a creative outlet. “It looks a lot at the connection between memory and story, and we all have memories, right? And just the ways that you can kind of tap into the sort of exceptional moments that for one reason or another … have been burned into us, and how we have these narratives inside of us that we’re really not aware of. How we can cultivate those and get into a space where we can access the storytelling and creative aspects of our brains more easily,” Nutting said.

Barry and Chaon are experts at working with writers at any stage in the process, and promise to draw out content in fun and unusual ways.

“[The workshop] starts at autobiography and moves into fiction. It’s for people who are writing stories and are stuck on one or trying to fix one or make one better. It’s also for people who have always thought about writing stories and are trying to figure out a way to get into it,” Bakopoulos said.

“No matter what level you’re writing at, or what genre or what your practice is, they’re really useful in terms of thinking about creativity and creating art and creating stories,” Nutting said.

The workshop is not for any one genre — Bakopoulos and Nutting encouraged any writers or artists who seek to add narratives to their work to attend. “Artists who have always thought about adding a narrative element to their work, fiction writers who are struggling with ideas — they think they want to write fiction, but don’t know how to get a story started — or people that want to write memoir but don’t think their life is interesting enough. I think all three of these are covered — fiction, nonfiction, the graphic novelist,” Bakopoulos said. “Comics,” Nutting added.

While students can expect to work and get ideas, they should also look forward to an exciting and engaging Friday night.

“A lot of workshops like this; you go to; and maybe you have a really good time, but it’s not ultimately that useful, or it’s really useful but it’s not that enjoyable … and it really feels like a class you’re taking and you have to force yourself to pay attention,” Nutting said. “This is one of the rare times where it’s so fun, but it’s so useful. Workshops of theirs that I’ve been to, I still use things that I learned. I’m excited to get more tricks.”

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