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Creative Writing Rant: On Alienation and Bartleby and Stuff in General

There is a kind of story in which a narrator’s regard for another character is the focus, the primary reason for the narrative to exist. Some of you read The Great Gatsby in high school. Remember how mysterious, how intriguing Gatsby seemed to the narrator, the young guy who happened to rent a small house next door to Gatsby’s gaudy mansion? Can you see the parallel to the narrator/boss’s regard for Bartleby? There are many stories that take such a basic form. Many love stories have a similar dynamic; a mysterious “other” is often the focus of stories across the genres and sub-genres (even “superhero” stories). My point here is that if you (consciously or unconsciously) begin to conceive of a story in which such a dynamic is at play, “Bartleby the Scrivener” should echo through the dark chambers of your noggin!

Creative Writing Rant: It Goes Without Saying (But Not Without Showing!)

Sometimes, to create a sense of verisimilitude we over-describe, and usually do so regarding the most mundane activities, like getting a character from her car to the door of her house, through the door and into her house. 

I mean, if a character (in either a fiction or nonfiction narrative) approaches her or his apartment door and pulls a keychain from her or his pocket, do we (your readers) need to know that that character then chose the appropriate key, pushed that key into the lock, turned the key, then turned the doorknob and pushed open the door? Well, consider the following:

Creative Writing Rant: How Writers Read

From Richard Katrovas: My rants are off-the-cuff mini-lectures on topics relevant to students of both fiction and nonfiction writing. When I teach “hybrid” writing workshops–classes that meet only six times in the classroom over the course of a semester–I send these ephemeral ditties to my students as follow-ups to our spirited, if infrequent, class discussions. The ones included here are general enough to make sense, I hope, to folks who were not privy to the conversations that spawned them.

The Green Fairy

The PSP blog has covered many topics, ranging from the culture and history of the Czech people to be benefits of study abroad programs. Today’s entry will focus on an interesting cultural artifact that is perfectly legal in Prague, one that you’ve likely seen referenced in 19th and 20th century literature. If you’re an adventurous type and you decide to come along with us to the city of Prague for your European study abroad program, you’ll have the opportunity to try Absinthe.

Bohemian Legends III: The Knights Sleeping in Blaník Mountain

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At the end of Alois Jirásek´s 1894 book of Czech legends, from which we have drawn in our other retellings, there is a series of as-yet-unfulfilled prophesies. The most famous one, the one Czechs return to in times of trouble, is the last one, about the knights sleeping in Blaník mountain, which lies about an hour outside of Prague. It is important to consider the time when Jirásek was writing, a time when Czech national sentiments were high but national autonomy was still to be won.  Because it´s relatively short, and because the English version is so difficult to obtain, we have translated Jirásek´s entire chapter on the knights of Blaník mountain from the Czech.

Bohemian Legends II: Horymír and His Loyal Steed, Šemík

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In our second installment of Bohemian Legends, we find ourselves five generations after the death of Přemysl, whom we met in the last legend. Now, king Křesomysl (whose name means, roughly, “a mind of stoking,” implying a love of fire) has taken to the throne and some of the prophesies we heard in the first legend have come true.

The resting place of Horymír´s loyal and slightly magical horse, Šemík, can be found in the village of Neumětely, where one can visit it to this day. A tomb, built in 1887 over the place where Šemík was supposedly buried, reads: “In Neumětely people believed, and still believe, that here lies Horymír´s loyal horse, Šemík.”

Bohemian Legends, Part I: Queen Libuše and her Prophesies

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For writers, legends and myths may be the most captivating records of a particular culture. Bohemian legends are particularly captivating.

One of the first retellings of Bohemian legends comes from the 12th century Chronica Boemorum written by Cosmas of Prague in Latin. The legends recorded in these ancient texts were rediscovered during the Czech National Revival in the late 19th century, when Czechs were searching for an identity which would not be tethered to their Germanic overlords. The most famous retelling of Czech legends comes from this time, written by Alois Jirásek in beautiful, picturesque Czech.

From Poetry to Prose: Writing Outside of Your Genre

The Prague Summer Program is a big advocate of multi-genre workshops, and, as we prepare to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary, we would like to encourage poets considering PSP to pursue new experiences. Be committed to your writing—as you must be if you are reading this blog—and face new challenges as they arise. For poets, we would encourage you to accept the challenge of work outside of your genre.

How to Get the Most Out of a Workshop

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Time is always valuable to the creative writing workshop environment—even more so if the workshop has high enrollment and a tight schedule. If you have ever taken a creative writing workshop at a university, you know that even with fourteen or fifteen weeks, it can be a challenge to work through more than a few pieces per writer. To get the most out of your workshops abroad or at your local college or university, the Prague Summer Program has a few helpful suggestions.