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Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing About Family with Kate Hill Cantrill

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Meet the Teaching Artist: Writing About Family with Kate Hill Cantrill

by Writing Workshops Staff

A year ago

Kate Hill Cantrill is returning to lead one of our most sought-after classes: her Writing Our Family 6-Week Zoom Workshop.

This engaging course invites writers of all levels to discover their unique voice, challenge traditional storytelling norms, and explore the intricate dynamics of family relationships.

Class, participants will have the opportunity to experiment with various genres, including flash memoir, fiction, poetry, and epistolary stories. By studying craft techniques and drawing inspiration from acclaimed authors like Jamaica Kincaid, Amy Hempel, and George Saunders, students will gain the confidence to tackle the complexities of family narratives. With weekly prompts, insightful discussions, and peer-driven feedback facilitated on Wet Ink and through Zoom sessions, writers can expect to create 5-6 drafts that can stand alone as finished pieces or serve as a foundation for longer works.

Hi, Kate. Please introduce yourself to our audience.

I am a writer and artist presently living in South Jersey right outside of my hometown of Philadelphia. Before moving back to my home area I lived in Austin, TX and then Brooklyn, NY, where I taught writing for the University of Texas at Austin and then The Sackett Street Workshop. I have a collection of short stories published titles, Walk Back From Monkey School.

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?

There are so many people actively trying to live more consciously these days, and part of that process is to understand/unpack their family dynamics, histories, and oftentimes traumas. I wanted to provide a space in which to do that in a variety of ways; not everyone can or wants to write a straight-forward account and some things are best written about in other forms, like poetry, or poetic flash, where they can mask some of the things that feel too difficult to reveal. I base the multi-genre approach on a self-portrait sculpture class my mother taught that I took that was incredibly psychologically revealing to me while also teaching me about form and composition.

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?

Each week each participant writes in a different genre. I encourage all students to come to the class with one situation in mind that they want to explore, and then they explore it in 4 different ways. It's very process oriented in that I hope that it encourages a practice of trying to let the story tell its writer how it wants to be told. My favorite part about this class is that we create a family in sharing stories about our families and I get to be a part of that love and camaraderie over and over.

What was your first literary crush?

It's a tie between John Irving, William Wharton, and Anne Tyler. I was 12, my parents were getting a divorce and I got through it by reading The World According to Garp, Birdy, and Dinner At The Homesick Restaurant surrounded me at all times.

What are you currently reading?

Oneness and The One Percent by Vandana Shiva

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?

It definitely chooses me, what I work on. I'm disciplined in my 'drop everything and write this, it's knocking' way. How do I know something is what I want to write all the way to the end? When I hit that flow and I can't stop. I can count on my hands how many times that's happened and I can name the particular stories and get that satisfied feeling. It doesn't happen all the time, though.

Where do you find inspiration?

In this life of beautiful wonderments and confusions. In things I wish I had said to someone but didn't so I write it into a story.

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?

From David Bradley when I was at Michener Center for Writers: He told us to think like a writer and every walk you take becomes part of your practice. I walk about 3-6 miles a day now.

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

Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. She merges craft with spiritual growth and is more about opportunities than rules.

BONUS: Is there a question we should have asked you? If so, feel free to answer it here.

Question: Do I feel honored to be privy to so many people's family stories? Answer: Absolutely yes-- I am constantly blessed with the reminder of how infinitely similar and connected we all really are and that knowing gives a ton of peace and hope. Thanks for asking!

Lear more about working with Kate:

Learn more about Kate's upcoming course: Writing Our Family 6-Week Zoom Workshop.

Join Kate Hill Cantrill on this transformative writing journey to unlock the power of storytelling and navigate the intricacies of writing about the people closest to our hearts.

Instructor Kate Hill Cantrill is the author of the short story collection, Walk Back From Monkey School. She holds an MFA from The Michener Center For Writers, and her stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in literary journals such as: Story Quarterly, The Believer, Mississippi Review, Texas Observer, Blackbird, Salt Hill, Del Sol Review, The Short Story Project, and others. She has received fellowships from The Corporation of Yaddo, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Jentel Artists’ Residency, and The James A. Michener Fund. She is presently writing both a novel and an epistolary novella.

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