Lessons from the Rooster Killer

A reflection on Rebecca Gayle Howell’s workshop during the Berea College’s Appalachian Symposium 2017.

“I walk into Rebecca Gayle Howell’s Multi-Genre Micro-Revision workshop unsure of what to expect. I am unfamiliar with Howell’s work other than a poem titled How to Kill a Rooster, but I knew that her name was one to respect and her workshop was one I should attend.

I grab a seat towards the back and tune in my ears as Howell discusses some of her latest work in translation. I consider the otherness of a foreign language and how I never have and most likely never will translate a work of literacy from one language to another. The only translations I’ve wrestled with are from mind to paper. Howell’s presence as she leads the workshop is all business. Her demeanor demands the room’s attention. The discussion moves from translation into sentence mechanics. Terms like paratactic, hypotactic, and interruptive syntax fly straight over my head as I think back to high school grammar with regret. At first the information seems overwhelming, but Howell doesn’t leave us in the dark. She provides examples and breaks down the works of authors. Writes who have mastered the tools she’s laid out before us. Suddenly the ambiguous grammatical terms become tangible.

Howell ends her workshop speaking on fluency in literature. She gives four final points of advice. Develop a wide reading practice, memorize works that you love, imitate writing you love, and practice scaling in your sentences. After these practical pieces of advice, that any writer should be thrilled to have added to their toolbox, Howell shares something else. She tells us that one of the greatest pieces of advice she’s ever received is to find out what writing you hate, then read it and learn from it. A piece of advice that shoots far beyond putting words on paper. If people would just listen to it.”

Article written by Richard Childers

To learn more about Rebecca Gayle Howell and her work visit http://www.rebeccagaylehowell.com/books.html