Author and artist Jo Van Arkel spent time with Beth Hafner’s Introduction to Literature students over Zoom on April 13, sponsored by the CCC Sharar Foundation. During her visit, she read several of her poems, shared insight into her writing process, and answered students’ questions.
Van Arkel read her poem “LiberationTheology”, part of an anthology titled “Pandemic” which was created recently by members of an Oregon writing community she belongs to. She talked to the class about the images she chose to include and the meaning of the title.
Students asked Van Arkel about her writing style and process. They wanted to know how she gets her ideas, how she creates her own distinctive voice, and how long she spends working on a story or poem. One piece of advice Van Arkel shared is to keep a little notebook or a journal to jot down interesting images, sayings, and ideas. “Own your moments,” she said.
Van Arkel explained the importance of a familiar object or universal experience in a poem and how to develop it throughout the piece. She said, “All poetry is based on yearning.”
Prior to the class, the students had read her story “What Falls from the Sky”, and Van Arkel shared how she came up with the idea for it based on a news story. She also described a flash novel that she’s currently working on.
Students asked Van Arkel how to get the courage to share creative work and accept criticism of it. Her advice was to set the critical voice aside as much as possible, seek out a community of supportive fellow artists, and find someone who is willing to look at your work and give you the feedback you need.
Van Arkel encouraged the students to continue pursuing any creative outlet they enjoy, whether it be writing, art, a sport, or baking. She said, “I do it because it matters to me.”
Hafner’s class is one of the many college classes offered Live Online. As such, the class includes students from Clinton Community College, as well as Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges. Learn more about Live Online and other course delivery options on our website.