Alameda Bookshelf: Laurie Wagner, 27 Powers

Alameda Bookshelf: Laurie Wagner, 27 Powers

Kristen Hanlon

Photo by Kristen Hanlon.

Nestled at the end of a mid-Island cul-de-sac is 27 Powers Court. Behind the gate lies a leafy, overgrown yard with mature trees and flowering shrubs. On the left is a low-slung Craftsman, brown and green, with a giant metal sun above the front door. Inside, the living room walls are a deep red, and a comfy arrangement of chairs sit by the fireplace.

“When people walk through the gates, they forget where they’ve been, forget where they are. It’s a kind of magic fairyland, overgrown and wooded; it’s a great place to write and let go and learn,” exults Laurie Wagner, founder of 27 Powers. The author of seven books, among them Living Happily Ever After: Couples Talk about Long Term Love and Expectations: Women Talk about Becoming a Mother, Wagner has taught writing workshops out of her home for the better part of two decades while raising two daughters.

At the heart of 27 Powers are the Wild Writing workshops, which she has been teaching for 15 years. She keeps the classes small - no more than nine women per class, Wagner said.

“Wild writing is automatic writing - the pen never leaves the page, you write as fast as you can for 15 minutes. I use poetry for the prompt - I read the poem and then we write," she said. "The idea behind it is that when you’re writing really quickly, you’re bypassing your intelligence, your ego, your inner editor - all the parts of you that want to look good. We spend so much of our time trying to look good and we need a break from that. Writing fast opens the faucet; the editing comes later.

“Wild Writing is a healing class camouflaged as a writing class," she added. "What happens when you write as quickly as you can is that you get out of your own way and tap into your unconscious, and instead of trying to find the ‘best’ word you find the right word.”

Wagner also hosts a Traveling Writers series, which brings writers of national renown to Alameda for day-long and weekend classes. Participants generate new work and get one-on-one feedback on existing work. Among the writers who have done workshops at 27 Powers are Dorianne Laux, Tony Hoagland, Marie Howe, Ellen Bass and Stephen Dunn. “I don’t teach poetry, but I like having poets come here because what we learn from poets is the economy of language and the beauty of it,” Wagner said. The classes are small, typically 15-20 people.

“About five years ago I felt like I’d run out of ideas for teaching,” Wagner says of her inspiration for the idea of bringing writers to Alameda. “I thought, ‘If I could do anything, I’d travel around the country and take workshops with different teachers.’" But Wagner couldn’t afford to travel, nor did she have the time. Instead, she decided to bring writers here, and set about drafting a wish list of narrative poets she wanted to study with. To her surprise, they all said yes, and the visiting writers series was born.

Recently, she has expanded the series beyond poets to include nonfiction writers and dramatists. Her next visitor, the writer, performer, and teacher Ann Randolph, will be at 27 Powers in mid-June.

Wagner also works with writers one-on-one as a writing coach, editing work, providing suggestions, and setting deadlines. Her e-courses are for those who can’t travel to Alameda or can’t find time to fit a traditional class into their lifestyle. One of these courses is called Telling True Stories.

“When we tell the truth on the page, we align ourselves with the truth in us," she said. "It doesn’t just turn out to be pretty good writing - it can change your whole life.”

Laurie Wagner’s website, 27 Powers, is at http://www.27powers.org/.

Comments

Submitted by pacary13 on Wed, Jun 12, 2013

I lived at 27 Powers Ct. for a year back in the 90s. It is truly a magical place. My roommates, friends and I (all adults, mind you) were often inspired to play hide 'n seek on warm summer nights there - it's that kind of place. BBQs, art, late night talks in the lovely kitchen, lazy days reading on the front porch, the smell of the lush gardens & trees - the spirit of such an inspiring space touches everyone who visits there. As a writer, I hope to attend a workshop in the near future to recapture the special spark of 27 Powers Ct.

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