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Writing Life workshop

Local writer holds workshops at the Pajama Factory

October 2, 2011
By A.M. WERTZ ( , Williamsport Sun-Gazette

There comes a point in every person's life when he or she no longer wants to make money under someone else's rule. Most people don't react to that calling, but one local writer, April Line, decided to write her own rules. After all, writing is what she does best.

The Carlisle native started April Line Writing last April and regularly writes for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and the Williamsport Guardian.

The business includes writing, editing, teaching and tutoring.

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"I edit romance novels and have co-founded a consultancy with some of my romance novelist friends called Revisioning Romances," Line said. "I'm working - as nonpaid side projects - on some short fiction and a novel. I'm also looking for markets for tweaked and expanded versions of my journalism projects. I've got a couple of them in mind."

Although Line's self-employment is relatively new, she's been doing writing and editing work professionally for about three years, including tutoring and academic writing support since 2003 and editing for much longer.

"I've always been a writer - it's not really a choice for me," Line said. "I remember being really excited to learn the physical act of writing and I started trying to put stories together ... at age 8. I've journaled my whole life and wrote fiction extensively in college, applied to MFA programs when my daughter was an infant, got into three, started at Pitt and didn't finish mostly for financial but for logistical reasons, too."

Things didn't happen quite so quickly, however. When Line was 20, she moved to New Haven, Conn. Because she did most of her "growing up" there, she considers those six years to have formed the woman she has become.

"I really formed my sense of self, developed as a writer, became confident in my quirkiness, went to college, learned to live through bad decisions, had my first adult crisis with no parents nearby to help me through, made a baby, lived in poverty," she said.

She also earned a bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in creative writing from Southern Connecticut State University, where she was awarded a full tuition scholarship to study in its Honors College.

It was then that she moved to Pittsburgh to study at the University of Pittsburgh, where she remained for a year before returning to Carlisle for three years.

In 2010, she moved to Williamsport to live with her domestic partner, whom she met through the Internet in 2008. She credits his support for the reason she has been able to pursue her freedom to write.

That's not to say that the road was without discouragement, though. After sending five stories to about seven magazines and getting one piece published in Sou'Wester in 2006, a literary journal out of Southern University of Illinois at Edwardsville, she decided to try her hand at sales jobs. One night, however, she had a "eureka" moment.

"I was like, 'what are you doing, April?' I'd been writing for the Sun-Gazette's Arts and Nightlife sections for several months, freelancing as a romance novel editor for three years and had made contact with a number of other sources of work and I thought to myself, 'you can keep doing this stupid retail sales job and making yourself and your lovely domestic partner and your kid totally miserable, or you can go home, work for yourself, be financially stretched for a while, but build a business and be a ton happier, be living your dream, and get back to the writing life.' Which is what I've done, and at this point, I'm so pleased with my life that I'm just not going to let it fail."

Line also has submitted work to magazines like Ms., Bust, Working Mother, and other markets she picks up in Writer's Digest and Sunbury's newspaper, the Daily Item and its quarterly magazine, Susquehanna Life.

She began offering local writing workshops not only for additional income but also because she said she feels more fortified as a writer by teaching writing than as a proofreader and copy editor. Teaching, she said, is more in line with her long-term goals than editing, although the latter provides more accessible work.

She will be starting a Writing Life workshop, which will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. each Thursday from Oct. 20 to Nov. 22. Each session will begin with a free write about a particular word, image or scenario for about 10 minutes, followed by a discussion about the reading for the week, such as a short story, poem, essay or excerpt, for about 10 minutes to a half-hour. A schedule for the course of the workshop is designed at the first meeting so that students can prepare for the reading.

"I don't choose all the readings before the class starts, though, because I like to choose them based on what the students in the class are working on, Line said. "For instance, in the present workshop I have a guy who's writing a how-to book, so we're looking at a chapter from a how-to book not in his field. If I'm going to describe the curriculum in a nutshell, it's about the process of writing and about how to keep going if you get stuck. It's about encouraging and learning from one another as writers and as people."

Another workshop, College Admission Essay, will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 to Nov. 23, and will be a bit more structured in terms of exercises and curriculum. Line said there will be slightly less time critiquing because the work will be generally shorter and since the objective is turning out a college essay, the process and product is more easily defined.

Each session will consist of a prompt aimed at helping students examine their lives, recalling forgotten memories, vividly describing scenes and emotions and helping them locate an original idea for a college essay.

Line plans to study the personal narrative from all different segments of life, like those from Isabel Gills, David Sedaris and Susan Jane Gilman, but also essays by Joan Didion and James Baldwin, as well.

"I'll get some examples of standout college essays from the intern that we'll look at to figure out how it's done by people who have done it successfully," she said.

What's most important during the classes, according to Line, is that they are welcoming and judgment free.

"We talk right away at the first meeting about workshop ethics and during a critique session, always leading with what's working and using careful and constructive language to talk about what's not. I do not tolerate meanness," Line said. "One of the things I love about writing is the power it wields. This power is a massive responsibility for a writer and we need to learn to wield it carefully, but also to deal with the consequences of deeper thinking, of potentially putting someone off, or exercising or conquering our own demons. I want any person from any background to feel comfortable in my workshops, so speaking freely and considering and respecting the views, feelings, decisions, lives, choices of other people is essential. I want people to feel free to write and to speak without fear of judgment. One of the byproducts or hazards of the freewrite, of embracing the kind of self-examination that writers must do, is that sometimes startling things come out. We need to learn from these things, not be afraid of them or discard them because we disagree with them."

The six-week, weekly sessions are 90 minutes each and take place at the Pajama Factory, 1307 Park Ave. The cost of each session is $30. The cost of the whole workshop is $150. Registration is encouraged, however, walk-ins also are welcome. Class size is limited to 15 students.

For more information, call 412-977-4640, email AprilLineWriting@ or visit



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