Useful Writing Advice from Ann Bauer

By Gloria Williams Tran

“Make Your Story Matter” was the topic of the two-session workshop that author Ann Bauer presented at the Fayetteville Public Library on January 23 and 30. The participants ranged in age from twenty-somethings to retirees and included both genders. Bauer commented that it was unusual to have such a variety of attendees at her writing workshops. A Minnesota native, Bauer and her husband live part-time in Fayetteville, mainly in the winter months to escape the harsh northern weather.

A key element of her workshop was reading and discussing short examples of memoir writing. The class examined six short pieces from various publications that ranged in content from death-bed reflections to childhood memories. Bauer encouraged the participants to create a story web which is a graphic organizer used for generating ideas. As an example, she plotted on a white board the story web for “The Fourth State of Matter” by Jo Ann Beard (The New Yorker, June 24 and July 1, 1996). From the central circle of the core idea of the story, she diagrammed thirteen connecting circles of plot points.

Another important aspect of the presentation was her handout, “The Basic Writing Bootcamp Rules”. Bauer’s basic six rules for successful writing are the following:

  • Choose a writing time and stick to it
  • Develop rituals
  • Turn off all public interface
  • Stop talking out your book
  • Move on when something isn’t working
  • Write like Hemingway (Stop at a point where you know what is going to happen next.)

In the four-page handout, Bauer also listed the triple barriers to writing: too little time, too much time, and not enough material. In addition, she provided ten writing exercises and prompts.

For the final two-hour session, Bauer instructed aspiring authors to write three pages to bring to class. At that session, the group split up into three tables. The persons at each table distributed their stories to one another to be read and critiqued. After approximately forty minutes, Bauer brought the class back together for final questions. Her parting advice was “Editing is everything.” She encouraged the writers to avoid clichés, adverbs, and too many adjectives.

As one of the participants, I found this memoir workshop to be both informative and inspiring. Ann Bauer gave many examples of books and authors to read. She was encouraging in her critiques and comments. Her “Basic Writing Bootcamp Rules” were spot-on. As a published author, Bauer is a competent workshop leader. If she offers any more classes locally, I plan to sign up.

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