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Events Thu Apr 15 2010

The Chicago Underground Library Hosts Pan Dulces Work Sessions

The Pan Dulces Work Session, a new collaborative writing workshop hosted by the Chicago Underground Library, argues writers can receive the benefits of a traditional writing seminar and more from a free, self-directed, open workshop. The Pan Dulces experiment establishes two key tenets.

1. "All writers really need is to read and to know some good readers."
2. "Writing can be practiced with strong roots in the city."

Denise Dooley, the creator of Pan Dulces, has dabbled in all sorts of writing and creative forums such as zine-making, theater, and slam. Her inspiration to organize this new approach came first from studying in the United Kingdom where she found academic writing programs (or lack thereof), the editing process, and creative collaboration dramatically different from the writing practices in the United States. "My sense was that when I met writers there, they would give you stuff to read, and you could just kick back and enjoy it. While here people exchange stuff with the expectation that you will have your pen out, and you will tear stuff up," Denise explains.

In Chicago Denise credits the Next Objectivists poetry workshop at Mess Hall in Rogers Park with additional inspiration, focusing more on writing and reading poetry than on "the scramble to get published." To put it simply she says, "The main idea [behind Pan Dulces] is trading work and getting to know each other."

To give you a better idea of what may happen and entice you to show up this Sunday at the Chicago Underground Library, Denise graciously answered a few questions about what she expects Pan Dulces to offer.

First off, how is this kind of workshop different from a "paid" writing seminar or an academic course? Why is that important?

If something is free, it doesn't take up as much of your time, it's self directed, it's totally open. You don't have to pretend you're an expert. You don't have to move to another state to do it. You will have access to all these people and resources if you want them.

Writing classes are really generous, they give you a lot of what writers are looking for: specific advice, a pre-set group of writers to interact with, a list of things to read. And that's so simplified, and it works so well that we've forgotten how to do it without that framework. You can debate "are writing programs good or bad for literature?" forever. We already know there are limits, but it's a sweet hustle if you can make it work for you. It seems more interesting to come up with a third option- remembering how it went before that setting was so dominant.

There's also another layer of advantage; innovation is challenging. Formulating new activities for writers to do together is going to force us to go back to a lot of basic questions about the process. It's going to be harder to come up with our own materials than to follow someone's canon, and we will learn a lot from the process of figuring it out together. The "do" in DIY is lots of work, and work is a good way to learn.

What would you say to a writer who is thinking, "I'm new at all this, I can't possibly offer useful feedback/criticism or editing advice to more experienced writers."

Rad. This isn't going to be a traditional workshop, and you won't have to critique a thing. It really will be useful for people who are at that novice stage. They'll have a lot to offer. That's a stage where you're learning so much every single time you sit down to make something. And if you can share those advances, everyone benefits.

You mention how important reading is for writers, and you ask Pan Dulces participants to list what they are reading and their favorite authors. How is this information useful for the workshop?

In so many ways! There's this Jessa Crispin/Francine Prose/Zadie Smith model, that careful reading will make you a better writer. This idea that you should be reading twice as much as you write, and read things that are actually good, not just hyped. Chicago is an especially good place for reading books, not just gossiping about authors.

And recommendations are key. You know when you read a new book and it blows your mind wide open and you have no idea how you lived without it? I swear those brain changing books almost always come from a personal recommendation. It's so good to have somebody press a book into your hand. That's part of it. Plus, it's hard to find out about new books from small publishers these days. And when you meet someone and geek out about loving the same book? That is so magic!

How does this workshop fit in with the mission of the Chicago Underground Library? Will the library's collection be incorporated?

CUL is about drawing attention to works that slip under the radar, about small presses in Chicago, and about bringing people together who might not otherwise collaborate.

We'll be using the collection as a basic resource for reading materials and as a way to root our experiments in local practice. And the space is really gorgeous.

How often will Pan Dulces workshops occur?

Organized work sessions will be roughly once a month, and we'll have more informal hang out and work time in the CUL space every Sunday 2pm - 5pm.

You can join the first Pan Dulces Writing Session on Sunday, April 18, 2pm at the Chicago Underground Library, 621 W. Belmont, 2nd Floor.

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