Writing a path forward

Author Tiffany Rosenhan holds creative writing workshop in DM’s library

BOOK FROM SOMEWHERE: Tiffany Rosenhans debut novel Girl from Nowhere is a spy thriller about a teen girl who believes she is done with her hectic and dangerous past—only to find her past catching up with her. I love spy thrillers, said Rosenhan; I always wanted to explore the world. Rosenhan says she even contemplated joining the CIA at one point.

BOOK FROM SOMEWHERE: Tiffany Rosenhan’s debut novel Girl from Nowhere is a spy thriller about a teen girl who believes she is done with her hectic and dangerous past—only to find her past catching up with her. “I love spy thrillers,” said Rosenhan; “I always wanted to explore the world.” Rosenhan says she even contemplated joining the CIA at one point.

Christopher Lessler, Staff writer

“There is no lake at Camp Green Lake,” recited author Tiffany Rosenhan.

“Holes,” a student answered.

A second challenge: “Until he was four years old, James Henry Trotter had had a happy life.”

“James and the Giant Peach.”

And a third: “All children, except one, grow up.”

“Peter Pan.”

Tiffany Rosenhan is running through several iconic opening lines of novels. But she is not at some prestigious writing seminar—rather, she is conducting a creative writing workshop within DM’s very own library.

Then, she shares her own novel’s opening chapter—only a single page. The first line is:

“Another knock at the door—I seal my grip tighter around the pistol.”

Rosenhan’s first chapter was originally 50 pages, but only one page remains.

“I needed to write” the other 49 pages, Rosenhan said, “but you didn’t need to read them.”

So far, Rosenhan may have only published her debut novel, Girl from Nowhere, but she says she still can benefit DM’s aspiring writers.

“I hope students leave feeling better than when they arrived—that’s it, Rosenhan said before the workshop. “I hope that they leave feeling more motivated.”

“We all have stories; we all have things worth sharing,” Rosenhan said, “and sometimes we need to be reminded that our stories are valuable.”

But Rosenhan didn’t come to DM just to motivate students—she also came to give them several tools for success.

One such tool is freewriting, when an author forces themselves to sit and write whatever they possibly can, no matter how bad the writing.

Counterintuitive? Maybe. But “good writing is just bad writing that’s been transformed,” Rosenhan says. And that means starting with bad writing.

And after forming a book concept, Rosenhan has another tip: form a one-sentence movie pitch.

“You have done half the work if you can consolidate your work into one sentence,” said Rosenhan.

ORDER OF THE OUTLINE: Tiffany Rosenhan displays one of J.K. Rowling’s outlines from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as an example of the importance of outlining. “An outline is not a prison cell,” said Rosenhan; “an outline, really, is freedom.” Rowling originally published the outline on Twitter, allowing many aspiring and accomplished writers to examine her outline.

A personal journey

As a child, Rosenhan says she loved the “stories that gave me a good escape from the world.”

But it wasn’t until she had a child of her own that Rosenhan began contemplating writing a novel herself.

“I started writing, really, for myself, as a way to entertain myself when I was home with young children,” Rosenhan said.
“It was really a nice creative outlet for me to better process my own experiences and circumstances by creating stories.”

But Rosenhan began writing more than a decade before she became published, giving her valuable experience

“‘Debut novel’ does not mean the first book you write—it means the first book you publish,” said Rosenhan.

“Just being able to escape the hard parts of this world for a few hours was invaluable to me,” said Rosenhan, “and I want to offer the same to other readers.”

An appreciated experience

Many students from DM’s creative writing course say they appreciated the workshop.

“I thought it was cool to see an actually published writer, because I feel like you don’t actually see much of that in high school,” said senior David Krug. “You don’t get many talks from published writers. How often is that?”

Students say the workshop was not only an experience—but also taught them about creative writing.

“It made me realize how much effort goes into writing novels,” junior Sami Toghyani said.

His brother Arvin Toghyani (11) interjected: “And how much each author has to really think about what’s going on in their brain as they’re writing.”

And as Rosenhan hoped, many students also left the workshop more motivated.

“It taught me to be a little easier on myself; everyone’s different,” junior Bao Pham said. “You don’t need to compare yourself to anyone to feel like a better writer.”

‘Your space’

Rosenhan’s workshop isn’t the first creative writing-oriented event to occur in DM’s library. Earlier this semester, the school also saw a visit from the Kurt Vonnegut institute.

“One of the things that I really wanted to focus on when I took over the library was events like this,” said DM librarian Mrs. Schulke.

After the city’s 2020 closure of Palomino library—which has always sat within the school but was nonetheless a public library—the library has become a true part of the school.

“Especially since this used to be a public library and not the Desert Mountain library,” Mrs. Schulke said, “I think it’s been really cool to have events aimed specifically at students, because it’s your space.”

So when a representative from Bloomsbury offered to coordinate Rosenhan’s workshop, Mrs. Schulke knew the right answer: “Yes, absolutely, we would love to have you.”

“It’s awesome when authors actually want to connect with their reader base. Sometimes, we can think of authors as off on a pedestal,” said Mrs. Schulke, “but being able to actually talk and converse and want to connect with her readers, I think is really, really cool.”