Earlier this year I had the opportunity to study writing with Amy Hempel in a two-week course through the Johns Hopkins Conference on Craft.  Amy is well-known for her short story collections, the most recent of which was described as “eerie, unsettling, always original and perfectly expressed.”

During my one-on-one session with Amy, I asked what I could do to grow as a writer, aside from writing almost every day and reading as much as I can.

“Volunteer,” she said, without pausing.  Amy went on to explain that she often requires her MFA students to volunteer because it ensures they contribute to the betterment of their communities and because volunteering puts them out in the world, where they are interacting with people and ideas and experiencing life.

I read an article in which Amy states that volunteer work “takes you quickly to the core of the experience” and sometimes, as a side benefit, gives you something you can write about.  It’s a brilliant idea (one I plan to incorporate in my life as soon as all children in my house are out of diapers!).



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