Outside Experience

The Rainier Writing Workshop’s “Outside Experience” offers participants a unique opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience in a challenging aspect of the writing life.  In his or her second year in the program, each participant engages in an independent project that is custom-designed to enhance the participant’s regular course of study in the program.

The project is flexibly designed to meet a variety of objectives:  students can attend conferences, workshops or residencies to strengthen their writing skills and/or practice; they can explore broader aspects of the writing life, such as publishing internships or teaching opportunities; they can immerse themselves in research for a specific writing project; they can contribute to the cultural and literary life of their own communities. Each participant designs his or her experience with the support and oversight of the Outside Experience coordinator.

Here’s a sample of what some RWW students have done for their Outside Experiences:

 “The most important thing I gained from the residency was much greater confidence as a writer…. I also came home committed to creating dedicated writing time and space and seeking creative community.”

Attended writing residencies or conferences at The Vermont Studio Center, The Anderson Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Centrum, Fishtrap, Kachemak Bay Writers Conference, Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, Canto Mundo Latino Writers’ Retreat, Kiskey Libra Artist Residency, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar, Scholars-in-Residence Program at the C.S. Lewis Study Centre in England, among others.

Traveled abroad including Ireland, Germany, England, France, Laos, Bali, Hawaii, Nicaragua, Mexico, Antarctica, Korea, the Dominican Republic, Guam and Costa Rica, among others. These travels involved research and interviews for novels, memoirs, and poetry sequences; some students participated in immersion programs in language-acquisition for translating or other specific research that would benefit their thesis.

Led local writing workshops in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction; designed courses for the Attic Institute; developed creative writing courses at the college and high school levels; worked as Writers in the Schools; taught writing in a prison in Mexico; taught writing to at-risk youth. Others supported literacy/literary events in their communities: founded local reading/open mic series; curated a reading series; organized a Latino Literary Festival; served on the organizing committee of a city-wide book fair, among others.

Additional projects include internships with national and regional presses; edited anthologies; collaborations with artists for multi-media projects; participated in the Jack Straw Writers’ Program; wrote for radio or magazines.   Other students worked with Nisqually tribal elders to record their history; did a sixteen-day solo wilderness retreat; conducted research on brown bears in Katmai National Monument, rode the Trans-Siberian railroad; walked the Camino del Santiago, studied the journals of explorer Alexander von Humboldt in Costa Rica; traced the settings of novelist Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, among others.

The Rainier Writing Workshop has special affiliations with The Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, and The Anderson Center in Red Wing, Minnesota. The program can arrange residencies at these centers for interested participants. Through the Deborah Tall Scholarship Fund, the program also occasionally provides partial funding for participants who might have substantial costs associated with their Outside Experiences.

For more examples, see the Outside Experience Archives on Soundings.