Purple pros

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December arrives, and thereby the onset of my discontented literary winter approacheth. Well, not “discontented” so much as “lacking content,” verily. Lacking inspiration, space wherein to work, and desperately needful of coaching and critique: What is a would-be writer to do, good sir? Very long, my supply of Browning and Milton will last not.—O. Veritten

Excuse the preposition at the end of this sentence, O., but Ace is pretty sure he knows what you’re getting at.

It’s hard to dispute Charlottesville’s status as an active hub of American literature, both past and present. Faulkner and Poe lived here, as John Grisham, Rita Dove, Deborah Eisenberg and innumerable other literary hard-hitters do now. Charlottesville has hosted the Virginia Festival of the Book since 1995, and the University of Virginia can brag about its consistently top-ranking English literature, MFA fiction and poetry programs.

Still, it isn’t uncommon that struggling young scribes will feel adrift in this town, or that they lack access to the structure and resources with which to develop their craft. There are a variety of independently run workshops around town, pockets of sincere, likeminded writers who are lucky enough to know each other. If you can’t find your way into one of those, you might try starting your own.

But if you’re still at a loss for where to start, look no further than WriterHouse, Inc. The nonprofit organization, having evolved out of three years of weekly coffee shop meet-ups, established itself in 2008 with a dedicated writing space on the first floor of 508 Dale Ave. Since then, writers of various ages, types and skill levels have been using the space to work and interact.

You’ll need a membership to reserve space, benefits of which include discounts for public writing classes and workshops, admission to members-only events, and your own blog on the WriterHouse server. Classes and seminars typically run on a quarterly basis, with recent examples being “Creative Nonfiction: The Art of Telling the Truth”, “Essentials of Mystery Writing”, and an upcoming seminar on the “Spiritual Essay” this Saturday, December 5. Keep your eyes peeled for the Winter 2010 class session, which begins the week of January 18 and runs through the middle of March. With classes on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, playwriting, teen writing and more, you’d be hard-pressed not to find the feedback you’re looking for.

That is, unless Chaucerian fan fiction is your game. Because then you might be better off weathering that winter alone.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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