The Lighthouse Writers Top-Secret Blog

All the latest news, ideas, and opinions from Denver's Independent Literary Center:

Fun with numbers

Poet and nonfiction author Joy Roulier Sawyer, overacheiving headmistress of our evening Writing 101 classes, recently took stock of her interactions with over 200 writers in her 4-week workshops from 2009 until now. She noticed patterns. She e-mailed me and said, “There are some patterns, here,” and I said, “Cool! Will you blog about them?” (I have a one-track mind.) Borrowing from fellow Lighthouse poet J. Diego Frey’s infamous pocketbucket list* series, she compiled the following Oscar-themed Lighthouse Index.  Thanks, Joy, for making statistics bearable.

Film buff Joy Roulier Sawyer takes this opportunity to Oscar-fy her class stats.

PocketBucket List #101: Oscar-Worthy Lessons from Lighthouse Writing 101: Gotta Start Somewhere*—a list of gilded facts and Price-Waterhouse tabulations by Lighthouse 101 instructor Joy Roulier Sawyer.  Ballots provided by stirred-not-shaken writers in eighteen, four-week Writing 101 workshops, 2009-2012.   


Most frequently mentioned favorite writer, bar none, hands-down: David Sedaris

Other frequently mentioned favorite writers: Ernest Hemingway, Barbara Kingsolver, Cormac McCarthy, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Gilbert

Favorite writers in a supporting role: Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Oliver, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf, Raymond Carver

Top writing workshop interests (in order): Memoir, novels, short stories, travel writing, humor, children’s books, science fiction, historical fiction, personal essays, young adult fiction, screenwriting, poetry

Most frequently mentioned threats uttered by the nagging Inner Critic: 1) What makes you think you can be a writer, anyway? 2) It’s already been written.  3) Writing is so selfish and self-absorbed. 4) You’ll be publicly shamed and humiliated.

Most frequently mentioned reasons for not writing: Time, fear, self-confidence, discipline

Most unusual, delightful reason mentioned for enrolling in Writing 101:  to learn to write more entertaining workplace e-mails, thus cheering up glum, over-stressed co-workers      

Most frequently mentioned “happy surprises”: “I found out I simply need more writing exercises and a writing community.” “I feel ready now to take a writing workshop.”

Most frequently mentioned Lighthouse perk, non-writing related: Workshopping at the beautiful old mansion at 1515 Race Street.

Most referenced Writing 101 handout: The list of suggested readings for beginning writers, solicited from Lighthouse workshop instructors. Close runner-up: Andrea Dupree’s wonderfully wise advanced short story syllabus, which offers helpful suggestions for the fine art of workshopping.

Most subversive writing strategy employed by the instructor: handing out copious poems to professing non-poets.

Most compelling reasons to sign up for a Writing 101: Gotta Start Somewhere workshop, and other Lighthouse offerings:

Because you really, really want to write. And to learn what makes good writing. And to read and discuss good literature.   

…Because Lighthouse Writers Workshop is a lively, warm, supportive-yet-challenging writing community. Because we host free Writers Buzz literary events and readings. Not to mention the Monday open writing hours at the Milheim House from 10-3. And the “Friday 500” (write 500 words, then enjoy writerly conversations) every 2nd and 4th Friday, 4:30-6:30.

…Because we just rolled out the red carpet on our new spring schedule, which includes over fifty workshops taught by more than twenty instructors, all professional writers. Our Writing 101 workshops are specially designed to encourage new writing directions and to help you find your next workshop. (Who knows, your next workshop instructor just might “draft” you to read your work at one of our regular Lighthouse Drafts.)

Because Writing 101 is the perfect beginning point to immerse yourself in Lighthouse’s year-round events. Our next Fly-By Writer’s Project lands on April 14 & 15, featuring Cheryl Strayed, whose new memoir Wild is generating  wild and wonderful buzz in the publishing world.  (National Book Award finalist Andre Dubus III arrived on schedule just before her, teaching two February workshops.)

…And venerated poet Thomas Lux sweeps into town May 5-6 for our Writer’s Studio event, which includes an onstage interview and craft talk. And our annual Lit Fest is again the talk of the town from June 1-16. Toast your new writing life with craft seminars, literary readings, parties, and meetings with editors and agents.

…And our annual Grand Lake Retreat fosters New Yorker-worthy shouts and murmurs on July 15-20, a rustic mountain getaway for glittering Lighthouse literati like you.

…Because when it comes to writing–why not you?

*The term “PocketBucket List” is the intellectual property of Lighthouse poet J. Diego Frey. Please help make up for this copyright infringement by visiting J Diego’s intellectual (and non-intellectual) property at

In addition, check out his new workshop, Poetry Immersion: Take the Plunge on Saturday, April 7, co-led with Joy Roulier Sawyer.

–Joy Roulier Sawyer

5 comments on “Fun with numbers

  1. mjhenry
    February 24, 2012

    So, the top writing interests must be in order from least favorite, to most favorite, right?

    I mean, poetry can’t possibly be on the bottom of the list!

  2. tqtyson
    February 24, 2012

    This kind of thing is exactly why Lighthouse is consistently more entertaining and enlightening than the movies. Also, the floors are never sticky.

  3. Sue Carol Robinson
    February 24, 2012

    Yeah, poetry’s pretty far down the list, along with opera and rap and other “suspicious” stuff that I like.

  4. Nita Andrews
    February 26, 2012

    I love this list. I am going to start hitchhiking from TN. Next week so I can hear Joy’s workshop. Thanks, Lighthouse.. Your searchlight reaches far and wide. I am green with envy about your lovely home on Race. St. .. You make Denver a writer’s destination.

  5. Joy Roulier Sawyer
    February 27, 2012

    Well, A, I admit: The only real “patterns” I’ve seen were that Lighthouse memoir and fiction workshops will continue to thrive and fill up…and that adding more travel writing, children’s book, and humor wriiting workshops might be a good idea.(especially since David Sedaris is the most-mentioned writer).

    And, of course that, per usual, most people Googling the term “writing workshops” are not necessarily looking for a poetry workshop.

    Now, the REAL “statistical study” I’d be interested in is, as a result of coming to Lighthouse via a 101 class, how many people have gone on to take other workshops, and what are they currently reading and writing as a result?

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This entry was posted on February 24, 2012 by in Uncategorized.

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