Sunday, August 9, 2015

Antioch Writers Workshop

What it meant to me

It was the middle of the week and our afternoon session had finished. I was sitting in my chair talking to everyone around me, beckoning them closer to have a word with one person or another. As the time ticked away people slowly trickled out of the room until there were only a few of us left. Andrea, who had been seated near me during the week, was collecting her belongings, she looked at me with concern, and asked if everything was all right. I remember saying something vaguely positive, gathering my book bag, standing up, and leaving the room. I may have said good-bye to a few people as I exited, I like to be friendly when possible. I gave no weight to the question she asked or my reaction to it.
Ten minutes later when I was halfway home. I was in my car, speeding down the highway, when it struck me. I suddenly became aware of the reason I hadn’t stood up. I sat there for fifteen minutes, calling people to me, talking to anyone who would listen, for one simple reason. If I stood up, it was over. I didn’t want to be done yet. It’s now a week later, the sessions are all done, everyone has gone home, and there is nothing left but a pile of notes.
The workshop was six days of hard, wonderful work. I learned new things about poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and publishing. I saw how my work will be affected by the things we talked about every day. A series of daily discussions about point of view and how it works in each and every story. How active language focuses a reader on the story and keeps their attention moving. How the very idea of dragons can make full grown women squeal like six-year-old girls. I got insight into summer camp, comas, sarsaparilla, and not-vampires. I watched people’s eyes light up as things clicked into place about their work and how they could make it better.
I felt my own writing improve as the week went on, even when we weren’t reviewing my own piece I saw problems in my own words. I learned new tricks, tips, and skills to help me direct the reader to the conclusion I wanted to guide them to. I watched as new ideas poured themselves out of my pencil and into my thick college ruled journal that I have filled well past half with pages of notes.
I woke up every morning earlier than I’ve had to in a long time. I did it happily, ready to rush to Antioch where I could sit in the amphitheater and bask in the words and lessons of the day. There were four hours of lectures every day and while I may not have been perfectly riveted by each one I picked up something new from each person that spoke.
At breakfast, lunch, and after session I got to talk about writing. Sometimes we spoke about mine sometimes other peoples. It was thrilling. I don’t have people I can readily talk to about writing outside of my education, I have a few friends that will let me prattle on occasionally, and a few who will read through a few pages when they have time. Mostly, I am on my own. People are simply too busy to help, there is too much to do anymore and yet for one week, I got to talk about writing, and it was glorious.
We spoke about anything we could think of: the stories we brought, things we’d read outside of the workshop, books we liked, and even a day where we talked about Harper Lee and the news about her new book. We discussed everything from classic fiction to the writing in the Marvel superhero movies. I was so energized all week long that I couldn’t wait to see everyone the next day.
On Friday the workshop ended and the entire group went to dinner together. I suspect that like me they wanted a few more hours as a whole, being able to talk and laugh for just a little while longer. Even after we had finished a few of us stood on the sidewalk and around our cars talking about anything that came to mind. I was one of the last two people to leave. Clutching the last few moments as tightly as I could for fear of what would happen when they were gone.
That night I did a little bit of work on a page from my manuscript, not one I brought with me that week, a different page where I tried to apply the things I had learned in the six days prior. I posted it on face book and asked for opinions. I got some, a few words here and there. People were supportive, helpful, and gave sound advice. It wasn’t the same.
I’ve written some other things; a few pieces here and here. Not my manuscript. At the point I’m at now I’ve been writing for roughly forty-five minutes. I’m not bragging or trying to be snide, just showing that clearly I want to write. I look off to my left, just slightly behind my monitor and I see a stack of papers nearly an inch thick, sitting on top of a green plastic Easter basket. The gathered efforts of everyone who attend sessions with me. Each page covered in notes giving me their thoughts, ideas, and insights.

They had some really brilliant observations. There I things I learned about my writing that I need to work on, and yet, I cannot bring myself to go through them and make the changes. Once I do, I’m done, and I’m still not ready. 

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