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Meet the Teaching Artist: Finding the Essay within the Experience with Samantha Ladwig

by Writing Workshops Staff

4 months ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Finding the Essay within the Experience with Samantha Ladwig

by Writing Workshops Staff

4 months ago

Join us for an inspiring interview with Samantha Ladwig, a writer whose work has been published by New York magazine's The Cut and Vulture, Literary Hub, Real Simple, Bustle, CrimeReads, and others. Samantha is also co-owner of Imprint Bookstore in the picturesque town of Port Townsend, Washington.

In Samantha's upcoming Zoom seminar, titled Finding the Essay within the Experience, she will guide students on a transformative journey to unearth the profound essence hidden within their personal experiences and craft them into compelling essays. As Samantha herself eloquently puts it, "What happened to the writer is not what matters; what matters is the large sense that the writer is able to make of what happened," echoing the sentiment of renowned essayist Vivian Gornick.

In this one-day workshop, participants will immerse themselves in the art of turning life's pivotal moments into publishable stories. Drawing inspiration from the works of accomplished essayists like Sarah Levy, Melissa Febos, and Samantha Irby, students will learn to dissect essays critically, unraveling the techniques employed by writers to transform their experiences into narratives that resonate deeply with readers. By the end of the seminar, attendees will not only leave with a profound understanding of how to mine their own life experiences for hidden essays but also with a solid outline and a fresh perspective for their own works-in-progress. Don't miss this unique opportunity to explore the transformative power of storytelling with the guidance of Samantha Ladwig, a seasoned wordsmith with a passion for uncovering the profound within the ordinary.

Hi, Sarah. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

Hi! My name is Samantha but you can call me Sam. I've been writing professionally for just over a decade with pieces published in The Cut, Vulture, Literary Hub, Real Simple, Bustle, BUST, Crimereads, and others. I co-own Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington, a Victorian seaport out on the Olympic Peninsula. Before that I was a film cataloger for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences where I got to do some fun, flashy Hollywood things like to go the Oscars. I recently started a newsletter, Narrative Sea, which blends three big parts of my life: books, writing, and life along - and sometimes in - the sea.

What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft? Or is this just your jam and you love it?

I've been teaching now for six years, and this topic - finding the essay within the experience - is something I've found most of my past participants haven't considered when they sign up. They come with funny moments, a trauma, a relationship, or whatever else, but they haven't thought about that intersection - what they bring with them to that moment - that transforms those things into a essay, something publishable that a reader can connect with. If I tell you a funny story, it's not funny unless you know me, or unless I've presented it in way that you can connect with. If you want to publish your work, you have to consider the reader. I love helping writers find a direction for the thing they want to write about most, and sharing the skills that I've learned to properly reflect on an experience when I'm ready to write about it.

Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?

Students can expect a structured and inspiring workshop. We'll talk briefly about the assigned readings to learn how to read essays as writers, then move into finding that intersection between an experience and the meaning of it. This is my favorite part of the workshop because it's where people feel that "Aha" spark, where the story starts to click together. After a short break in the middle, we'll spend time fleshing out the idea that speaks to them most. There will be time at the end for some sharing and feedback from me, as well as questions.

What was your first literary crush?


What are you currently reading?

The Other by Thomas Tryon

How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?

My gut is usually a good indicator of whether or not I want to write about something, if I'm ready to write about it, or want to spend any time with it.

Where do you find inspiration?

The sea. I'm able to set some of the emotions aside when I'm swimming and really look at an idea or story. The cold clears things up, removes a lot of the overwhelm that often happens at the beginning of a project.

What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?

The best piece of writing advice I got was from Suzanne Morrison (author of Yoga Bitch). I took some workshops with her at Hugo House in Seattle when I was 21 or 22 and she said that you don't always have to wait until after the experience to write about it, that it's possible and sometimes more powerful to write through it. It really resonated with me and put into words how I view life; that it's fluid, everything impacting everything all of the time. It was a lightbulb moment. If I were to wait for the right time to tell a story, I probably wouldn't write.

What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?

The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick! Which is where the quote in the workshop description comes from.

Learn more about working with Sarah. 

You can learn more about Sarah's upcoming seminar, Finding the Essay within the Experience, and sign up if interested.

Samantha Ladwig is a writer, book reviewer for BUST magazine, and co-owner of Imprint Bookstore in Port Townsend, Washington. Her work has been published by New York magazine's The Cut and Vulture, Literary Hub, Real Simple, Bustle, CrimeReads, and others.

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