|After months of inputting the Ann Arbor District Library’s Emerging Writers Series events onto our website’s events calendar, my curiosity was piqued by the depth and breadth of topics covered in these bi-monthly events. I was recently fortunate to connect with Alex Kourvo and Bethany Neal, the organizers of this dynamic series, to learn a little more about their work.|
Rachel Pastiva: How long has the Emerging Writers Series been going on through the library, and who created it? How long have you been organizers of the series and how did you get involved?
Alex Kourvo and Bethany Neal: This was an idea the Ann Arbor District Library came up with. Patrons had been asking for workshops for writers, so the library recruited Alex and another writer to run a total of six workshops. That was in 2014. The workshops were so popular that they kept going! Bethany joined Alex in 2016 and we’ve been co-teaching ever since.
Rachel: How would you describe the series and workshop environment to someone who is curious about attending?
Alex & Bethany: We have two events a month. The first Monday of the month is a lecture. It’s kind of like a college class, with the teachers in front of the room and a PowerPoint on the screen. Each month we focus on one aspect of writing or publishing like character development, story structure or the differences between traditional publishing and indie publishing. We get very specific, give lots of examples, and give writers action steps–things they can apply to their own manuscripts.
The third Monday of the month, we have a casual Open House meet-up. Instead of rows, the tables are arranged in groups. Bethany and Alex are on hand to give advice, share resources, and offer support. We also read sample pages and give one-on-one help. It’s a chance for writers to ask specific questions and also meet their fellow Ann Arbor writers. Writing is a solitary business, so it’s good to get out and meet other people who are doing the same thing you’re doing.
Rachel: It’s great to see that the series is open to grade six through adults. Do you find that many students attend the workshops?
Alex & Bethany: We see a handful of students. Some come with their parents, some come for extra credit for an English class, and some are just passionate about writing and aren’t intimidated by a room full of adults. We love to see young people excited about writing! But the vast majority of our attendees are adults, ranging from college age to retirement age.
Rachel: What has been the response to the workshops from the attendees?
Alex & Bethany: We have some people who have attended every single workshop since we first started in 2014. Others come and go, depending on their schedules. But some of the things we’ve heard are, “I’m so glad I found you because I don’t know any other writers,” and “I’ve learned so much here,” and “I read the books you recommended–they were so helpful.”
But our favorite thing to hear are the success stories. Attendees tell us about poems and short stories they’ve had published and how they landed their first literary agent. We love seeing authors thrive!
Alex Kourvo is an editor, a book blogger, and writer. She is the co-author of the Detroit Next series of science fiction novels as well as the author of numerous short stories. She has taught writing workshops in Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Colorado. Her greatest loves in life are coffee, key lime pie, and the color pink.
Bethany Neal writes young adult fiction with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. She graduated from Bowling Green State University and has worked as an interior designer, photographer, teacher’s assistant and figure skating coach. When she’s not writing she teaches writing workshops at the Ann Arbor Public Library. Her debut novel My Last Kiss was lauded as the movie Ghost meets Pretty Little Liars and has been translated internationally.