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"A Gardener's Tips for Novelists: Sometimes You Have to Get Your Hands Dirty to Make a Scene Real"

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4/12/2014 From 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM

with Renee Studebaker

Photo by Cheney Crow

$69 members (log into site for member prices)

$129 nonmembers

Practice bringing a scene to life in this two-part writing workshop presented by creative writer and lifelong gardener Renee Studebaker.  As novelists, we often forget to stop and smell the flowers - but it is this attention to detail taken in by all five senses that makes our writing leap off the page.

In this workshop you'll begin the day with a slow guided tour of Renee's garden. There you will have an opportunity to not only smell the flowers, but also see them, touch them, and hear the wind brush their leaves. You'll also utilize your five senses to observe other plants and creatures that call the garden "home." As you move through the garden looking for these sorts of things, you will also have an opportunity to talk about what you're seeing and to take (or sketch) pictures. After the tour, the group will break for a 1-hour lunch before meeting in a nearby classroom for a review of garden photos and sketches, a discussion of tips and techniques for writing about nature, and a series of short scene-writing exercises.

Things you might want to bring to class: A digital camera, the kind that uses a memory card, so your best images can be downloaded and shared with other workshop participants. A sketch pad and pencil if you like to draw. And something to write with or on (laptop, pencil, notepad).

Renee Studebaker can't imagine writing (or living) without daily inspiration from her garden. Even during the high-pressure, deadline-driven years when she was writing, editing, designing or teaching (at the Austin American Statesman, Texas Monthly magazine, and the University of Texas) she couldn't keep her hands out of the dirt. Early on, as a renter, she would bequeath her sweaty (and often buggy) labor of love to the next tenant, whether he wanted it or not. Later, as a home owner, she turned her entire yard, one little patch at a time, into a melange of seasonal vegetables, fruit trees and flowers. As she planted and pruned, she mentally sifted the passing years, and as the garden grew and she grew into the garden, a new writing voice emerged that she used to start an award-winning blog, Renee's Roots. (Second place in a national journalism writing competition.) Today, her garden is still feeding her and her work (which has recently appeared in the American-Statesman, Acres U.S.A, and Fine Gardening magazine). Currently she is working on "Getting Real with Food from the Garden," a sort of coming-of-age cookbook novel, and "Ancient Planter/Modern Gardener," a historically accurate but fictionalized family story that traces a contemporary gardener's obsessions back to her great grandfather x 12, Ancient Planter John Proctor, one of the first colonists (and gardeners) of Jamestown.

CLASS LOCATION: The morning portion of the class will take place in the instructor's garden at 912 E. 39th St., Austin, TX 78751 (between Red River & I-35). After a break for lunch, the afternoon classroom portion will take place at the Mitte Foundation Carriage House, 1008C West Ave., Austin TX 78701 (corner of West Ave. & 11th St. -- house accessible from 11th St.).

REGISTRATION BY MAIL: If your browser has difficulty with our website store, or if you prefer to mail in a check, click HERE for a class registration form. The document provides instructions on where to mail it.

NOTE: All credit card transactions will incur a 4% handling fee. Tickets are not refundable, but they are transferable. If you purchase a ticket and then find you cannot attend, someone else can attend in your stead. Simply contact us at or 512-499-8914 and let us know so that we can update the class roster. For more information on class policies, please visit our Classes page.

This project is funded and supported in part by the City of Austin through the Economic Growth & Redevelopment Services Office/Cultural Arts Division believing an investment in the Arts is an investment in Austin’s future. Visit Austin at

Writers' League of Texas classes and workshops are also funded in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts - Investing in a Creative Texas. For more information, go to