Amid closures, quarantines, and a myriad of pandemic protocols, Noepe Center for Literary Arts has soldiered on. When the time came, the Featherstone-based center seamlessly converted to a COVID-friendly online experience. Since then, Noepe has maintained its legacy of education and inspiration to the Island’s community of writers.
It may be only January, but Noepe has already announced a number of events coming in 2021. “Nothing for Granted,” a virtual poetry workshop with Shira Erlichman, runs from Feb. 15 to 19.
According to Mathea Morais, director of Noepe, Erlichman was Noepe’s first workshop host in the age of COVID. When her in-person workshop was canceled suddenly, Noepe made quick adjustments to move the course online. “She’s a phenomenal poet, phenomenal teacher — her class sold out last year; we had a waiting list,” said Morais. “We were really excited about bringing her back.”
For the duration of “Nothing for Granted,” participants will experiment with techniques in poetry each day, focusing on the concept of ostranenie, or defamiliarization. Through this, Erlichman will guide participants in renewed discovery and unique depiction of the mundane.
Morais encourages individuals of all skill levels to attend the workshop. “Even if you think that you’re not a poet, but you always wanted to be, [Erlichman] is going to help you find that poet inside of you,” Morais said. However, Erlichman can offer equal teachings to practiced poets, thanks to extensive experience working with advanced writers. “She’s made a name for herself as a poet, but also as someone who’s capable of working with people at a variety of different skill levels,” said Morais.
Come April, Noepe offers a six-week workshop in the form of “Devotion to Writing: Cultivate a Daily Writing Practice.” Hosted by Noepe founder Justen Ahren, this virtual workshop aims simply to get writers writing. Participants will stretch their minds creatively, tackle exercises in imagination, and strengthen their writing practices.
Ahren’s workshop runs April 13 to May 11, and Morais insists it will be well worth the time. “It’s about how you get yourself into a habit, into a practice — how you cultivate a devotion to writing,” said Morais.
That’s not all Noepe has in store for spring; a writing workshop with K-Ming Chang comes to the center from May 17 to 21. In “Writing Family Stories,” Chang brings attention to family narratives in works of both fiction and nonfiction. This workshop addresses the traditional concept of “family,” and will place this familiar framework into the context of history, myths, folklore, and more.
According to Morais, the workshop will guide participants in creating personal, familial stories with an individualized lens. “It should be a really exciting workshop, and again, open to people at all levels of writing,” said Morais. As the workshop will be primarily prompt-based, participants should log on with their pens ready. With the class already half full, those interested are encouraged to sign up soon.
Even with three events on the horizon, Noepe already has more in the works. Morais hopes to offer an editing workshop before the end of spring 2021. This course would speak to those in need of editing assistance, as well as those who wish to become editors themselves.
Morais also spoke of the possibility of a workshop on query letters for agents. “We’re trying to bring in not just the writing part of writing, but also the business of it,” said Morais. “We’re asking, ‘How do you get your art in the world? What needs to happen once it’s on the page?'”
As COVID-19 continues to impact daily life on the Island, Noepe offers a consistent creative outlet to those who crave it. “COVID willing, we’d like to have some exciting, in-person events this summer, but no matter what, we want to keep this online presence and these offerings,” said Morais.
Although the pause of in-person events has changed Noepe’s approach, Morais claims it has in some ways been a blessing. With the introduction of virtual workshops, Islanders have been able to work with writers worldwide, rather than being confined to their usual close-knit group. “To be able to bring this opportunity to Martha’s Vineyard writers is so exciting for us, and it’s exciting to bring Martha’s Vineyard to these other places too,” Morais said.
The virtual nature of Noepe’s workshops also makes them accessible. According to Morais, workshops are held primarily in the evening during non-work hours, and are offered at an affordable price. “We want to honor all those writers out there who are trying to write — who need to write and are driven to write — but have other lives,” said Morais.
What comes after Noepe’s spring programming? Morais is already thinking ahead. “I think as we come out of the pandemic and back into the world, there are going to be carry-overs, lessons, and methods that we will hold onto. This online programming is absolutely going to be one of them for Featherstone and for Noepe,” said Morais.
For more information and to register, visit featherstoneart.org/noepecenter.html.