Lakeside Lab features new writer

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
PHOTO BY BRANDON HURLEY Erika Jo Brown will be teaching a poetry and writing class from 10 a.m. -- 12 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Iowa Lakeside Lab library. She will be covering the styles of poetry and generating writing.

Lakeside Lab is notorious for providing exceptional educational opportunities to the Iowa Lakes area, and the new poetry and writing class offered from 10 a.m. -- noon on Oct. 29 is no exception.

Writer in Residency Erika Jo Brown, originally from New York City, with be teaching the class at the Lakeside Lab library with fellow colleague B.J. Love.

Brown has a bevy of experience in writing, even founding her own poetry magazine and reading series while in New York. She then came to the University of Iowa and taught two undergraduate classes -- creative writing studio and poetry writing. She has also published a chapbook, or a pocket-sized booklet, titled "What a Lark!" earlier this year. While working for the Lakeside Labs in Milford, she also is splitting time working as manager for Marketing and Communications at the University of Iowa Museum of Art.

"I'm really impressed with northwest Iowa," Brown said. "I had never been this far from New York and it's pretty artsy here. There are a lot of progressive and intellectual people here."

Brown has also been very active with outreach programs throughout the community. She frequently visits local schools and offers a helping hand.

"The teachers here are really imaginative and dynamic here," Brown said. "They have a lot of stamina. Often I'll cater my programs to what the grades are doing at the time. I'll help them improve their writing skills and any kind of language art skills I can provide. I'll also even do pure writer's workshops."

As far as the poetry and writing class Brown will be putting on Oct. 29. she is spearheading it with intense enthusiasm.

"I'm really thrilled about this," she said. "It's what I've been waiting for since I came here."

Using here experience as an undergraduate professor at Iowa, Brown wanted to recreate the experience in the Iowa Great Lakes and provide a class for adults.

Brown and Love will be tag-teaming the class and do a short reading following the class.

"It's going to be excellent," she said. "Now that I've engaged with the community by visiting writers group and gauging the environment here, I think I can cater the class to poems that will be new to people and a few projects that will maybe be image or sound based."

Brown and the Friends of Lakeside Labs made sure to schedule their class around the other events happening throughout the area during that weekend.

If the weather is nice, Brown might even take the class outside to jot down observations of the surrounding nature and natural environment.

Throughout the two hours, Brown and Love will reveal their true secrets on how to generate writing.

"Ideally it would be poetry because it's quick, and there are some poetic devices that can apply to any kind of writing," Brown said. "But we are totally capable of teaching fiction and non-fiction. B.J. teaches writing for Kirkwood in Iowa City and works for the International Writing Program as well."

From the time Brown first set foot on the Lakeside Labs campus in March and began working, she proposed the idea for the poetry and writing class. She mentioned the great resources the Iowa Great Lakes provide for creative minds, and wanted to elaborate on the opportunities.

"This is an additional offering for creative people," Brown said. "It can even kick start people who haven't been writing recently. It's also just a good way to get the community together, meet new people and do something beautiful on a beautiful campus on a Saturday morning."

If a large group attends, Brown and Love will split the class apart and share the learning duties.

"I've always loved language," she said. "I would dash off a poem here and there but when I was in college that was when I really discovered the diversity of the whole realm. There are so many different writing styles. I'm not just into poetry, but there is something very crystalline about poetry."

Brown's poetry style tends to linger on the lighter side, with funny and romantic poems. She attributes her writing ability to living in New York and having to be a good storyteller to be heard.

"We are very flexible," Brown said. "We will talk about writing that people already like. There will be a lot of writing but not too much. You never know what you are going to find. Writing will be generated and it will be a good time. Lakeside Lab is one of the most beautiful places I've been to, there's no more scenic place to come and stimulate your thoughts."

Brown points to the class uniqueness of the setting and casual atmosphere and the experience of the teachers. She is also thankful to the generosity of the community.

"This is an outreach initiative to share the spiritual, emotional and environmental wealth here," Brown said. "I would like to thank the friends of Lakeside Lab and the community as well."

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