Reprinted in its entirety from the Amador Ledger Dispatch, cover story 1-13-09
Chasing The Moonlight
Award-winning writer to offer creative nonfiction workshop in Jacksonby Bethony Monk
It's where the palm tree meets the pine.
Sarah Luck Pearson, who recently moved to Jackson from "an island in Lake Superior," said Amador County has a great mix. For example, when she looks out the window from her home, which sits at 2,220 feet, she sees both a palm and pine trees.
This reminds her of the "incredible mixture of people here," she said. There are several long-time residents, but there are also a lot of newcomers.
Pearson, who moved to the county shortly before Thanksgiving, is a newcomer herself. The freelance writer and creative writing instructor moved to the area with her fiance for a change of scenery and also to live closer to her mother, who lives at Lake Tahoe.
When she moved here in November, Pearson began scoping out several possible locations to teach her creative nonfiction class. When she discovered Hein & Co. Bookstore, it occurred to her that "there would be no better place to write than in the presence of the history of literature."
Linda and Wolf Hein, who co-own the bookstore, have been nothing but encouraging of Pearson's quest to bring the writing workshop to the community. "They are great supporters of literature and have been for years," Pearson said of the husband and wife team.
Pearson will teach the 12-week creative nonfiction course beginning the week of Jan. 19. The course, for new and experienced writers, will be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at Hein and Co Bookstore. The day of the week will be determined based on iput from those who sign up for the course.
The creative nonfiction genre encompasses a wide variety of writing from personal essays, travel pieces, memoir, and literary journalism, according to Pearson's flyer about the course; the goal of the class is to complete one piece of nonfiction or a chapter of a book.
"This writing environment is safe, rigorous, and guaranteed to help you get stories out that will quickly surprise you in their depth and attention to craft," reads the flyer, posted at various locations throughout the county. "You eye and your voice will be honed by keen workshop critique and by exercises designed to help you locate personal material of power. Careful attention is also paid to toning your writing-routine muscles in order to build a long-term commitment to creative health."
Pearson emphasized that the course is open to writers of all backgrounds and abilities.
"I think a dialogue between different levels of experience is really helpful," she told the Ledger Dispatch. Students will also receive reading and homework assignments. In class, most of the time till be spent workshopping each other's writing.
When asked about certain authors who have influenced or inspired her, she quickly mentioned Isabel Allende. "She said, 'Open a vein and let it out,'" Pearson said in reference to Allende's metaphorical approach to writing. Pearson also enjoys the work of David Sedaris and Anne Lamott, who both write creative nonfiction.
Pearson has taught creative writing classes in several locations. In addition to an island in Lake Superior, she's lived and taught in such places as France and Los Angeles. She grew up in Mill Valley, she said, but hasn't lived in California since 2000. Pearson attended Redwood High School and The Cambridge School of Weston, Mass. After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, she pursued a master's degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California.
It was there that Pearson fell into creative nonfiction "on a lark," which led to an unsuspecting chain of events.
In 1996, she took a creative nonfiction class to fulfill her requirements for the graduate program. For five weeks, Pearson-- who was 28 at the time-- went undercover as a high school student at Hollywood High School to write an investigative piece exploring how "these schools are actually teaching our students-- a pop quiz, if you may for the school," she said.
The LA Weekly ran her story, "Hollywood High Confidential," on its front page on May 3, 1996. Soon after, Outlaw Productions optioned Pearson's story and was in the process of bringing it to the screen via Warner Brothers. Pearson, at that time, was writing the screenplay version of her story for Warner Brothers. The project died, however, after Pearson found out that Fox was in the process of bringing a similar story to the screen. After doing research, she filed a lawsuit against the agency she was using, Paradigm Agency, and two agents who also were representing the writers that had copied Pearson's undercover story. Pearson received a settlement from the agency, and in 2000, Fox released the movie, "Never Been Kissed." The movie, starring Drew Barrymore, is about a journalist who assumes the role of a high school student, attends a local high school, and writes about her experience.
Pearson, who received several honors for "Hollywood High Confidential"-- a Maggie Award for best feature west of the Mississippi and a Southern California Press Award for best feature-- is a freelance writer. She has been published in several national publications including Esquire and Elle.
Basically, with creative nonfiction, writers use the tools of fiction to tell a fact-based story, Pearson said. "I try to help writers learn how the heart of dramatic writing is learning to write a scene, which can replace pages and pages of explanation." Quoting Allen Ginsberg, Pearson said she encourages writers to "follow your inner moonlight... don't hide the madness."
"It's all about finding story pressure in the small vignettes in your life," she said.
For more information or to register, call (209) 296-2653.
"You're told time and time again when you're young to write about what you know, and what do you know better than your own secrets?" -Raymond Carver
Teaching Creative Nonfiction is marked by the ability of the teacher to forge bridges in the student—reality to narrative, theory to visceral rendering, the hunger of imagination to expand against the mandates of journalistic integrity, or 'truth-telling.' As an undergraduate, I traversed what was then the contested ground between Literature and Anthropology. As a graduate student, I explored truth-telling in Fiction while experimenting with subjective reporting in Journalism, quickly beginning my writing career at the LA Weekly in the bridged terrain of ‘witness narrative.’ I won national awards for my undercover work, writing from the first person and receiving death threats (adapted into the film “Never Been Kissed”), and I received national recognition for unearthing the exploits of the music industry with the narrative tools of investigative reporting which allowed a president of a major record label the freedom to ‘tell-all’ under the fiction of an alias. I have used video interviewing for text with national dance companies, and I have written screenplays for Warner Brothers and the Sundance Institute. I was editor-in-chief of The Southern California Anthology and am currently working on anthologizing workshop writers in Gold Rush Writers: Mining Your World For Story Gold.
For twenty years, I have worked with all levels of writers in nonfiction, fiction, screenwriting, journalism, and ESL (English-as-a-Second-Language Writers, helping to translate their craft into our tongue). As a teacher, I connected foreign nationals to the lexicon of American academia, I guided a Chilean into writing a novel in English that garnished awards, and recently, I urged a Minnesotan housewife through multiple drafts to a published piece in the Star Tribune. I see my job, primarily, as providing access between the immensity of experience and the written page. My experience is, finally, a bridge I hope I can offer to my students....
Country Home magazine, “Vashon Island feature,” May 2005.
The Rake magazine, cover story, “Madeline Island’s Inventive Windsled,” January, 2004.
The Rake magazine, “The Mall of American Churches,” December 2004.
Country Home magazine, “Liz Pierce Home feature,” December 2004.
The Rake magazine, cover story, “Little Strip Club on the Prairie: Your Money or Your Morality, Selling Sex in Rural Minnesota,” nominated for multiple awards including The Maggie Award, 2003.
The Star Tribune, travel story, “Hot Springs South Dakota,” 2003.
Spa magazine, travel story, “Destination Spas of South Dakota,” 2003.
Elle magazine, news on abroad, “The Extraordinary World,” 2003.
Elle magazine, 1 person feature, “Burning Man,” 2001.
Elle magazine, 1 person feature, “Bull Riding,” 2001.
Esquire magazine, multiple celebrity interviews, 2000.
LA Weekly newspaper, 3 part feature, “For the Record: The Life and Premature Death of Mary’s Danish,” “Inger Lorrie: Patron Saint,” “The Suit,” Award winning, 1999.
Mirabella magazine, feature profile, “Paloma Picasso,” 1999.
LA Weekly newspaper, news, “Ban on Smoking,” 1999.
Vibe magazine, feature expose, “Extortion in the Music Business,” 1999.
Teen People magazine, feature reporting, “Sexual Harassment of Teens,” 1999.
Jump magazine, feature, “Teen Drinking,” 1999.
Jump magazine, feature, “My Called Life: Aids,” 1999.
Self magazine, feature, “Yoga Guide,” award-winning, 1998.
Cosmopolitan magazine, celebrity profiles, 1998.
Warner Brothers Studio, screenplay, “Hollywood High Confidential,” 1996-1998.
LA Weekly newspaper, feature, “Hollywood High Confidential: A Reporter goes Undercover in the 12 Grade,” Award-winning, 1996.
Los Angeles Magazine, travel column, “Unbeaten Paths,” 1995-1996.
LA Weekly newspaper, news, “Dividing Lines: The O.J Verdict,” 1995.
LA Weekly newspaper, feature, “Living With La Clika: Sarah Luck Pearson on the Gangs Next Door,” 1994.
AWARDS AND HONORS:
newspapers and magazines west of the Mississippi, 1996.
Alternative Press Award, “Hollywood High Confidential,” LA Weekly, Best Feature, 1996.
The Southern California Press Award, “Hollywood High Confidential,” LA Weekly,
Best Feature in newspapers and magazines west of the Mississippi, 1996.
The Boston Manager’s Alliance Honor, conference called to address music industry expose,
“For the Record: The Life and Premature Death of Mary’s Danish,” 1999.
University of Southern California Professional Writing Program Award, chosen by graduate faculty to be Editor-in-Chief of The Southern California Anthology, USC literary journal, 1994-1995.
New York University Fellowship, Graduate French Studies, recognition for ethnography on
French village, 1991.
Sarah Lawrence College Annual Colloquium, “The End of History?”, only student
lecture chosen for address to Ivy League conference, 1990.
RADIO, TELEVISION, GUEST SPEAKER APPEARANCES:
KPFK radio, “Sam Brown’s For the Record,” 3 shows featured guest,
“The Suit: An Anonymous Record Executive Talks,” 1999.
LA Arts/LA Weekly Conference, “LA Music: The Music Industry,” featured
KCRW radio, “Warren Olney’s Which Way L.A.?,” guest, 1997.
KCET television, “Life and Times,” featured guest, “Hollywood High Condifential,”1996.
KPFK radio, “Sam Brown’s For the Record,” 4 shows featured guest, “Hollywood
High Confidential,” 1996.
Los Angeles Unified School District, “Short Changing Girls: Education and Gender,”
featured panelist, 1996.
KQED television, “Kids Talk on Divorce,” featured guest, 1985.
Sundance, feature film competition finalist, “A Leg On Both Sides,” 2003.
Warner Brothers, purchased script, “Hollywood High Confidential,” 1998.
Outlaw Productions, optioned article from LA Weekly and hired to write script, 1996-1998.
Paradigm Agency, Lucy Stille, agent, 1996-1999.
Bloom, Hergott, Cook, Diemer & Klein, attorney David Weber, 1996-present.
University of Southern California, M.A, Professional Writing, honors, 1994.
Sundance, editor of screenwriter Gabriella Tagliavini, also edited now published novel, 94-99.
The John Huston Award, recipient of travel writing grant to Italy, 1984.
MEDIA/PERFORMING ARTS PROJECTS:
David Dorfman Dance Company, created and recorded audio and visual text for San Francisco premier, “There We Are,” 2000. Accrued strong National Dance Reviews.
Screen Actors Guild Member, multiple roles in feature films, commercials, and theater, 1980-1995.
The Children’s Theater Company and School, Minneapolis, MN, graduate, 1986.
University of Southern California, M.A, Professional Writing, honors, 1994.
Sarah Lawrence College, B.A, Liberal Arts, honors, 1990.
University of Aix-en-Provence, France, Freshman Certificate, French fluency, honors, 1987.
Cambridge School, Weston, Mass., High School Diploma, honors, 1996.
Hein and Company Bookstore, “Creative Nonfiction,” Jackson, California, January-May, 2010
Taught two workshops to adults weekly for 14 weeks that culminated in over fifty people attending “The First Annual Amador County Literary Society Reading” which was very favorably reviewed by The Sierra Lode Star newspaper and The Ledger Dispatch. Student work is being published in the “Gold Rush Writer’s Anthology.”
La Pointe Community Arts, “Creative Nonfiction,” Madeline Island, Wisconsin, 2005-2008
Presented, in a rigorous workshop context, the fundamentals of creative writing to upward of ten adults as they apply to fact-based stories and personal experience including essays, travel writing, memoir, and literary journalism. Keen attention paid to locating metaphor as tool to build narrative layers and the daunting issue of how to strengthen the writing muscle over time.
Northfield Arts Guild, “Creative Nonfiction,” Northfield, MN, 2000-2005.
Led workshops aimed to develop the writer’s understanding of how the skills of fiction inform narrative truth-telling. Developed student work in witness narrative, investigative journalism, commentary, and memoir by guiding the class through a series of writing exercises, reading assignments, and lectures designed around specific disciplines of the craft.
Private Writing Instructor, Los Angeles, CA, 1995-2000.
Assisted multiple writers, professional and novice, as they journeyed from draft to published works, including screenplays by Gabriella Taglavivi and her published novel, The Colors of Memory.
Noonoppi Korean School of English, Los Angeles, CA, 1998-2000.
Taught kindergarten through high school students in reading, writing, and English-based literature. Aided multiple students in preparation for the S.A.T’s, college application essay writing, readying students for first year college expository writing.
LA Crosstalk, Los Angeles, CA, 1992-1996.
Presented customized courses on business English and communication skills to Japanese executives.
St. Giles College, San Francisco, CA, 1990-1992.
Lectured large classes on all levels of English from basic grammar to the study of American Literature as cultural reference point. Prepared foreign students wishing to enter U.S graduate departments in effective composition and expository writing while preparing them for the T.O.E.F.L entrance exams. Presented varying texts as beginning discussion points for understanding schools of literary critique.