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  • Kathryn Dodson

The Beginning of the Story

Updated: Sep 12, 2018


Poetry was my gateway drug to novel writing. During a challenging time in my life, poetry became an outlet for working through my feelings (AKA cussing someone out using beautiful language). I enjoyed writing in a way I hadn't since I was a child.


I found a wonderful online poetry workshop through Coursera. Coursera is an online learning platform with a huge variety of courses created by leading educational institutions. The poetry workshop was created by the California Institute of the Arts, and is taught by one of the great poets of our day, Douglas Kearney. Also, it was only $49, which I thought was a steal.


The poetry workshop was a great experience. There were videos, readings and peer graded assignments. The assignments expanded the style of my writing, and as I wrote more, I found a real sense of purpose and joy in writing. I decided to write every day and used a prompt book for a month or so to help me achieve this.


I reached a point where I wanted to improve my writing. I found another Coursera offering, this one a multi-course, creative writing specialization created by Wesleyan University. Within the specialization there are four "craft" courses covering plot, character, setting and description and style plus a capstone course. The courses are taught by different professors from Wesleyan's creative writing department, and they include video lectures, readings, interviews with authors and peer graded assignments. It took me over six months to complete the specialization and I learned an enormous amount.


In the midst of learning more about writing, the 2016 elections happened. Now, instead of just wrestling with my own emotions through writing, I was trying to make sense of a political shift that seemed to reverberate around the globe. I wrote more and more.


Before I knew it, I was writing a novel. My book club friends mentioned how hard it was to talk with friends and family who voted differently from them in the presidential election. I avoided these conversations in my own family. Somehow I thought that if I wrote about it, about two family members who had been close but found themselves torn apart by the political divide, I could figure out the key to reconnecting. While there were no easy answers, this creative journey became my first novel.


As I finished the first novel, I imagined a second. So, I started writing again and recently finished the first draft of my second novel. Next week revisions begin, while my original novel is undergoing a review by a professional.


I started my writing journey with such small steps. Something made me angry and hurt, so I wrote a poem. I wanted to learn a little more, so I took a course. Step by step, I uncovered a font of creativity that is driving me forward into a more fulfilling life.


Two years into this journey I have found even more ways to learn about the craft and the business of writing which I will share in an upcoming post. To have that and future posts delivered to your inbox, sign up below.