Fall 2005

 

 

 


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Split Rock Arts Program (http://www.cce.umn.edu/splitrockarts/)
The Shovel-It Method of Learning

by Josiah Titus--Split Rock Arts Program participant, summer, 2005

A Coney Island hotdog-eating contest, only the buns are stuffed with flank steaks instead of wiener dogs… this is how I would describe my experience at the University of Minnesota’s Split Rock Arts Program. Instead of consuming at Coney Island, classes met at the University’s Minneapolis campus in the boardrooms of Coffman Memorial Union. Taking a four-day course titled the Fiction Writer’s Fingerprint, I was expecting to have a lot to swallow and a limited number of gulps to do it in, but a 16oz T-bone in one gulp? Seriously, there’s no way—or so I thought.

The four days I spent in a semicircle with like-minded students of all ages, were four of the most influential days of my writing life. The class I was in was the largest with 15 people. The course was, for me, Kobe Beef served on a silver platter—you know, the beef that goes into the famous eighty-dollar Manhattan bistro burgers, the ones that actually are served on silver platters.

By Friday night, my jaw was sore, my right leg full. Sheila O’Connor, our celebrity chef—sans the funny apron, had prepared a seven-course feast for us over the past three and a half days, and our minds were full. The dishes ranged from identifying the audiences of the writer, to realizing how our life experiences offer us, as writers, heaping piles of potential material. We identified the voices of the writers that have come before us and the voices of those that write amongst us.

And by the end of the weekend, we’d been guided down free-writing, soul-searching, and brainstorming until we found paths of self discovery and our own, unique voices. At one point I was so stuffed, I had to stand up, shake my hips and jump around in order to make way for the next plate of flank dogs—the eighty-dollar, silver-platter kind, of course.

But, as stuffed as I felt at the time, I highly recommend learning along this course. It’ll leave you wanting more-- the kind of longing a writer prays will be served.

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