An Interview with the Attic's David Ciminello

David Ciminello thinks of the workshops he teaches as spaces for generative creativity, where the individual voice of each writer is respected and fostered above all else. “My primary focus in teaching is to help students find and cultivate their own voice.”

“It's so, so important for writers to find their voice.”

Ciminello’s own journey of finding his voice began at the Attic. He first came to the Attic as from Los Angeles, where he’d been working as an actor and screenwriter. “I wanted to explore writing in a new way,” he says. Ciminello saw an ad in the Willamette Week for a flash fiction course taught by David Biespiel and signed up.

“The Attic at that time was in a literal attic. I think it was above a beauty salon. You had to circle and go around the back and go up this rickety set of stairs.”

Ciminello was enthralled with fiction. He went on to take several poetry classes at the Attic as well. “Throughout my journey as a prose writer I was interested in taking various workshops in different genres and forms, particularly ones that were foreign to me,” he says.

After studying at the Attic for several years, Ciminello taught his first course –  a screenwriting class. Although at first hesitant to teach something he felt he’d left behind, Ciminello quickly found a passion for teaching. “It didn't matter what I was teaching, any kind of writing. I loved teaching.”

He also enjoyed being a mentor to young writers –  something he himself has benefitted from throughout his own writing career. “I've been lucky in my life to have the privilege and the honor of working with a lot of writers had mentored me. I was always so grateful for that.”

“When I was able to pay that back and give that to other writers I found it so rewarding and so inspiring.”

Ciminello began teaching prose classes at the Attic as well. In 2005 he moved to New York to pursue his MFA, but he continued to return to Portland and teach during the summers.  “During the school year, I was teaching in New York. I taught slam poetry to 3rd grade through 5th grade classrooms in the Bronx. Then I would come to Portland in the summer and teach prose writing.”

Now, he lives in Portland full time, teaching fiction classes at the Attic year-round. “I really consider Portland my hometown now. The writing community here is amazing, incredibly special.

Recently, several of Ciminello’s students have published pieces that they began in his workshop. He encourages his students to follow their hearts with their writing, and not fall into the trap of trying to please every reader. His methodology in workshop is to meet listen and meet the needs of the writer. “It’s important for my students to honor everybody's individual voice. Because everybody's voice is different.”

This February, Ciminello is teaching a radically generative workshop that features bold prompts designed to help students release magic in their writing. The workshop will allow students to stretch and exercise literary muscles, play on the page, and experiment with form. Each workshop will consist of unique prompt-based writing exercises, informal shares, and transformational prompt-driven revision. The workshop is open to fiction and non-fiction writers alike.

David Ciminello's Radical Generations: The (3-hour) Writing Workout Workshop begins Thursday, February 21st. If you're interested in Ciminello's writing, you can check out a grant-awarded excerpt of his current manuscript and a recent publication in Nailed

Former student Kellye McBride's work appears in Nailed.

Former student Desmond Everest Fuller's work appears in The Gravity Of The Thing.