The Crown & Pen blog is officially LIVE! This a space where we will share work and wisdom from the online writing community in between our regular issues. Our goal is to provide a platform where writers and artists who aren't afraid to get a little dark and real with their work can share their creative processes and grow community.
To kick off the launch of our new blog, we are thrilled to indtroduce our first-ever Crown & Pen interviewee!
Hillary Leftwich is the author of Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock (CCM Press/The Accomplices 2019), which is one of The Accomplices Best Sellers, a finalist for Big Other’s Best Fiction Book of 2019, and voted as one of Entropy’s Best Fiction Books of 2019. Her hybrid memoir, Aura, is forthcoming from Future Tense Books in 2022. Her writing can be found in The Rumpus, Entropy, Denver Quarterly, The Missouri Review, and numerous other print and online journals. She runs ☿ Al·che·my Author Services & Workshop, reads/selects/judges for The Colorado Book Awards, and teaches creative writing at Lighthouse Writers.
Most recently, Hillary launched the Alchemy Writing Workshop, a community-led workshop for writers in the digital sphere. We had the opportunity to speak with Hillary about the Alchemy Writing Workshop and what it means to build and sustain creative community.
To learn more about Hillary and how you can get involved in the Alchemy Writing Workshop as a participant or instructor, visit
hillaryleftwich.com and alchemyauthorservices.com
How long have you been teaching creative writing, and how did you get started?
I’ve been teaching creative writing since 2018, when I was asked to guest teach for a few free writing workshops. Those were learning lessons for me since my residency did not have a teaching assistantship available. From there, I was asked to teach other free workshops and just gained more experience! Sometimes, it isn’t about academic education and more about if you are willing to put in the free time to gain experience.
How did the idea for the Alchemy Writing Workshop come about?
I wanted to give back to the community that has supported me over the years, but I needed a platform to do it. So after starting Alchemy Author Services, I created the sister site, which is the writing workshop.
Did you intend for the project to have specific types of workshops, or did the selections happen organically?
It’s really anything the instructors want to teach as long as it’s related to writing and publishing. I want the instructors to feel they have creative power over what they want to teach.
Can you tell us a little about those involved in the workshop and what kind of classes they'll be teaching?
Sure! We have many exciting classes coming up, including How to Write Dark Fiction, How to Edit and Be Edited, The Rainbow Connection: How Using Color Can Push Your Narrative, and Purpose-Driven Writing. These are all from instructors with experience and some without, but either way, they are all talented writers in the community willing to donate their time and expertise.
What's the number one thing you hope participants take away from the workshop?
I hope they all take away that their voices and words matter. That it doesn’t matter if you are educated or have been selected to a writing retreat, big titles don’t matter as long as you have a space to grow and feel safe.
Many people think of writing as a solitary profession, but the Alchemy Writing Workshop is a community-based effort. In your experience, what role does community play in the writing and creative process?
Community is huge; it’s the reason many people choose to attend an MFA. Not because of the education so much, but to part of a writing community. So, what about people who can’t afford an MFA? We need to ensure we are also creating space for those people. It shouldn’t be about exclusion. Communities, at their core, are what support everyone and are the root of the writing and creative process.
Is the Alchemy Writing Workshop open to all genres, or is there a focus on any specific type of fiction? Do you have any thoughts about the differences - or perception of difference - between so-called "literary" and "genre" fiction?
Alchemy Writing Workshop is open to all genres, and I steer clear of labels. Labels tend to enforce a specific set of rules that really, as writers, we shouldn’t be too concerned with as we produce and develop our writing. That’s something to focus on later when querying and submitting and can block the creative process in the beginning.
Will the Alchemy Writing Workshop be a one-time event, or will it be an ongoing project?
This is, as far as I can hope, to be an ongoing project. But without the help and support from others, it’s going to be hard to keep going. This is why doing interviews (thank you, Crown and Pen!) and keep the word out is tremendously helpful and necessary!
It's an understatement to say that there are many daunting challenges facing humanity at this moment in history, from the infiltration of government institutions by the extreme far-right to the reckoning with systemic racism to the dangers of climate change. Do you think that writing has a role to play in addressing, and perhaps even solving, some of the obstacles in our collective path?
Writing is a necessary act to our political climate and absolutely impacts our world through people, and people are influenced by what they read. It’s all connected. So, to not consider yourself as actively engaging in politics or our world as a writer, you are, and your words should be regarded as not lightly, but with the thought that words carry power, so what kind of message do you want to send?
Is there anything you'd like to share about additional projects you're working on at the moment?
Laughing. I have a lot on my plate between Alchemy Author Services and the writing workshop, trying to promote, get new instructors, reach more students and communities, and help promote other authors and their work and celebrate people in the community who aren’t celebrated, and also teach. I want to start a new writing project and work with the amazing Julia Madsen, a writer everyone should know who writes in a way that blows my mind.
Lastly – what's one message that you'd like to share with new or emerging writers?
Never let anyone tell you your voice doesn’t matter. Your voice absolutely matters—your words matter. And if you can’t find a community or workshop that values you, come to me. There will always be a space for you.