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Teacher Spotlight: Gabriela Denise Frank

Gabriela Denise Frank is a transdisciplinary literary artist, editor, and educator who lives on the unceded ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples. Her storytelling, which spans the written, the sonic, the visual, and the experiential, is rooted in place, a result of her career in architecture and urban design. A public arts commissioner for the City of Burien, Washington, she serves on 4Culture’s arts advisory committee and as creative nonfiction editor and managing editor of Crab Creek Review. Find her at @CivitaVeritas on Twitter and Instagram or at www.gabrieladenisefrank.com

This fall, Gabriela will be teaching Recharge Your Writing Life: Experiments and Strategies. Here is what she had to say about the course.

Why do you enjoy teaching this class? 
I love working with other creative people, particularly on process. This class grew out of my own remedies for blocks and burnout; I’m personally invested in helping others emerge from those experiences. Along the way, I get a boost watching people find their way into more sustainable artmaking practices and a deeper engagement with the creative self.

Why this genre? 
We talk a lot about craft, which is important, but less so about rituals, habits, and reflective processes that feed into creative identity. We have the 1-2-3 articles down—how to submit work, how to “get ahead” in a few prescribed steps—which serve a practical purpose, but what drives a writer’s desire to write? How can we better understand and channel inner curiosity, fascination, and wonder to intentionally empower what we create—and ultimately send out into the world? We apply tenets of capitalism to creative labor and wonder why we feel burnt out; this class is a means of tapping into purpose and soul.

How would you describe your teaching style? (in 5 words) 
Encouraging, supportive, and generative with dashes of humor and delight 

How is each session structured? 
Each class has a theme and an output. With some sessions we’re focused more on the who/why/what — exploring who we are as creative people, articulating clearly what we hope to make and why — and other sessions offer exercises that writers can add to their tool chest for whenever they get stuck. Collectively, the class is a mix of deeper inquiry and daily practices.

Where do you draw inspiration from? (in your own writing or in your pedagogy) 
In addition to literature, I studied biology, visual design, and music, so I often draw inspiration from outside the literary world. Within literature, I imbibe mostly nonfiction—Robin Wall Kimmerer, Claudia Rankine, Patti Smith, Robert Macfarlane, Mary Ruefle, Carlo Rovelli—although Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko was one of my favorite books of the last five years. Painter Jodi Hays, collage artists Fred Free and Allan Bealy, the music of boygenius (and each of the members individually), the visual poetry of Sarah J. Sloat, paintings and drawings by Christina Quarles and Elizabeth Ibarra, design and installations by Barbara Kruger, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer…they all give me a creative boost. And Mother Nature. You can’t top nature as a source of inspiration.

What would you want each person to leave with from taking this course?
I hope each writer feels empowered to make the practice their own: to feel like they can be vulnerable and take risks within our supportive cohort, and tailor self-sustaining goals, behaviors, and reflective habits that support their emotional and creative selves. A part of this learning is to identify and incorporate fallow times as part of the creative process. Rest and reformulation support creative production as much as elbow grease and productive labor do.

Where will you be teaching/telecommunicating from? 
I teach from the unceded ancestral lands of the Coast Salish peoples—the lands and waters of the Duwamish and the Muckleshoot—today called Burien, Washington, where I am grateful to live.

Favorite book? Writers? Literary pieces? 
I recently finished Joyelle McSweeney’s The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults, which was fascinating as an eco-poetics of the Anthropocene. I’m also completely obsessed with the Oulipo Workshop. I’m teaching a generative class based on Oulipian prompts, which has justified the purchase of several books, including Daniel Levin Becker’s excellent Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature. Other favorite writers include Maya Jewell Zeller, Martha Silano, Jane Wong, Dina Relles, Maud Casey, Masha Gessen, Jill Lepore. I will read anything they write.

Latest publication (flash):Omens Aside, I Kenned It Wouldn’t Last in X-R-A-Y

New installation project:STOREFRONT STORY: This installation is part of Shunpike’s Storefronts program. (Storefronts provides opportunities for artists to create engaging works that reach out to passersby and activate the built environment.) My project is a visual/textual/sonic story installed in a storefront in South Lake Union (Harrison St/Boren Ave N.) The installation will be up through Sept 30. STOREFRONT STORY pairs a short story with an original ink drawing and an audio reading of the work that viewers can queue up for free via Soundcloud. Where public art and storefront installations tend to be murals, sculpture, or other visual art, STOREFRONT STORY is part of my ongoing mission to place literary art in the path of everyday life.

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