New workshop inspires community of writers at CSUB

Dr. Richard Collins teaches the Writer-In-Residence Workshop at the CSUB Walter Stiern Library on July 26, 2012.

Sixteen pairs of eyes around the long conference table focus on the screen at one end. Dr. Richard Collins leans over a laptop, reading from a story submitted by one of the workshop participants:

“In the pre-dawn I watch for the first spill of light on the hills,” he reads, continuing on with a pastoral description of the early morning antics of the writer’s horses, which she is watching from the window. Then the tone changes: “My attention is shifted as I hear a beep from the machine … I prop myself on my elbow and look across the bed …” In the next paragraph he reads the phrases “blood circulating,” “dialysis machine” and “crisis averted.”

The story he is reading is actually a blend of two stories by Ginger Moorhouse, owner and publisher of The Bakersfield Californian and a participant in CSUB’s first Writer-in-Residence Workshop at the university. In one story, she is caregiver to her horses; in the other, she is caregiver to her husband. The assignment was to write brief narratives on writing prompts.

“She wrote two different narratives that just happened to work well when put together,” said Collins, dean of CSUB’s School of Arts and Humanities. “We have learned that you can’t tell the whole story in one sitting, and that you have to give yourself small assignments.”

The result is an uplifting blend of emotions that show how love can carry a partner through the daily demands of caregiving – and the fact that it is set during a sunrise rather than a sunset leaves the reader with the feeling of hope for a new day.

Moorhouse shares the sentiment of her fellow workshop participants as she describes the value she found in the four-week course.

“I’ve enjoyed the workshop more than I ever imagined. The students brought wonderful variety in age, background and interest to the workshop and all were engaged in the coursework and critiques. I was inspired by Dr. Collins, too, who taught me new ways to look at my writing,” she said.

Collins, a writer and former editor of a literary magazine, volunteered to teach the inaugural Writer-In-Residence Workshop this summer as a pilot program of the Walter Stiern Library at CSUB. The workshop has since secured funding for the next four years, thanks to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, which has provided $20,000 for the project.

“This once again shows PG&E’s commitment to higher education in Kern County,” said Curt Asher, Interim Dean of the Library.  “They have helped the library and tens of thousands of students over the past few years by funding library technology and now they have moved in a new direction with this project.”

Asher is currently searching for an author or memoirist to lead the program for summer 2013. The writer will be provided with a summer office to work on a project and will teach the creative writing workshop in the Library to the public.

“This project is really going to make a difference,” Asher said.  “There are a lot of writers in the community and this is an opportunity for them to learn and share with someone who has achieved literary success.”

For more information about the Walter Stiern Library’s Writer-In-Residence Program, contact Curt Asher at 661-654-3042 or casher@csub.edu.

— Jennifer Burger, CSUB Public Affairs Coordinator

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