First International Symposium of Art Writing took place in Theater Academy of the University of the Arts Helsinki on the 28-29 of March. As Tiina Rosenberg, the rector of the University of the Arts, pointed out, it has been a historical moment in Finnish education field to organise such event.

The program of the first day included lectures on creative writing by two internationally acclaimed experts in this field – Binnie Kirshenbaum and Sabine Scholl.

Binnie Kirshenbaum in her lecture ”Yes, Creative Writing Can Be Taught; the Question is How” was telling about the Writing Program, chaired by her at Columbia University of the Arts in New York. Two-hour Binnie’s presentation fully characterised the program’s main principles which distinguishes it as one of the best study program on writing in the United States. The idea that those principles can be shared with and mastered by European collegues has become a key note of the symposium.

Sabine Scholl’s lecture ”Gift of the Gods or Creative Lab? How to Teach Literary Writing in Europe” went into the problems of application of creative writing into European education. From her own experience as a lecturer Sabine gave the examples of the European institutions which provide and methodically develop literary writing on the university basis. Among them are Leipzig University and the University of Hildesheim in Germany, Swiss Literature Institute in Biel, the Institute of Creative Writing in Vienna.

Both lectures made an immediate appeal to the audience and caused a lively talk on ”how to teach to find own voice in writing”, ”how to encourage the enthusiasm on the page”, ”how to deal with the pressure from the commercialised industry which absorbs students after school ”, etc.

The Symposium’s Day Two was scheduled with practical workshops led by Binnie Kirshenbaum, Sabine Scholl, Henriikka Tavi and Mikael Brygger, Miika Luoto, Harry Salmenniemi, Riikka Pelo and Saila Susiluoto.

I happen to get to Sabine’s workshop ”Madeleine, Raisin, Nuts and Words”. The starting point for the wrokshop was Marcel Proust’s famous madeleine cake capturing the power of food to evoke some of our deepest memories. In the workshop we were talking about scents, food and memory in general. Answering the questions like ”Describe one or more of your favourite cooking smells” or ”What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?” and even tasting some articles of food, we could see, how vast the store of memories that we possess and how rich it is with original true stories that can become an inspiration source for our creative writing.

The Symposium came to the end with conclusive discussion and informal clubbing program in the evening.

Maria Prokhorova

Writer is a dancer who tries out different ways of viewing and reviewing dance.