Since 2010, Hypertext Magazine has been an invaluable resource for the Chicago literary community. Now its founder, Christine Rice, is extrapolating the Hypertext empire through an exciting new workshop series.
The recently launched Hypertext Studio brings together extraordinary lecturers like Deb Lewis, Elizabeth Yokas and Jeff Jacobson with pupils looking to advance the quality of their writing. Read my interview with Rice below and be sure to visit Hypertext Studio for more information about this exciting new workshop series.
How did the idea of Hypertext Studio come to you?
As you know, the idea of writing workshops outside of a college or university setting isn’t a new one. There are about a dozen workshops or literary centers around the country including Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York, Grub Street in Boston, The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and StoryStudio here in Chicago.
For me, though, the idea to open a writing center came after a few discouraging years at Columbia College Chicago where I’m an adjunct faculty member. We’re seeing declining enrollment and many adjunct faculty — highly-trained, dedicated teachers and excellent writers in their own right – are being marginalized, losing classes, being denied stipends for initiatives they developed and ran for years.
Unlike many departments, our faculty members were required to attend 8 hours of professional development training each semester. And that lasted over two decades! That’s not a common practice for adjuncts but it was a practice that kept us engaged and fresh, helped us share approaches and swap ideas on how to deal with teaching dilemmas.
We had a great community and support system. John Schultz (who originated the Story Workshop Method®) and Randy Albers were my mentors at CCC. They really care about students. That’s what they passed on to me and to my colleagues.
So when things started changing and my friends started losing assignments, I felt incredibly demoralized. After I got over being pissed, I started to think of positive ways to respond. I started Hypertext Magazine in 2010 and thought, what the hell, I’ll start my own writing center, too. I mean, I ran CCC’s Writers at Lunch, the high school writers contest, edited the student anthology, and taught and developed Fiction Writing classes. Why not continue that on my own?
We just announced our High School Writers Contest and, in the spring we will offer high school creative writing classes, too.
What classes do you offer and how much do they cost?
Right now, we offer Science Fiction Writing with Richard Chwedyk on Mondays, Creative Nonfiction with Deb Lewis on Wednesdays, Fiction Forms & Methods with Elizabeth Yokas on Thursdays, and we might add a Short Story class on Tuesdays.
The classes cost from $500-$600 for 10 weeks. That also includes a one-hour individual conference to discuss each student’s work. If you break that down, with the individual student conference, that’ll cost you less than $20 per hour for a really amazing writing workshop experience.
Next spring we’ll be offering four-hour weekend workshops, too.
How did you find the lecturers for these workshops?
The teachers are people with whom I’ve worked for decades. They’re solid teachers, innovative writers, and care a great deal about their students and their students’ writing.
What is your favorite writing prompt?
WRITE. I’m having that tattooed on my forehead.
What do you want Hypertext Studio’s legacy to be in Chicago?
I know that starting up a new initiative won’t be easy but I’m tenacious and in it for the long haul. I know that the established writing workshops are out there, already doing well, but we have a world-renowned pedagogy that’s proven; our approach gives writers the tools to look at their work with a critical eye after they leave our workshops. Each of our teachers has more than a decade in the classroom…any teacher can tell you that experience matters. Attention to the student matters. You don’t want a teacher who could care less about your writing.
We ask students, ‘What’s taking your attention?’ and go from there to teach them to develop their voice, seeing-in-the-mind, story structure, movement, point-of-view. These are all things that writers do naturally but some do them better than others. We’re going to teach our students to identify what’s working on the page and what’s not working. Once they know that, they’re able to revise, rewrite, and get it published.
I want to be a small but important part of Chicago’s incredibly vibrant and innovative writing community. I want Hypertext Studio to be the literary center that’s around in 20 years, I want HS to be mentioned in the same breath with Gotham and Grub Street. I want writers to walk out of a workshop completely in love with the process of writing.