Morris Township workshops by Ellen Schmidt tease out the inner writer in us all

ellen schmidt
Ellen Schmidt

By Geri Silk

When asked on a dare to write a six-word story, the novelist Ernest Hemingway quipped, “Baby shoes for sale. Never Used.”

That was just one of the provocative prompts served up at a Creative Writing workshop by Ellen Schmidt at the Unitarian Fellowship of Morristown on March 19.

Entitled The Writing Room–Connecting Creatively with Yourself and Others, the seminar attracted 22 participants to hear Ellen, back by popular demand for the third year. She specializes in bringing out the best in beginners while inspiring seasoned writers to even higher levels of written communication.

ellen schmidt
Ellen Schmidt

She offered six exercises during the five -hour workshop. The prompts–or inspirations for writings–ranged from fantasy situations, (If I were to do this, what would be the consequences?) to six-word stories.

After every written exercise, participants read their writings out loud to everyone in the writers’ circle.

When the theme “kitchen table” was introduced, writers wove  revelations about their lives and ancestors from favorite foods and cherished  family memories and rituals.

Ellen Schmidt is no ordinary writing coach–she  is a powerful listener who  offers uncannily specific  and supportive comments after every writer reads. Ellen, who comes from Ithaca, NY, and occasionally teaches students at Cornell, calls her work  “Writing through the Rough Spots.”

Although  she teaches “therapeutic writing,”  she is clear that she isn’t a therapist. She is a remarkably gifted alchemist, who has become interested in the “midwifery of writing.”

“The narrative of others intrigue me,” she said. “We know so little of others until we hear the stories in their lives.”

From this celebration of the written word, burgeoning writers learn humanely empathic skills, and stretch their muscles of creativity and observation. They also came away with notebooks full of ideas for further writing explorations.

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Geri Silk of Morris Plains is a creative artist who likes to write poems that sometimes rhyme, but not all the time

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