Memory workshop as part of the Writing the Watershed literary arts festival

The place is just as important as the characters in a given story; this is how the poet Judith Perst sees it.

“We’re shaped by the places we live in and I think we carry all the places we’ve never been. In a novel or a movie or something like that, I think the place is just as strong a character as any person, ”said Perst, who runs Spirit Wind Studio in Duanesburg.

As part of Writing the Watershed, a literary art festival hosted by the Schoharie River Center in Esperance on Saturday, Perst will be giving a memory workshop focusing on the power of place.

Early in her career, Perst trained as a clinical social worker and worked for BOCES as well as the New Choices Recovery Center. She later studied expressive arts and creativity coaching.

“There was a 20-year period where I really left my creative self in the dust. I was busy and stressed and didn’t do anything with it. Then at mid-life, when [I] was in my mid 40s, it hit me like a freight train and I started writing again, ”said Perst.

Over the years, she has written several books of poetry, including the most recent “Geography of Loss,” which was published by Finishing Line Press earlier this year and traces her family history and lessons learned from loss.

“I just think the connection between creativity and healing is deep. I have seen this happen in the area of ​​drug addiction. I have seen this happen with myself, healing from bad experiences, ”said Perst.

She has taught many workshops over the years and one of the most common challenges people face is the fear of being judged.

“I am not an English teacher. I’m not going to come up with a red pencil and mark your work. . . The first thing is to get it out of your head and your heart and onto the page. If you’re scared you can’t do that, ”said Perst.

During the workshop at the Schoharie River Center, she will give participants writing instructions, including poetry and short prose, then ask them to write for a few minutes at a time. The goal is not to come away with a finished piece but to start something.

“Don’t worry if it’s not over, you can work on it later, just pull out something that starts your journey with this coin. Get a first draft there. . . it’s my goal with people is to have them explore for their own experience what the place means to them. In particular, what life in the Schoharie Valley means to them, ”said Perst.

The Power of Place workshop runs from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays at the David Remling Science Laboratory. Tickets cost $ 20 and pre-registration is required.

Beyond the writing workshop, Writing the Watershed will also include a conversation and concert with Sara Milonovich and Reggie Harris from 7 to 8:15 p.m. They will discuss ways in which this place can be an inspiration to writing songs. Milanovich is a local violinist and teacher, and Harris is a local singer-songwriter known for interpreting the global musical narrative.

Tickets cost $ 10 for individuals and $ 20 for families.

Other highlights of the festival include:

  • The Cultural Hall (2047 Burtonville Road) will present Videos of Place, a mini film festival featuring works focused on the place. It will take place from noon to 1 p.m.
  • A panel discussion with former Gazette columnist Sara Foss and geologist John Garver. Entitled “Science, History and Justice: Writing in the Field”, the discussion is expected to take place from 1 pm to 2 pm.
  • From 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., there will be a panel discussion with Eric Ayotte from the Schoharie River Center, Hannah Degarmo (media producer and filmmaker) and Todd DeGarmo (director, Center for Folklife and History, Crandall Public Library) on tell stories through the humanities and digital media environment.
  • At 3:00 pm, there will be a presentation by the curator for the exhibition: “After the Storms: 10 Years and Over 36,000 Volunteers Later” with Ellen McHale, New York Folklore and Lillian Spina-Caza, media producer.

For tickets and more information, visit

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