Split Rock Arts Program
The Shovel-It Method of Learning
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.