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"Invitation to New Life: An American Sonnet," two-stage writing process discussed in workshops for writers and teachers

Updated on November 25, 2013

Two Workshops for Aspiring Writers and Teachers

Workshop A: Writing Communicates in a Social Context
(Tuesday, July 16, rev. July 23 and Sept. 16, 2013)

A1. The ideally perfect work of art, so earnestly desired by every serious artisan, does not require, nor can it greatly benefit from, any long discussion of the how, when, where, or why it was written.

A2. A faultless, totally self-sufficient artifact would contain within itself everything required to communicate its meaning, and indeed, to convey its full essence as a work of art.

A3. One may not, however, push aside so easily those students who hang out at a writing workshop class industriously hoping to improve their understanding and practice of all aspects of the writing process.

A4. Teachers there, as elsewhere, must earn their tuition, and they may never assume it by presenting no more than particularly faultless specimens of recognized literature, as for example, a poem bequeathed to us by Shakespeare, Yeats, or say, Wallace Stevens.

A5. But that point precisely serves up our lesson for today: all writing communicates in a social context, even if we write to imaginary or unknown friends, or think we write only to or for ourselves.

A6. As writers aspiring to excellence, we measure every new page we write, and indeed, every line, alongside standards of excellence established by the best writers of the past who in and through their work designed and developed for us this wonderfully comprehensive English language the whole world enjoys along with us today.

A7. But striving for beautiful works of art is not enough, for we must eventually face the acid test: we must pass our pages around to our fellow writers and other friends to see how good a job we did, or did not do, in trying to communicate what we had to say.

A8. Whether in private for public places, our readers monopolize the processes of assessment and criticism, and thus they, whether now or in centuries to come, will serve us as the final arbiters of our literary success.

A9. On Saturday, July 13, 2013, I wrote an American Sonnet to convey in fourteen sonnet lines something I thought was important for me to say, and I tried in that sonnet to say everything one would need to read to understand it, but now you, the reader, can help me be the judge of that.

A10. I hope you like the poem, just as I hope it conveys the message that many places in the world always have enough room for another serious student searching for new life.

An Invitation to New Life

An American Sonnet

To people in despair and deep frustration

divinely guided to a new location

to learn the skills of personal creation

enabling them to find their true vocation:

we offer neither momentary pleasure

nor crazy new sensations without measure,

but only room to gain relentless education

providing all the necessary preparation

to overcome debilitating hesitation,

to find a true self in a true heart beating,

to strengthen both true legs for true competing,

and grow true wings to fly with eagles meeting.

A person can, with help, reject the stark displeasure

and turn a painful life into a lasting treasure.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Workshop B: Every Writer Needs an Editor
(Tuesday, July 23, rev. to Tues., Sept. 17, 2013)

B1. All writing requires editing -- the second thoughts, the detail you misses, the more balanced perspective.

B2. The activities of detailed reading, judicious assessment, and then expression of informed personal opinion, not only challenge us in all our workshops, but they thrive, I should think, at the center of any civilized mind.

B3. Having served many years as a professional editor, I rarely follow my own advice to let my original work sit without revision in the noonday sun for a while to see whether it has any lasting merit, or will merely spoil in high-exposure heat the stink up the place.

B4. Continuing reflection on "An Invitation to New Life," and on my own standards, found several of the original fourteen lines could use further explication, so I explicated them; and then I explicated the rest of them.

B5. Some early private readers, however, semed adamantly still to prefer the originally published, but more sparsely worded version (and I did not dislike it), so I thought, why not present them both, not just to other writers on my Internet platform HubPages, but also in an 8-page printed booklet, to illustrate graphically some editorial techniques and other fluid aspects of my particular concept of an "American sonnet."

B6. For more detail about the American sonnet, you may refer to the introductory workshop available on HubPages, "What is an American Sonnet? Workshop essay with a new sonnet, 'A Man Without a Happy Wife He Loves'" (first written May 4, 2011).

B7. While all my workshops are designed with special concern for anyone enmeshed in the painful processes of seeking a "new life," let no one think we scorn or discount what many others do toward that same end.

B8. One could, for instance, assume that each one of the 450,000 or so churches and other religious, philosophical, and humanitarian groups in America gives special attention to such people. (If not, it might be useful to ask, "To what are you giving special attention?")

B9. Finally, dear reader, please help me out: Which one of these two sonnets do you like best, and why? The more traditional sonnet with shorter lines mosty in iambic pentameter with feminine endings, or the second one with more detail in longer lines?

B10. You will win a special place in my heart by reading and deciding, then sending to me, your comments.

Invitation to New Life

An American Sonnet

To people barely living in despair and deep frustration

who find themselves divinely guided to a new location

in hope of learning basic skills of personal creation

that finally enable them to find their true vocation:

we offer neither momentary tranquilizing pleasure

nor crazy new ideas or sensations without measure,

but only modest room to gain relentless education

providing access to the necessary preparation

for overcoming the debilitating hesitation,

to find a vibrant true self deep within a true heart beating,

to strengthen and embolden both true legs for true competing,

and grow true wings to fly into the sky with eagles meeting.

The saddest person can, with help, reject the stark displeasure

and turn a painful troubled life into a lasting treasure.

Revised to July 23, 2013


Copyright (c) 2013 by The Max Havlick School, 16 W. Vermont St., Villa Park, IL 60181-1938, all rights reserved.


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    • Max Havlick profile imageAUTHOR

      Max Havlick 

      5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      Thank you Agent 99, for visiting my work and finding something of value. And take your time. For responsive readers, I am a very patient man.


    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. Sorry it took me so long to find you.

    • Max Havlick profile imageAUTHOR

      Max Havlick 

      5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      And thanks to you, jhamman, for your generous comment. I will be looking at some of your writings soon. The best to you.

    • jhamann profile image

      Jamie Lee Hamann 

      5 years ago from Reno NV

      A very well written sonnet with a great introduction. Thank you. Jamie

    • Max Havlick profile imageAUTHOR

      Max Havlick 

      5 years ago from Villa Park, Illinois

      Thank you, FitnezzJim, first for being a reader -- I am far from being the most popular writer around -- but mostly for your insightful comment which shares, no doubt, some wisdom gained from your own experience. Continued best wishes to you.

    • FitnezzJim profile image


      5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      The best knowledge is what we earn for ourselves.

      Well written, and obviously, from the voice of experience.


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