Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Writing Workshop Anniversary

This Tuesday marks ten years of the monthly writers' workshop which meets at our local county library, the social hub of our mountain village. We started meeting on the second Tuesday of the month in September 2007, and within a couple of years, I started a website/blog for our group: MECAC Writer's Workshop. The "MECAC" stands for Mountain Empire Creative Arts Council which was started by Judith Dupree and myself back in 2006 and which soon included the writer's workshop meetings. Due to health issues and changes in our lives, MECAC is now concentrated almost solely on the writer's workshop. And that's fine.

Our group has hosted Dr. Dean Nelson, founder of the journalism department at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), several times for Saturday workshops. We've also hosted poetry readings, readings by local and not-so-local writers, and even Write-Ins as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).We've also often attended the annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea at PLNU as a group.

2017 Writer's Symposium by the Sea line-up of speakers

But most of all, we've shared our writing with each other. We bring the next poem, the next chapter, the next editorial, the next blog post, the next reflective essay, and we distribute copies and then read our work aloud, receiving encouragement and constructive feedback. Occasionally we tackle a writing prompt together, sharing the results and commenting on the good and the "needs help" areas.

And often we celebrate publication by the members of our group, whether a poem or an editorial is published in the Valley Views or the Alpine Sun (our town's monthly publication of news & events, or the newspaper of the next-largest town on the way "down the hill" into San Diego, respectively), or an article or poem printed in a periodical, or a book self-published on Amazon, or a book published by a publishing company. It's all happened within our group over the last ten years.

Our group is ever-changing, but usually we end up with six to eight writers showing up on the second Tuesday of the month. I think our record is thirteen writers. Some of our group are published authors, and some are just now trying out their writing wings, and all are welcome. I've been with the group the longest, so by default I've become the leader, with Judith, a poet who most recently published Sky Mesa Journal with Wipf and Stock Publishers, starting to come a year or two after the group began. Teresa, a poet from Campo, has been coming for at least seven or eight years, and Dianne, who started writing memoirs and has recently embarked on a mystery novel, has been attending for at least six years. Others are a bit newer, including Elaine who moved to our mountain communities from the East Coast, and Linda who lives atop Mount Laguna and has published a series of time-travel romances. And the oral tradition remains strong with Elwood and his wife Pearl who drive up the mountain from Alpine. Mary, a new writer, also comes up from Alpine. Teresa and Mary often have their therapy dogs with them, and Lancelot and Pup Pup curl up at our feet, content to listen to stories, too.

At a Write-In at the Pine Valley Library, November 2015. From left to right: Mary, Sermsee, Linda, Judith, Dianne 

Over a year ago we lost a dear member, Betty from Mount Laguna who wrote songs and memoirs, to cancer. But we keep an eye on her rocking chair, knowing that she's ever with us in spirit. And longtime member Maureen moved from Descanso to Oklahoma after the publication of her first book, but the "gang's all here" when she can attend our meetings when she visits San Diego once or twice a year. Others come and go, but these writerly souls are the beating heart of the monthly Writer's Workshop.

I've shared poems and parts of my fan fiction novels and stories with this beloved group, but lately I usually come empty-handed, with too much grading and teaching on my plate to give me time to write regularly, if at all. Even writing in my journal is a rare opportunity. I don't want to lose the joy of writing, the freedom that comes when nib scrolls its path across the page, when words pop into mind and are committed to paper. Writing is a joyous thing, a cleansing thing, a hallowed and holy thing. 

And everyone can do it, from telling a story aloud to publishing a book and everything in between. It's a joy that I pray we can--and I pray we will--expend our hearts and time in accomplishing.

One of my writing students at our homeschool co-op Class Days wrote something in an essay that I immediately jotted into my quotation journal  (I've collected hundreds of quotations on writing in my journals and via Pinterest). Deceptively simple, this seemingly simple sentence says it all. Lydia wrote:

"Words convey far more weight than we often acknowledge." 

And while I added one of my favorite Poe quotes on writing to my Quotation of the Week in the sidebar of this blog, these words spoken by Robert De Niro at the 2014 Academy Awards give us the flip side of writing:

"The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated, neurotic, caffeine-addled, crippled by procrastination, and consumed by feelings of panic, self-loathing, and soul-crushing inadequacy. And that's on a good day." 

And Anne Lamott, my favorite writer who writes about writing, wrote:

"If you can't find an hour to write, even Jesus can't help you."       

So when our little group of writers gather on Tuesday evening, I'll share the joy of this tenth anniversary of the Writer's Workshop, and together we'll freewrite to a prompt, listen to each other read our work aloud, offer our two cents' worth of feedback, and, most of all, we'll celebrate the joy of writing!

Writing with you,


Reina M. Williams said...

Congratulations on the anniversary! What a blessing.

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks, Reina!!! :)

Susanne :)


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