This past weekend I had the pleasure to give a reading with a small group of other writers at the Chestnut Hill Book Festival in Philadelphia. This particular reading was sponsored by Philadelphia Stories and the Greater Philadelphia Wordshop Studio. The invited readers were either recent contributors to Philadelphia Stories (me) or to the anthology book Prompted.
There’s an interesting back story to Prompted. It’s a collection of poems, stories and essays that evolved out of workshops run by Alison Hicks et al and the Wordshop Studio. Many, in fact most, of the authors in the anthology are not anything near career writers. Some of them came to writing late into their other careers for whatever assortment of reasons that drive people to try to write. Some are teachers, some in medical or social work or other professions. Only a few appear to have come from English or graduate writing programs.
OK, I’ll be honest, I only bought the book ($10) to be polite—a workshop anthology is not something I would automatically pick up, but since I was a guest there, I figured I’d do my part to give back and maybe be find some local writers to connect with.
Later that afternoon, sitting in my backyard, I read through most of the poetry selections and was very pleasantly impressed. While this writing wasn’t going to get into the next David Lehman anthology, this was good work. Jeanne Obbard’s When you wake up the world is the poetry highlight for me.
Some of the contributors have lit credentials. Joyce Meyers has poems in Comstock Review and a chapbook. Julie Compton has two novels. Christy Schneider has read at the Painted Bride Reading Series. There are more like that, but you get the impression this is not a collection of MFA flotsam barnacled onto college English departments (if only I could be barnacled onto a college English department …).
The title of the collection gives away a little of the inspiration. The Wordshop workshops are organized around writing prompts—the leader throws out a situation, a setting, maybe a word, and the writers have to produce something from it on the spot. I’ve been in workshops settings like that and have even run some like that. When I was in grad school a friend and I would get together once a week to give ourselves prompts and time limits to produce poems. It’s a sort of creative warm up before the yoga teacher makes you do the really hard moves.
Anyway, whatever the GPWS is doing, they’re doing it right. Prompted is an enjoyable book and a nice look into the creative possibilities of people who weren’t grooming themselves as writers since the age of nine.
You can buy it here.