The Art of Point of View with Tina Higgins Wussow

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“If a writer isn’t considering point of view they have locked themselves inside one room and are refusing to explore the rest of the house.”

Tina Higgins Wussow is well-known throughout the Twin Ports as a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and host of monthly spoken word events at Wussow’s Concert Cafe as well as the annual Homegrown Poetry Showcase. This month she’ll lead a two-part workshop on The Art of Point of View at the Carriage House at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (1710 East Superior Street) on Wednesday, February 19 and 26 at 6:30 p.m. 

Workshop participants will review and discuss all of the point of view options available for a fiction writer, including more nuanced considerations such as psychological and temporal distance. Each student will bring a short piece of completed writing and rework that piece from a new point of view. Participants will then discuss what was lost and/or gained by choosing one particular POV over another. By the end of this workshop, participants will have a deeper understanding of how POV works and why choosing carefully is crucial to a strong piece of writing.

The fee for the workshop is $50 for LSW members, $75 for non-members (fee for non-members includes a membership through June 30, 2020, including a free entry to the annual contest, and an invitation to the annual spring event). Space is limited! To register, email jennamkowaleski@gmail.com.

Tina was kind enough to answer some questions about herself, her writing, and the upcoming workshop, and this week we’re sharing her answers on the blog.

Tell us all about your upcoming point-of-view workshop! What is “point of view,” anyway? Why is it important for writers to think about it?

The Point of View workshop I am leading will take place on the last two Wednesdays of February at the Carriage House at 1710 East Superior Street at 6:30. I have a moderate obsession with point of view. There are so many interesting possibilities for writers to consider it’s like a “choose your own adventure” story. And every option comes with gains and losses. An example would be: a story that is told in the moment of action (a dramatic event) from the point of view of the aggressor versus a story that is told from a distance of 20 years from the point of view of the victim. This is a broad example, but there are countless more nuanced adjustments to point of view that live somewhere in between. If a writer isn’t considering point of view they have locked themselves inside one room and are refusing to explore the rest of the house.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was writing stories when I was very young, but thought I wanted to be a vet or a dancer or the person who paints the lines down the center of the road. I didn’t fully consider the option of being a “writer” until I read The House on Mango Street when I was in junior high. I remember thinking, “I want to do that. I want to make people feel how I am feeling right now.” That feeling was connected, alive, open-hearted, curious. And then I read The Bluest Eye and Sula and that was it. Maybe I’d be a vet or a dancer or a line painter, but I would also be a writer. It seemed like the best job in the world. Still does.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 

When I was a younger writer I refused to work on a story (poetry was different) until I had a big chunk of time to devote to it, many hours to dive deep into the work. Then real life happened and now I work in small bursts, scene by scene. Once a first draft is accomplished I usually rewrite it at least three times, often from different points of view. When I have a draft I am proud of, one that feels “true” to me, I share it with a few close friends. I try to never share a draft that I can’t fully endorse as the best I can do at the time. With their feedback in mind I make some final adjustments. Then I read it a few more times, make a lot more adjustments and send it out to the world. If it doesn’t get picked up after many, many rejections I bring it back home and think about it some more. Some stories are easier to develop than others. I just let it come to me at its own pace. I have a deep belief in the magic of sitting quietly. 

Do you have any interesting writing quirks or habits?

I write in a notebook first and then transfer it to the screen later. The only reason I do this is because the screen is attached to the computer which is attached to the internet. There is no email, newsfeed, or entertaining youtube videos in my notebook. I know myself pretty well at this point and so I adjust my surroundings to keep myself out of trouble. 

What is your proudest writing achievement?

My most proud writing achievement is that I still do it. Painting lines would have been way easier. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Someone said, “The only difference between a successful writer and a failed writer is the successful writer didn’t give up.” And “Do your work and shut up” – I tell myself that all the time, it seems like sound advice.  

What are your hobbies/pursuits when you’re not writing?

I like to hike relatively long distances for relatively long periods of time. Being alone in the woods heals me. I also like baking and have worked quite hard at making sourdough. My husband and I run Wussow’s Concert Café and keeping that pastry case filled is how I spend a lot of my time.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Point of View with Tina Higgins Wussow

  1. I’m really looking forward to this class. I loved the poem you read at WritersRead 2020. I listened to it again a Wisconsin Public Radio last night. Makes me smile, makes me laugh.

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