Saturday Workshop: Learning to Bleed on the Page with Style

Semesters grow so fast. One day, you’re semester-proofing the electrical outlets in your home, and the next day you have to pause your post-retirement remodel to weep over faded pencil marks on a doorframe meticulously tracking your once-young semester’s height. Where did the time go? Can this really be the final Saturday workshop for Fall 2019? Yes, yes it can. David Martinez describes the workshop’s focus below. As always, workshops are free and open to the public.

Everyone has a story to tell. True stories. Some of them are harrowing, some funny, some insane, but the fact is it doesn’t matter how harrowing, funny, and insane a story may be if it’s not told with style. It doesn’t matter how true. It’s unfortunate, but that doesn’t take away the veracity of the problem. What, then, do we do? We learn the best ways to tell our stories, we find that crucial and often eluding spot between emotion and craft, and we work. How well we tell our stories is as important as the stories themselves. How do we navigate? Join me as I begin to explore this question and search for what it means to tell our personal tales the way we need them to be told, the way they need to be told.

  • What: Learning to Bleed on the Page with Style, by David Martinez
  • When: Saturday, November 16th from 10AM to 12PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room LA-141
  • Why: Because the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon

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GCC’s Annual Poetry & Prose Slam

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Like a helicopter parent or a cantaloupe defiant of gravity, GCC’s Annual Poetry & Prose Slam draws closer–looms, one might say. Do you hear it? See it? Smell it? There is no ignoring the Slam. No pretending it isn’t there, nestled in your kitchen cabinets, between the cushions of your ride-share, in your Twitter mentions questioning the earnestness of your contributions. There will be no ducking, no hiding, no avoidant behavior of any kind.

And why would you want to avoid the Slam, especially when all it wants to do is award you with fame and money and expired chicken dinner coupons? Therefore, you are going to attend the Annual Poetry & Prose Slam. You are going to share a few of your original, creative pieces with a supportive audience and eager panel of judges. Open to the public, and with some free refreshments provided, there is no reason not to attend!

  • What: GCC’s Annual Poetry & Prose Slam
  • When: Wednesday, November 20th from 7:00PM to 8:30PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, SU-104

Basic Rules of the Slam:

  • Arrive a few minutes before 7PM so you can sign up to compete.
  • Each round, read one original piece, keeping under the three-minute time limit. Performances that exceed this limit will have their scores penalized.
  • Expect at least two rounds, with the potential for more if time permits. Meaning, you can enter more than one piece in the competition, but always perform your best pieces first.
  • Once all competitors have read/performed their work, the judges will tabulate scores. The top three performers will earn $100, $50, and $25 prizes respectively.
  • Have fun!

Saturday Workshop: How To “Get More” Out of Any Literature

Which of these statements describes you best?

  • I like reading for fun.
  • I’m interested in reading and analyzing literary prose or poetry.
  • I’m interested in writing literary prose or poetry.
  • I’m interested in writing better literary prose or poetry.
  • I’ve tried reading literary fiction — but some/most of it goes over my head.
  • I’ve tried creative writing — but struggle to put the good ideas in my head down on paper.
  • I have to/want to take a literature or creative writing course — but the idea scares me to death.

If one or more of these statements resonate with you, or describes you and your current situation, come to our Saturday CRW Workshop February 9 to learn some writing/reading “secrets” that will improve your reading, your writing, and your quality of life.

MFA and GCC Creative Writing Instructor Gary Lawrence will lead a very participative workshop on “getting more” out of any literature – either more entertainment and appreciation, or more tools to help make you a better reader and creative writer (the two are intimately connected). We’ll use a 10-question reusable template to “break open” a prose short story – and then use this same short story as an example of points made. Time permitting, we’ll use a second short story to “test” your understanding and application of the ideas presented.

Among the things we’ll explore in this two-hour workshop are:

  • A creative writer’s mantra: “Read like a writer. Write for the reader.”
  • Ten standard questions to ask to get more out of any literary piece (the keys to the “science” behind a better literary analysis and uncovering more writing tools).
  • The difference between a literary analysis (understanding better/quicker what a piece “means”) and a creative writing analysis (discovering writing craft methods to write better yourself).
  • Reading comprehension level, and why it matters.

The workshop plan includes a mix of presentation, reading, analysis, discussion and (at least a little) writing. You’ll walk away with the reusable 10-question template, a better understanding of how literature “works,” and a few tips to make you a better writer.  Literary critics or writers of any genre will benefit from the methods, techniques, and ideas presented and discussed.  The workshop is free and open to the public.

  • Who: Gary Lawrence, MFA – GCC Instructor
  • What: How to “Get More” Out of Any Literature
  • When: Saturday, February 9, 2019 from 10:00 am to noon
  • Where: Language Arts building, GCC Campus (LA 141)
  • Why: Because this workshop will make you a better reader, writer, and person.

Workshop materials and handouts:


Gary Lawrence currently teaches creative writing online for GCC: Introduction to Creative Writing (CRW150), Introduction to Writing Fiction (CRW170), and Intermediate Fiction Writing (CRW270). Until recently he also taught composition courses at GCC and at Cochise College (Sierra Vista). Gary’s also a prize-winning, published short story author (Feast,Rockford Writer’s Guild, Short Story America, Four Chambers, Mirage, Canyon Voices). In 2011 Gary earned an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He issued his first collection of short stories, Baffled, in 2013. He is currently working on a second story collection.

Congratulations to Poetry & Prose Slam Winners!

A week ago, we hosted our annual Poetry & Prose Slam competition. During the night, numerous competitors read and performed the best of their poetry as well as their flash and short fiction. It took three rounds, nearly two hours, and a surprising amount of math to determine the victors. Congratulations to:

  • First Place: JJ Gathings
  • Second Place: Francisco Ayón
  • Third Place: Lynne MacVean

Thank you to the many participants, to our judges, to Laura White for hosting, and to those that simply came to listen and support our community of writers. We hope to see all of you, and more, in February for our Traveler readings and for a new competition for comedic poetry. Stay tuned to the GCCAZCRW blog for more information.

Poetry & Prose Slam 2018

  • What: The Annual Poetry & Prose Slam
  • When: Wednesday, November 14th from 7:00 to 9:00PM
  • Where: GCC Main Campus, Room SU-104
  • Why: Money, vague threats involving Mountain Dew (see below)

The Poetry & Prose Slam is upon us, looming on the horizon like a bird or a sun or a hitchhiker you’re desperately trying to avoid locking eyes with. Well, it’s too late. We see you. Sitting there, all comfortable and “mobile” in your Ford F-150s and your Toyota Priuses and your non-descript mountain bikes. Listen, either you pull over now or we follow you back to your house, tip over your refrigerator, and soak all your dish towels in Mountain Dew Code Red.

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Think of your dish towels.

What we’re trying to say here, figuratively, is that you should attend this event.

More than that, you should read and compete in this event. Bring your original and creative writing–poetry, short fiction or nonfiction, song lyrics, and any other genre we haven’t listed that you can read in about three minutes or less. Read it before our friendly, Mountain-Dew-drinking judges and guests, and then maybe win a little money. It’s not often we get paid for our creative work, after all, so take advantage.

In order to participate, you’ll need to fill out a simple entry form that you can download and print right here: Registration Form. If you forget to grab a form, no worries, we’ll have extra entry forms available at the event. The slam is open to everyone, student and non-student alike.

November Events & Highlights

With October behind us, it’s time to look at all the great November events and news relevant to CRW at GCC.

Spring classes are open and ready to be filled. We have our usual stalwarts of CRW150, CRW160, and CRW170. Plus, we also have more unique and special offerings like CRW202: Witness Writing and CRW251 – Worldbuilding. Whether you’ve taken courses with us before, or you’re thinking of taking that first step, we have plenty to offer. See our full list of offerings and course descriptions here: Spring 2019 Classes.

Our final Saturday workshop for Fall 2018 lands this weekend on November 3rd. Laura White, in all her clever glory, presents Fight Die Love: The Hardest Scenes to Write.  In this workshop, which is free and open to all, Laura will talk about scene doctoring, making sure you get the most out of your prose, be it short-form fiction, long-form fiction, or creative nonfiction.

Our annual Poetry & Prose Slam falls on Wednesday, November 14th from 7 to 9PM. Come read your work, come win some money, and come have fun at GCC after dark. The competition is open to the public, GCC student and non-student alike. There’s money on the line! Stay tuned for more details and guidelines, coming very soon.

The Magical Library writing competition, put on by the kind and creative folks in GCC’s library, ends on Friday, November 2nd. They’re accepting short fiction, flash fiction, and poetry incorporating the theme of “magical library”–all interpretations welcome, but only GCC students may submit.

The Traveler, GCC’s Arts & Literary Magazine, is still accepting submissions for this year’s issue. The Traveler accepts short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and one-act plays, but only GCC students may enter. The deadline is November 18th! For full guidelines, and to submit online, head here: Submit to the Traveler!

And not to be outdone, the Maricopa Community Colleges are holding an even bigger contest: The District Writing Competition. If you’re a student at any of Maricopa’s community colleges, you’re eligible to enter. Much like The Traveler, you can submit your short fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, and one-act plays. So, whatever you decide to submit to the Traveler you should also submit to the District Writing Competition! Enter here!

Know of a creative writing or artistic event taking place in November? Let us know and we’ll add it to the calendar.

The Traveler Literary Contest Open for Submissions

Did you know that frogs, like birds, have migratory patterns? It’s true. Each year, as summer gives way to autumn, frogs travel north. Sometimes for business meetings, and other times for academic conferences and awards ceremonies and predatory debt collecting and spas and definitely-not-extra-marital-affairs. Did you hear that, Diane? Definitely. Not. Extra. Marital. Affairs. You’re being ridiculous. Call the hotel.

You might be asking, what do frogs have to do with The Traveler–GCC’s Arts & Literary Magazine, which is now open for submissions? Nothing, but there’s one in the flyer.

And the frog has a suitcase.

And the suitcase has wheels.


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Writer’s Quote: Killing Your Darlings

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”

— William Faulkner.

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William Faulkner

What does it mean to kill your darlings? Well, first, what is a darling? A darling is something that interferes with the relationship between you and your audience. It’s a part of your writing (could be a line in a poem, a paragraph in a story, or an entire chapter in a novel) that doesn’t do the work it needs to do but, despite this, you love it and refuse to edit it out.

All writers are guilty of harboring darlings. It’s the line that someone told you had such a nice ring to it. It’s the character trait that is pulled from someone you know in your own life. It’s the pop culture reference that only you and your friends “get.” As fun as it is for us writers to read and re-read these darlings, as much as they make us smile, we have to remember the writing is not for us, not unless it’s a diary. And if the writing is for someone else, an audience, we must be attentive to its purpose, what effect it is designed to have on the reader. Does the passage advance the plot, does it build the character, does it enhance the reader’s sense of setting? No matter how long the work is, every line in it has to “do” something. If you’re not sure what the line is “doing” but you just like the way it sounds, it might be a darling. And as fun as they are for us to read, they fall flat for our audience and thus interfere with whatever else we are trying to communicate to them. Good writers become “good” by being ruthless in their determination of what really “works” on the page and what doesn’t.

But isn’t writing supposed to be fun? Do we have to be ruthless all the time? Darlings persist when there is ambivalence on the author’s part about who a piece of writing is for. If the story is akin to a diary entry, if it will only ever be read by you, then you can have as many darlings as you want. But if it’s for anyone else, then you have a duty as a writer to consider your audience’s expectations (often based on genre) and their desire for entertainment (this cuts across all genres.) As authors we certainly don’t want to pander to audiences, but we can’t afford to ignore them either. Your writing is the machinery that delivers your dreams, your ideas. Darlings are the pretty little flowers that get stuck between the gears.

Click here to read more about weeding out your darlings. This author has suggestions for how you can preserve them, to some degree, if you can’t quite bear to kill them entirely.

Have you ever killed a darling? How did it feel?


This post was contributed by Jeff Sanger, one of GCC’s English and CRW faculty. In addition to periodically contributing thoughtful posts like this, he is also planning to facilitate our first Saturday Morning Workshop for Fall 2018. That workshop will take place this weekend, September 8th, from 10AM to Noon on GCC Main. Read more about it here: Who Are Your Characters?