Tidewater Women’s Fran Ward recently talked with Tara Shea Burke, Writing Instructor with The Muse Writers Center in Norfolk
TW: Instructors at The Muse are all working writers and published authors who have taught courses at colleges, universities, and other community organizations. I see that you’ve earned an MFA in poetry from ODU and hold a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies. You’ve also traveled to South Africa and Senegal to work with non-profits.
Tara Shea Burke: I have. I am a poet, activist, and teacher. I am currently working on a collection of poetry after traveling to South Africa and Senegal.
TW: Tara, in Greek and Roman mythology the Muses are nine goddesses presiding over the arts and sciences. What is your role as writing instructor for The Muse @ Hoffler Creek: Writing the Wild?
Tara: At Hoffler Creek I will just let the Muse speak.
TW: Describe the setting.
Tara: The workshop is outdoors in the wilderness of Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve. There are gentle trails, and the participants are free to roam at will. Nature provides the external setting and is automatically an inspiration. The point is to transfer focus from the external to the internal. The writers will be guided to express an idea or an emotion in a different way.
TW: What format will the writers be directed to use?
Tara: The writers can choose to write in the genre of their choice: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or personal journal. I will guide the participants with some writing prompts.
TW: What are writing prompts?
Tara: Writing prompts are a starting place for writing. They are one or two sentences that can get the creative juices flowing. They could lead to a dead end or they could lead to an unexpected direction to pursue.
TW: Do students accept your writing prompts?
Tara: If someone resists and goes off in another direction because of a prompt, that also serves as an impetus for writing.
TW: What are some possible prompts for the Hoffler Creek experience?
Tara: I will ask, “What do you see? What do you feel, smell, taste, and touch?”
TW: Pretty basic.
Tara: Yes, but that’s just the beginning. Then I will ask, “What is meaningful about those sensations?” That is when the focus and attention move from the external to the personal and internal.
TW: That can be revealing.
Tara: Yes, I want them to make the connection between nature and human nature. I want them to see how a memory from childhood taught them about a connection to the world.
TW: Give an example.
Tara: It starts by putting a memory into words. A piece of writing could end with an individual’s account of battling a personal issue.
TW: Are all the exercises conducted in solitude?
Tara: No, they begin with a person’s singular interpretation. The writers later share their experiences and writings. It is an important component of the session to have a community focus. Then learning occurs based on each other’s perceptions.
TW: Tara, tell us about the Muse Writers Center in Norfolk.
Tara: The Muse is nearly nine years old and offers 50+ classes and seminars each session in creative writing across all genres—poetry, fiction, memoir, nonfiction, screenplay, and more. The Muse is a nonprofit and never turns a student away because of money.
TW: Who can participate at The Muse?
Tara: Most of the classes are for adults, but we also have a thriving teen writing program and anticipate having a special class this summer for kids ages 9-11.
TW: What else would you like the readers of Tidewater Women to know?
Tara: That you don’t have to write or publish books to be a writer. Writing is a tool to explore the interior world as it is related to the exterior. We write to discover, to heal, and to connect. Come write with me!
TW: Tara, a muse is a woman who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. Thank you for being a muse.
The Muse @ Hoffler Creek: Writing the Wild • April 12 and 26, 2014 from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. • Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve, 4510 Twin Pines Rd., in the Churchland neighborhood of Portsmouth • www.the-muse.org • 757-818-9880 ($)
Tara Shea Burke: http://tarasheaburke.wordpress.com/
The Muse website and classes: http://www.the-muse.org/workshops.html