Featured Writers

Featured Writers 
from Laura’s Classes

The Rooster

Julie Sheehan lives in Livermore and has attended many of Laura’s writing retreats. She wrote this piece during Laura’s weekend retreat at Esalen in Big Sur. The prompt was, “Tell Me About The Sounds of Your Childhood.” Henry was a mean Mother Fucker. I can’t even remember how he came to us. Growing up on …

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Naomi White: Powdered Milk

Naomi White is a member of the Tuesday night writing practice class. She wrote this piece in response to the prompt, “Write about your childhood kitchen with as much concrete, sensory detail as possible.” It was a sticky Sunday afternoon in July and we had had just come home from a prayer meeting:  mom, dad, …

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Sid Roth: Ode to an Ordinary Object

 

sid-roth

Sid Roth joined my Tuesday night writing class with his father on the “new student special.” I loved his response to the prompt, “Ode to an Ordinary Object,” and thought it was particularly fun when paired with his classmate’s response (see below). 

Mr. Pencil, your uses are many. I know your ancestry; perhaps your humble beginnings from tree and mountain deep reflect your strength and resilience, and the strength and resilience you lend to me. I know the other humans despise you; they say your glyphing is faint and your point is weak. It is, however, your inner integrity and inflexibility that makes you most valuable to me. Pens, they either work or they do not. I know your failure will come as you openly disclose it; your length describes your time left among the living.

The question must be asked, in your favor as it is, ‘Why it is people think pens are superior?” The pen was invented first, and as such the natural course proved the Pencil as the successor. Truly those are fools, who turn their back on you in favor of inky inconsistency, just as those are fools who set their mistakes in stone.

Wendy Ledger: My Life as a Writer

 wendy-ledger

Wendy Ledger is a student in the Tuesday evening writing practice class. When I heard her read this piece in class, I immediately asked her if I could publish it because it demonstrates so clearly how much criticism can shut a writer down–and how encouragement can buoy that writers to continue studying her craft, and most importantly, writing.

When I was a graduate student in creative writing, I took a short story course, where several times a semester, we would submit our work. Everyone took these stories home, evaluated them, and gave feedback during a scheduled class critique. Today was the day my story would be reviewed.

I had written a story about a young woman who worked as a life study model in an art class. Her boyfriend’s father, a man she had never met before, attended the class, and then, when they were later introduced, took great pleasure in talking about that experience. In retrospect, it was an odd tale, but at the time, it meant the world to me.

I remember striding down the hall that day, thinking that I would sit in the classroom and compose myself before the critique. It was still early. There were few people in the hall of this dusty academic building. I walked in reverie, imagining my time in the classroom alone, sitting in silence, arranging my notebook and my pen in just the right way.

I began to turn the corner in the hall. I could see my classroom door open, inviting. The light was on. It beckoned to me.

A group of my classmates stood by the door, two men and one woman. They were holding my story in their hands, actively engaged in conversation. They spoke in loud voices, laughing. One pointed at some of the words on the pages. One read isolated sentences of my story out loud. They looked like jackals to me.

It was as if time slammed on its brakes and sped up. I wanted Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. I wanted to be the biggest badass in the world and march up to them and yell in their faces, “How dare you! How dare you be so cruel! How dare you treat my work this way!”

I felt both panicked and resolute.  I righted myself away from the turn. I knew that I could not seek solace in my beloved classroom. I knew that I had to immediately talk to someone that I trusted.

I felt as if I was in shock. I felt as if I was in an action movie where I had to avoid gunfire to my heart. I kept walking down the straight empty hallway. As I walked, I remembered. My teacher had office hours before the class. I felt as if I was in the desert, and the thought of her office was a mirage. I felt like I walked a thousand miles over many hours, but I made it to her door, and I sat down in front of her.

The story came out quickly. I knew that if I paused for breath, I might break down completely. My teacher listened to me. She sat at her desk so calmly with her glasses perched solidly on her nose. She sat as if the earth hadn’t completely fallen off of its axis, as if a thunderstorm hadn’t just occurred in her room, as if there weren’t vultures ready to pounce if you made the wrong turn in this hellacious funhouse that they call higher learning.

Renee Winter: Time Goes By

Renee Winter is a member of the Thursday night feedback class. She is working on a series of short memoir pieces–all of which are carefully crafted to create an evocative mood. She wrote this piece in response to the prompt, “Tell me about your relationship to time.” Time. I’m aware of it. My watch is …

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