Posted at 12 p.m. Oct. 10, 2013


Captivated by words:

Author Poe Ballantine listens while Lisa Zimmerman reads her poetry during the Literary Connection.

Photo by Vycktoryja Selves


Authors teach students
to beat writer's block

By Derek Hoffman
A&E Editor

Asking workshop participants to write poetry on the spot using prompts, a regional poet Oct. 4 inspired creativity and offered advice to would–be authors.

Lisa Zimmerman was joined by fellow authors Poe Ballantine and Dave Jannetta at this year’s Literary Connection sponsored by the Laramie County Community College Foundation.

Zimmerman conducted a separate workshop called “Writing through the block: inventive ways to get lines to the page.” Zimmerman encouraged everyone in the audience to write and share the poetry they had written.

“There is no such thing as writer’s block. It is just a thing that happens when the joy runs out,” Zimmmerman said.

'So what' test

She advised writers not to be too critical of their work and to give all they write what she referred to as the “so what?” test. For example, once a writer finishes a story, poem or other work, the writer should ask, “So what?”

“If it passes your test, give it to a trusted friend and not your lover or husband,” Zimmerman said.

Workshop focused on 'Love and terror'

Ballantine and Jannetta’s workshop focused on “Love and terror: Fascinations and complex problems of portraying true crime in a small town,” a book and movie production they are working on. Ballantine reviewed issues he has had while writing the book emphasizing that writing of any kind is hard work. “The most writing I get done is when it is between me and the paper,” Ballantine said.

His work he said he started his writing career, thinking it would be simple, and he would walk in and become a fiction writer. “I didn’t start writing well until I was in my 30s,” Ballantine said.

Jennetta, in his part of their presentation, went over some of the trials they experienced getting information from the local population about the charred body of a mathematician found tied up six months after he went missing during a fire in Chadron, Neb.    

Lisa Trimble, LCCC Foundation director of alumni affairs and event planning, said, “We ask the authors to be practical and interactive so that students can learn from these authors who have been through the ringer and experienced all these things.”

Ballantine, fiction and nonfiction writer, was born in 1955 in Denver, Colo. In addition to receiving many Pushcart and O. Henry nominations, Ballantine’s work has been included in noted publications. “The Blue Devils of Blue River Avenue” was included in “The Best American Short Stories 1998,” and “501 Minutes to Christ” was included in “Best American Essays 2006.”

Janetta also is a director, producer and editor. In 2009, he wrote and directed his debut feature film "Rachel & Diana."

Before founding 32-20 Productions, his production company, in 2009, Janetta was a personal assistant to Peter Jackson through the North American production of “The Lovely Bones” and spent a year working at Jackson’s WingNut Films in Wellington, New Zealand. He is a graduate of Penn State University in finance and film studies and an alumnus of Werner Herzog’s “Rogue Film School.”

Zimmerman was born in Denver, Colo. Her father was a U.S. Army officer, so her family moved around a lot. She graduated from high school in Belgium and earned her master’s in fine arts from Washington University in St. Louis. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in many publications including the Colorado Review, Redbook, Paper Street, Poet Lore, Eclipse and Atlanta Review. She has published two poetry books as well as the full-length collections “How the Garden Looks from Here,” which won the 2004 Violet Reed Haas Poetry Award and “The Light at the Edge of Everything,” which was published in 2008. Her poetry has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize.

Lisa Zimmerman online Colorado Poets Center

Poe Ballantine online Hawthorne book

Dave Jannetta online