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3 Ideas to Get You Writing on a Slow Day

by admin

One of the toughest parts of managing a creative writing process is transitioning into new projects. Whether you know what your next project is or you’re letting yourself find it through exploration, there are just some times when the obvious connections between ideas or events don’t pop out at you. During those times, it’s important not to let yourself take too much break time. Walking away from your desk when you are frustrated can clear your mind, but staying away can keep you from having the concentrated time you need to really tease an idea to completion. When you are having one of those days where your next story, poem, or essay idea is just over the horizon, try one of these approaches to see if you can get things back on track.

1. Keep Things Relative

Exploring relationships can be a great way to loosen yourself up. For new projects, it can be as simple as asking yourself about the relationship between two events that stand out strongly in your past. Other explorations might include two emotional themes that intertwine and interact, such as loss and renewal. If you are working on a larger project and you need to help yourself realize the world your characters move in, this can also be your chance to create some family background for your characters so that you know who they are. For poetry, the relationships might be a little more abstract, such as an exercise in exploring the relationship between how words sound and what they mean, or between different words that share a linguistic root.

2. Write What You See

Sometimes, you have plenty of ideas, but making them into words just isn’t happening. That’s okay. Most people think in multiple ways, and finding yourself with a series of images or even a mental movie can be a great place to create from. You do eventually have to find ways to word things out, though, and one way to do that is to just get yourself typing so that your brain starts to play with language more. Starting yourself off with a short exercise where you just write whatever happens to be in front of you can be a great way to unstop your process, converting that imaginary action into narrative. It can also be an excellent way to work on word choice, diction, rhythm, or to just find a new topic for your next idea.

3. Interrogate Yourself

Have you ever played truth or dare against yourself in a public place? Not everyone is capable of it, but trying out the truth part can be liberating. Give yourself five minutes to write out all the questions on your mind right now, and then take an additional twenty to answer them as bluntly, honestly, and personally as possible. The insights you give yourself when no one is looking can reveal contradictions and juxtapositions in your thoughts hat can be used as the basis for characterization, for longer meditations and explorations, or to confront yourself when you are holding back from unleashing the full potential in your vocabulary. Use this exercise to think about the emotional shades of your word choices when you answer, and ask yourself what parts of you are answering each of your questions.

Maintaining your connection to the medium of language is the key when it comes to unsticking your writing process, no matter what genre you find yourself working in. The next time you have a project that’s giving you a hard time, try one of these process starters out to see where it takes you.

What to Look for in a Study Abroad Program

by admin

Prague WikimediaWhether you are looking to join us for a month in Prague next summer or you are just looking for the right advice to help you
pick a study abroad program in
another subject area, there are a few core characteristics that you want to look for to make your experience abroad is as memorable as possible. For many students, these programs are a cornerstone of their artistic, academic, and professional development, and finding the right fit is important. That means not only finding a program that is accessible in terms of price and programming, but also finding one in a location that will allow you to gain new insight into your chosen discipline.

Part of the reason our program brings students to Prague is because of the rich artistic history of the place, and the way its writers stood at the crossroads of craft and culture, creating works that put forth philosophical ideas and then test them, like Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. The location is also rich in literary figures that interact in profound ways with their political systems, such as Vaclav Havel. For other disciplines, we recommend finding a program built around a place with similar significance for you, a place where the combination of focused study and local history will allow you to immerse yourself in your work.

Once you’ve found programs that work like this, the next step is to look at the combination of price and features. Pay attention to items like housing arrangements, food, and both local and international travel. At this step, it is important to consider a balance of comfort and cost. Going with a bare bones approach might seem rugged, but sometimes that means taking responsibility for language translation services and other communication tasks on your own. On the other hand, programs that include everything, even international travel, tend to be very costly. Their travel arrangements can also reduce your flexibility as you plan your journey in both directions. A balance of good in-country services, bundled room and board, and solid knowledge of the area is what is essential. Taking care of your own travel also gives you the opportunity to use discounts or find other savings.

Once you have a checklist in mind for the features you need and the locations you are interested in visiting for your study abroad experience, evaluating potential programs is much easier. As with most other travel planning situations, preparation is key!

Prague in the Age of Terror

by admin

An Open Letter to the Prospective 2016 Prague Summer Program Community

There are roughly ten thousand—primarily Sunni—Muslims in the Czech Republic. Most of them are early 90s refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and from countries of the former Soviet Union. They arrived in the Czech Republic as native speakers of Slavic languages, and so learned Czech relatively quickly and assimilated likewise. They are Slavic Muslims. Most are middle-class.

I’m unqualified to speak to the demographic and social complexities of Muslims’ presence in Europe or in North America. However, I know, really know, that prejudice is always morally wrong and strategically debilitating. What happened in Paris, what happened in San Bernardino  and whatever follows in the wake of these atrocities over the coming months, must be considered within as broad a perspective as possible.

I hold with those who insist upon a clear delineation between radical jihadists and Muslims in general, though I also eschew politically-correct commentaries that refuse to recognize that religious belief systems are ideologies, and that an ascendant interpretation of the Muslim faith is in fact an ideology centered on murder and subjugation of the “other”: us (“us” including Muslims who oppose radical jihadists).

Last July, one of the students in the PSP was a young woman from a Muslim country I’ll not name here. In social settings, outside the classroom and the other official program venues, she spoke of the nonviolent opposition that she and other young people in her country mount, when they can and almost exclusively online, against conservative powers that be. She expressed deep and abiding religious faith, but also a marvelous hardheadedness, a delightfully youthful opposition to authority. I can’t speak in any detail for fear of compromising her, but I can say that when I asked her if she ever thought of seeking asylum in the West, her answer was an unequivocal “no.” She loves her country, loves her culture, and wants to contribute to improving her society, making it freer, especially for women.

We, in America, should not be smug. Our kids are gunned down by cops; some cops too often find themselves in untenably dangerous circumstances. The Second Amendment is an anachronism causing, directly and indirectly, thousands of deaths each year. Our prisons are packed with nonviolent offenders who are themselves victims of antiquated drug laws. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few makes a mockery of our democracy. The commoditization of information, the dovetailing of news and entertainment, in the context of the twenty-four-hour news cycle, gins up fear and plays into the hands of terrorists. There is a very odd symbiotic relationship indeed between CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and all terrorist organizations. The news organizations are not altogether at fault. We are at fault for not better understanding that “news” is vital information, but that it is also breakfast cereal, roll-on deodorant, car insurance, Viagra, and dishwashing  detergent. As long as information is tied to a profit motive, there will be terrorists manipulating news coverage, and there will be trolls like Donald Trump lurking beneath the body politic.

The Prague Summer Program for Writers is going into its twenty-third year. In our first years, the carnage in what was then Yugoslavia raged. In 2002, nine months after 9/11, we conducted a somber yet joyous four weeks of celebrating literature and literary ambition. This coming July, 2016, we shall celebrate the victory of unfettered imagination over mere ideology. We’ll celebrate life over death. We’ll take ourselves just seriously enough, and we’ll know ourselves to be as safe as anyone deserves to be. We’ll celebrate the beauty of an ancient city, and know that the odds of danger are, if not minute, nearly so.

We’ll be safe in Prague. We’ll take good care of one another, and make sure that we have ample opportunity to experience deep edification as well as serious fun.

Richard Katrovas