Divining: Following Inclination to Access Your Authentic Voice
with Maureen Dunphy
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Traverse Area District Library (Thirlby Room)
Bring a new notebook and a favorite pen. Be prepared to write. And to breathe.
After settling in, we’re going to reimagine some basics that are never less than true. With what materials might you improve the construction of your “writing house,” the one you carry with you like Turtle heading back to the water, like that teardrop trailer you might pull west to hike to another new beginning? Do you believe that you’ve got everything you need? We’ll take inventory as a way to provide ideas for writing home improvement.
When you are truly awake inside this writing house of yours, what is it you are waiting for? What is the song you sing, the dance you do to coax what you wait for to come? Through a series of writing exercises, we’ll practice exploring the trail from body sensation to fingers—notice no mention here of eyes or brain, not yet—while using three poems* to harvest some prose or poetry kernels for you to pop on your own pages. Come prepared to challenge yourself in drafting using the processes of imitation, questioning, and other play.
You’ll leave the workshop with a blueprint for building your own conscious practice of following inclination, several different ways to play your way to beginnings, and the starts of a few new potential pieces. Following inclination is a clear path to your authentic voice and often attracts more alchemy into your writing. This small shift in your practice can open a new window in your writing house, can change the color of the sky outside it.
* Three poems to be chosen, before the workshop description is disseminated, from a possible five: Simic’s “The Stone,” Oliver’s “In Blackwater Woods,” Alison Swan’s “Night Train” from A Fine Canopy, Teresa Scollon’s “Local Map of Loyalties” from Trees and Other Creatures, and/or a poem from Katie Hartsock’s forthcoming Wolf Trees.
Maureen Dunphy’s first book is Great Lake Island Escapes, where she posted her island wonderings and the bits of island facts and fantasies she was discovering. Ultimately, with the islands’ call becoming louder, she left her desk, exchanging island wondering for island wandering. Dunphy visited 136 Great Lakes Basin islands on 27 trips over two summer seasons. And then she returned to write about them.
Her experiences and the information she discovered about the islands became Great Lakes Island Escapes: Ferries and Bridges to Adventure (Wayne State University Press, 2016), a 2017 Michigan Notable Book, which was awarded the 2017 Midwest Book Travel Award and the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Travel/Travel Guide Award. Dunphy’s second book All About the Great Lakes (Blue River Press, 2020) is a part of the juvenile nonfiction “All About” series of books about people and places. Maureen has also published non-fiction in Peninsula: Essays and Memoirs from Michigan, edited by Michael Steinberg (E. Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000), fiction in Bear River Review (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, and poetry in Beyond the Lines: Writing What You Couldn’t Say edited by Margo LaGattuta (Texas: Plainview Press, 2000). Dunphy’s third book Divining, A Memoir in Trees was published by Wayne State University on February 21, 2023.
Dunphy is Lead Fiction Editor for Clockhouse, a national literary journal published by the Clockhouse Writers’ Conference in partnership with Goddard College. Currently, Maureen Dunphy teaches three goal-based writing workshops—a daytime and an evening “Getting There from Here” workshop and an “Advanced Fiction” workshop for Springfed Arts, offered spring, winter, and fall. She has taught writing workshops at Lost Lake Writer’s Retreat, Clockhouse Writer’s Conference for MFA alum at Goddard College—a conference she co-founded in 1997, and Far Field Writer’s Retreat at Oakland University, as well as led writing retreats in the Irish Hills and on Pelee Island.
In the past decade, Dunphy taught Fiction Workshop and three other writing courses at Oakland University, Fiction Workshop at the University of Windsor, and Creative Writing, as well as developmental writing courses, at Oakland Community College-Orchard Ridge.