Continuing Education

On Location with Katherine Grace Bond

Throughout her life and professional career, CE writing instructor Katherine Grace Bond has explored her craft through myriad genres, from Children’s Literature to Young Adult fiction andImage beyond. Bond has not only become adept at testing her own limits as an artist, but at creating the opportunity for fellow writers to push their own boundaries as well. With her new class, Writing on Location Bond will invite students to literally escape the confines of their creative spaces and explore evocative places chosen to inspire and escort them beyond their comfort zones. We asked Bond to share some of her creative background and what students can look forward to in her class.

Q: Please tell us about your background in writing. What inspired your love of words and was there a particular moment or experience that confirmed writing was your calling?

A: In second grade I learned that there were people—like Beverly Cleary—whose job it was to write books! I had already decided to be a teacher like my mother, but then and there I decided to be an author as well.

I “published” my first piece of writing that same year—a poem, which was posted at the intersection of two hallways. I remember standing there after recess, gazing at it as the students flooded by. I was just sure one of them would stop and ask, “Is that your poem? Did you write that?” To which I would modestly confirm their suspicions of my greatness. Sadly, this did not happen, but that did not dampen my enthusiasm for words.

I got my first publishing contract in 1992—long after second grade. Since then, I’ve published around 200 short stories, articles and poems in magazines, journals and anthologies, as well as seven books. Though my background is mostly in traditional publishing, I’ve also forayed into self-publishing.

Q: As a writer and teacher, what have your students taught you about your craft?

A: Other than writing, my favorite thing is creating community. In class, every student brings so many gifts to the group: encouragement, wordplay, perseverance, humor, authenticity, lively characters, and yes, even pain. The community is not about the teacher alone; it is about all of us together. I come away from these classes inspired, enriched and more knowledgeable every time!

Q: What can a writer gain from exploring particular locations? How do environments inform story, texture or even character? Can you give us an example from your own experience as a writer?

A: Fifteen years ago I began taking writers “on location” in my Epicwrite program. It began with writing camps for children and teens in a local park, and then I tried it out with teachers in a wooded setting. Epicwrite evolved to include Live-Action Roleplay, costumes, and the great outdoors. (We even have an all-ages LARP and camping trip coming up in August) But Imageeven without costumes and acting, writers get a lot out of sitting quietly in an evocative location, indoors or out, and imagining themselves into a scene. I do this with adults at our Full-Bodied Writing Retreat in the summer.

The most exciting exploration I’ve done recently was a two-month research trip to France where I found the locations my heroine will be in my current work-in-progress, a time-travel novel. What a thrill it was to slip into the entryway of a building where—unbeknownst to the current residents—Edouard Manet once had a studio. It felt like I had time-traveled!

Q: What kinds of environments do you plan to share with students and how do you guide them through the location writing process?

A: The first thing I do is find out what everyone in the class is writing—I do this as soon as I have a registration list, if I can, so expect to hear from me before the start date. Or you can get in touch with me at author@katherinegracebond.com. I choose locations that can “translate” into the settings in people’s books. Places I’m considering—pending input from the class—are the Arboretum, Amazon’s new headquarters (including “The Spheres”), and a site in historic Seattle.

Once there, we will tour the area and then settle in to write. When you write on location, you “draw the setting around yourself,” taking in its sensory detail as if you were the character. Imagine the situation you are in: Are you trapped here? Visiting secretly? Do you own this place? Entering your story in this way is powerful. You discover things about the story and your character that you never would have otherwise.

Q: Harlan Ellison used to sit in the window of his favorite bookstore and write stories based on ideas given to him by passersby.  He wrote some of his most intriguing stories under these circumstances. Will you prompt writers in a similar way, or will the student’s exploration be entirely hinged on the space and place in which the writers find themselves?

A: I love this! I like to do a combination of these. Sometimes writers will take an object into the setting and decide what it means to their character. Sometimes I surprise you with a Imageprompt, secret message, or unusual circumstance to work into your scene. And sometimes you let location be your guide, creating whatever your story is calling you to create.

Q: What do you look forward to your students taking away from this class?

A: You will come away with a profound connection to not only your characters, but the world in which they live. After the Full-Bodied Writing Retreat, where we did this extensively, writers told me they made breakthroughs, which prompted a period of prolific creation. There’s nothing like being there!

Photo credits.
Photo #1: Courtesy of Katherine Grace Bond
Photo #2: Courtesty of Katherine Grace Bond
Photo #3: Carisa Trejo_cc_2.0

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