Start a charrette! Daphne Kalotay tells us how


In this last month of summer, we’re excited to feature a few blog posts about the writing life, alongside the usual publication announcements.  This essay by Daphne Kalotay (Fiction 1994) is about creating discussion groups that make for meaningful, stimulating, and rich conversations among writers, conversations that also seek to creatively address matters of craft.  Such groups are called charrettes, and Daphne defines one as:

1. An intensive group enquiry into a technical issue or design challenge

2. A collaborative meeting focused on solving a problem through a diversity of ideas

“In the case of definition number one,” Daphne writes, “I wanted to signal that our charrette was an inquiry: that we were to show up with open minds and honest questions. By “design challenge” I meant matters of composition that arise when we write. By “technical issue” I meant that things might get nerdy.”

Daphne also says, “It wasn’t the first time I’d found myself in a wonky technical discussion about the nitty-gritties of written composition, but the energy and caliber of our conversation was striking. It had to do, my poet friend and I decided afterwards, with our varied genres, ages, backgrounds, and experience…”

Click here to read the essay, which was recently published in VIDA, and includes a list of tips for starting your own charrette.  Congrats, Daphne, and thanks!  We hope many more charrettes will form in our city and beyond.

Daphne Kalotay’s books include the award-winning novels Sight Reading and Russian Winter (Harper) and the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories (Doubleday). She has written for the New York Times Book Review and Poets & Writers, and her interviews with Mavis Gallant can be read in the Paris Review’s Writers-At-Work series. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts and for the 2017-18 academic year is teaching at Princeton University’s Program in Creative Writing.

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