Birdseed: a writing prompt with Georgina Key

featuring
Georgina Key

Birdseed is a series of micro interviews that glean writing prompts, insight and advice from the talented writers leading our workshops.

What courses do you teach at Grackle?

I teach fiction classes at Grackle and Grackle. I’m really excited about my Lyrical Prose class, a subject near and dear to my heart. As a reader and a writer, I’m drawn to lyrical passages that don’t take away from the story itself, but instead add depth and nuance to every aspect, including character, theme, place, tone—the possibilities are endless! Finding a poetic cadence, adding sensory detail, or distilling profound meaning in just a few select words can raise writing to another level that sets it apart from mere plot-driven storytelling.

What stands out in your memory as a special moment from your workshop?

That moment when my students and I can identify who wrote which piece, when each student’s voice is so powerful and unique that their work has its own distinct style and cadence. My goal is always to recognize each unique voice and build and enhance their writing, empower them to tell their own story in their own way. 

Do you have a favorite prompt for your students?

One of my favorite writing exercises is the process of distillation. You know those passages you read sometimes where you pause, re-read, and ponder over the author’s intention, taking in each word. As a writer, you are probably in awe and ask yourself how the author achieved such mastery. The distillation exercise gets you closer to writing those passages in your own work. You learn to identify places in your story that lend themselves to this form of lyrical prose. For example, your character is walking through a forest. You could describe the trees, the shade they form, birds singing, etc. But zoom in and consider one aspect of that walk (e.g., stepping over a fallen tree). Now zoom in again (e.g., a beetle crawls into a crevice in the rotting wood). Consider all sensory details—go deep. Then pay special attention to word choice and rhythm (I have a technique for this). Once you’ve written the minutia, think about how this scene might be relevant to the character’s emotions or the theme of your piece as a whole—how could it enhance your intention for your story?

What is one pearl of writing wisdom you like to offer your students?

Writing is an isolating activity—we shut ourselves up in small rooms, behind laptops and earbuds. But for me, the writing community is a vital part of my process. Learning from other writers, receiving feedback, going to readings and conferences, joining writing groups—all these activities deepen our writing practice. Engaging with other writers forces us to look at our writing with new eyes and exposes us to other forms that enrich our knowledge and encourage us to experiment. The camaraderie and critical feedback of other writers inspires us to keep writing and refining our craft. Networking is also an excellent way into the publishing side of writing. It took me several years to finish my first book, at which point I crawled out of my lonely room and reached out to the writing community. At the end of that next year, I landed a publishing deal. Remember, we’re all in this together!

Georgina Key is an award-winning author and artist whose debut novel, Shiny Bits In Between (Balance of Seven Press, 2020), was a recipient of the Kops-Fetherling Phoenix award for Best New Voice of 2020. Her poems have appeared in various journals, and she is currently working on her second novel based in part on memories of her childhood in England. Georgina currently lives in Texas where she received her M.A. in English from Stephen F. Austin University. She has taught writing for over 30 years and founded Silver Rocket, a literary zine celebrating children’s voices. Visit the author’s websiteInstagram, or Facebook shiny bits in between for excerpts, news and updates.

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