The Write Stuff

"Writing is easy," the late journalist and biographer Gene Fowler once said. "All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead."

Or you sign up for an Inprint Writers Workshop.

"Some writing workshops are like boot camp," says author Paul Lisicky, Inprint's Advanced Fiction workshop leader. "But Inprint is different." Bloody? No. Challenging? Yes.

Lisicky, a National Endowment for the Arts fellow, recently published his first novel. Lawnboy is the coming-out/coming-of-age story of 17-year-old Evan, who mows the lawn of his parents' older Miami neighbor and eventually falls in love with him. In fits and starts -- first resolving to date his best girl friend, then running away from home and getting mixed up with his estranged and seedy older brother's lover -- Evan is forced to choose between the extremes of his parents' cold suppression and a gay bar scene of sex parties and AIDS.

Known for his dangerously descriptive prose, Lisicky pushes his students, at Inprint and around the country, to move beyond serious to seriously adventurous. His "benevolent yet rigorous" approach creates a safe place for fiction writers by maintaining respect for each very individual voice, then uses that safety to encourage students to take risks.

All the Inprint workshops are rigorous. In fact, co-sponsored by the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston, the classes are considered to be on the level of master's of fine arts course work, even though they're noncredit. Most of the instructors are not only accomplished writers, but members of the UH program, past or present. In addition to Lisicky's class, in this year's workshop Olive Hershey teaches the novel, Sharon Klander presents the art of poetry, Laura Long shares her expertise in fiction, David Theis tackles the personal essay and Holly Masturzo instructs Houston-area school teachers in a Teachers-As-Writers class.

But with the interaction encouraged by small class sizes, you might learn as much from your fellow students as from your workshop leaders. And, as Inprint director Richard Levy says, the neophytes and experienced authors working together in this Menil-area bungalow are different from most writers in a very important way: "They get books written."

 
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