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Thoughts on the KR Writers Workshop

A series of blogposts by the writer Kirsten Ogden on her experience this year in the KR Writers Workshops, June 16th-23rd.

Part One: In which the blogger expounds on the brilliance of Rosanna Warren and the comforts of a good cup of coffee.

Yeah, it’s a bit like boot camp (without the yelling and obstacle courses) for serious writers but I never expect it to be as boot-campy as it turns out to be each summer. “Eat, sleep, drink, breathe” writing–they aren’t kidding. It’s year four for me, and after two non-fiction workshops with Rebecca McClanahan and a poetry workshop with David Baker (See: God of Poetry). I found myself in Rosanna Warren’s poetry workshop two weeks ago discovering how artists take observations from “hey, ain’t this neat” to “wow!” Myself and nine other poets began in Treleaven House on the Kenyon College campus early on a Sunday morning, with the West Coasters like me hungover from jet-lag and time-change wishing the coffee were just a wee bit stronger; and they want a poem outta me? We’ll just see about that. We began with “Thanks-Offering for Recovery” and “Redcliffe Square” and talked about the observed fact and its connection with personal reality. Rosanna’s question: How is the observed fact moved through the imagination into art?

Each of my companions had their own ideas about this, and it was refreshing to hear a variety of opinions, from the K-12 teachers, to the fashion editor/assistant and the university professor, to the advertising exec and the former lawyer. We all were at the same place, it seemed: desire to discover that something that could help us push our writing to another level. The goal then–to write a poem each evening, then bring it the next day and read around together, discussing how our work is or is not moving through “real seeing” to “visionary seeing.” The electricity in the room kept us all focused and engaged until noon, when we were released to lunch on our own and then to write. Thankfully I found a strong cup of coffee at the Kenyon College Bookstore, then parked myself on the Adirondack chairs (Read: Glorious Writing Chair) outside of the Kenyon Inn beneath the shade of a maple tree. Yes. It really was that idyllic. I worked hard to rid my brain of anything resembling Rosanna’s definition of weak writing: poems that rely on decorative description and its luggage. I tried to combine my knowledge from David Baker’s workshop last summer and its focus on observation, to this new task of utilizing fact and observation to convey emotion and meaning. Other writers were out too, scribbling away, and occasionally we nodded at one another feeling so damn cool that we were here, in the summer, writing hard.

Kirsten Ogden is a former Kenyon Review Peter Taylor Fellow in Poetry and a summer instructor for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Program. She directs the writing program at the University of La Verne in Los Angeles, California where she also serves as an Area Coordinator for the California Poets in the Schools and edits the literary journal Prism Review.

About the Program

The Kenyon Review Associates Program provides Kenyon students with valuable experience in literary editing, publishing, and programming. KR Associates work closely with Kenyon Review staff, gaining valuable experience in a number of editing, publishing, and programming areas including manuscript evaluation, publicity and marketing, copy editing, developing web site and social media content, outreach programming, event planning and promotion, and other creative and editorial projects

KR Associates attend regular seminars conducted by Kenyon Review editorial staff, visiting readers, and publishing industry professionals. These seminars cover a wide range of topics including editorial philosophy, evaluation of submissions, print and electronic production, marketing, and design.

KR Associates enjoy also enjoy exclusive access to visiting writers and speakers, free issues of The Kenyon Review, and valuable work experience and employment references.

This program is made possible through an initiative of the Kenyon Review, part of the mission of which is to contribute to the enrichment of the academic, cultural, and artistic life of the Kenyon College community.

Requirements and Expectations

  • Submission Evaluation: All Associates are required to read and evaluate eight Kenyon Review submissions per week. Associates who are not able to complete their weekly submission assignments for more than two weeks in a row may not be allowed to continue in the program.
  • Trainings and Seminars: In-person attendance is mandatory at all trainings and seminars. We plan on scheduling six to eight seminars per semester, and most will take place on Thursdays during common hour.
  • Literary Engagement: Associates are expected to participate in literary events on campus and throughout the local community.

Application Details

The application deadline for the 2023-24 program has passed. Applications for the 2024-25 program will open in the fall of 2024. Please check back then for more details.

Questions? Please contact Tory Weber for more information.