Monday, January 30, 2012

The Writing Staycation: Participant Perspectives

The Writing Staycation: Participant Perspectives

For me, one of the highlights of facilitating the Writing Staycation is getting to know a community of writers -- a young mom creating time to start a novel, a retired government worker writing a memoir, a lawyer taking a week’s vacation to focus on poetry, and an MFA short story writer polishing her submissions.

In preparation for the Fourth Writing Staycation, March 5-9, 2012, I asked some past participants to share their thoughts. Here’s what I heard back:

“The Writing Staycation at the Writer's Center in Bethesda was just what my writing partner and I needed to finish our novel, after almost six years of on-and-off work on it. Having the space, and a concentrated period of time to focus, was invaluable in terms of enabling us to work on our book, while the daily warm-up exercises and optional group discussions provided just the right amount of creative brainstorming and helpful advice we needed to keep us motivated.”
--Penelope B.

“The Staycation gave me the impetus to focus and write in a disciplined fashion. I was able to write the first two chapters of my novel, as well as benefit and learn from Zahara's knowledge, tips and exercises - the guest speakers (and snacks!) were also great!”
--Laura E.

“The Writing Staycation provided me with the time and space to focus entirely upon finishing a novel with my writing partner. It is worth investing in the time spent with other writers as the feeling of community and support is not easily captured elsewhere. Take the leap and you will be happy you did it!”
--Cherie S.

“The Staycation met my expectations for uninterrupted time to write in the company of other writers. I also met my goal to have my novelette ready for submission. I now have a clearer idea of the path ahead for this work. The supportive environment you provided at the Writer's Center was key.”
--Frank R.

Please consider joining us for the next Writing Staycation, and joining this rich community of writers.


Zahara Heckscher, M.A., is the co-author of the book How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas. She has also written numerous articles that have appeared in books and the online travel magazine, where she serves as contributing editor. Heckscher teaches professional writing at University of Maryland at College Park. She is a breast cancer survivor who prefers to be known as a "cancer thriver." She blogs at

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Poetry Inspired Dance at The Kennedy Center

Poetry Inspired Dance at The Kennedy Center

This week at the Kennedy Center, the Mark Morris Dance Group will be performing the famous L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, which was inspired by a number of disciplines: Blake’s prints, Milton’s poetry, and Handel’s music.

In anticipation of these performances, the Kennedy Center is hosting a “tweet conversation” this Thursday, January 26, from 10-4 PM in which different artists can answer the question: “what great art has inspired you to create your own art?” Mark Morris Dance Group dancers will be “in the room,” as well as special guest artists from CUDC, Dance Exchange, and the Pinkline Project.

The hashtag to follow and join the conversation: #allINSPIREall

For more information on the event, please click here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Writer's Center and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence

The Writer's Center Provides Program Support To National Endowment for the Arts' Operation Homecoming Writing Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Expressive writing will be part of healing protocol for returning troops

“Trauma comes through the senses, and art can heal through the senses,” said an audience member at the recent National Summit: Arts in Healing for Warriors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

For the first time, the National Endowment for the Arts’ critically acclaimed Operation Homecoming writing program will take place in a clinical setting as part of a formal medical protocol to help heal service members at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The NICoE is a new facility that provides an interdisciplinary team assessment in a holistic, patient- and family-centered environment, and is dedicated to providing care to service members and their families dealing with the signature wounds from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars: Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Psychological Health (PH) conditions.

Over a year-long pilot phase, Operation Homecoming at the NICoE will consist of two elements: an expressive writing workshop for troops as part of their clinical rehabilitation, and a more informal four-week creative writing and storytelling series for service members and their families at the Fisher House, the residence for families and patients at Walter Reed. These creative writing sessions will be led by writers with military experience or previous experience working with the military community. After the pilot phase, Operation Homecoming at the NICoE will be evaluated for possible replication at other rehabilitation centers around the country.

Operation Homecoming is a landmark partnership between the NEA and the Department of Defense. The program is being conducted with programmatic support from The Writer’s Center. Operation Homecoming has been sponsored by a partnership with NEA and The Boeing Company since its inception in 2004. The Boeing Company will support Operation Homecoming programs at Fisher House.

“The National Endowment for the Arts is honored to partner with the Department of Defense to incorporate Operation Homecoming creative writing workshops into sessions with patients and families at this state-of-the-art healing center,” said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. “There are strong indications that expressive writing and other forms of arts engagement can play an important role in improving the health and well-being of service men and women. Now it’s our duty to test and advance those practices that prove to be most effective, and a world class treatment and research institute like the NICoE is exactly the place to do just that.”
“Art makes a difference in the quality of life for our wounded warriors and those around them,” said Rear Admiral Alton L. Stocks, Commander of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “Operation Homecoming will be a welcome addition to NICoE’s innovative treatments for returning troops and a positive expressive outlet for their families.”

Operation Homecoming writing workshops will be integrated into the NICoE’s groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approach to working with patients and their families. This holistic approach ranges from physical and neurological exams, to family evaluation, nutrition, alternative medicine, and art therapy. The NICoE’s Healing Arts program uses art therapies such as visual arts, mask making, and other art forms to give troops a creative outlet for their experiences.

Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience was created in 2004 by the NEA to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. Between 2004 and 2009, Operation Homecoming conducted more than 60 writing workshops for troops and veterans at military installations, writers centers, and military medical centers. A global call for submissions from troops and families resulted in an anthology and an archive housed at the Library of Congress. The program produced educational resources on creative writing, and inspired two award-winning documentaries.

For more information, visit

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at

About The Writer’s Center

The Writer's Center cultivates the creation, publication, presentation, and dissemination of literary work. We are an independent literary organization with a global reach, rooted in a dynamic community of writers. As one of the premier centers of our kind in the country, we believe the craft of writing is open to people of all backgrounds and ages. Writing is interdisciplinary and unique among the arts for its ability to touch on all aspects of the human experience. It enriches our lives and opens doors to knowledge and understanding. Visit our Web site at The Writer's Center is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Cafritz Foundation, The Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Writer's Center gratefully acknowledges assistance received from the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington's Business Volunteers for the Arts Program.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Food Writing 101

Starting March 6, food writer Nevin Martell will lead Food Writing 101. Martel talks about the upcoming workshop on his blog, which also features some great pieces on food and culture.

I recommend that anyone interested in this workshop should visit his blog to read more about it, and then register early for the workshop.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

BUP Announces Writing Contests

BUP Announces Writing Contests

The Bethesda Urban Partnership & Bethesda Magazine have partnered to host the below contests. All winners will be published on the Bethesda Urban Partnership and Bethesda Magazine websites and honored at a special event during the Bethesda Literary Festival.

Essay Contest
Submit Your Essay Here.

Adult & Young Adult Essay Topic: Who or what has influenced, motivated or inspired you and how has it shaped your outlook on life?

Eligibility: Residents of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia are eligible. The contest will take entries in two categories: Young Adult (grades 9-12) and Adult (ages 18+ and finished with high school).

Adult: Youth:
First Place: $500 and published in Bethesda Magazine First Place: $250
Second Place: $250 Second Place: $150
Third Place: $150 Third Place: $50
Honorable Mention: $75

Questions? Email

Short Story Contest

Adult & Young Adult Short Story: Open

More information:

Poetry Contest
Submit Your Poem Here.

First place: $500, published on The Writer's Center's "First Person Plural" blog, and a free class and membership to The Writer's Center.
Second Place: $250
Third Place: $150

Poems cannot be more than 21 lines of text. Do not double space your entry. Only one entry per
person. Your poem must be your original work. Any poems containing material that is obscene or
objectionable will be disqualified.

Eligibility: Open to residents of Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. who are 18 or older at the time of the entry deadline.

Questions? Email