When the opportunity occurs to work with masters of the craft you’re striving to hone, you go.
“A Glint of Light on Broken Glass” -- a week-long writing workshop taught by Ellen Bass, a poet, teacher, and person whom you admire and respect, along with author and teacher Pam Houston, whom you don’t know, but hey, she’s with Ellen Bass. So you check Pam out and discover she’s a terrific writer and a prof at UC Davis. For sure, you’re going.
Everything works out fine.Your travel companions are gracious and kind. Thanks to your trusty Google Maps phone app, the watchful eyes of your new friends, and a turn-by-turn set of directions from the rental car agent, you don’t get lost. You make it to your destination in time for dinner.
You and your here-to-fore unknown roommate mesh perfectly, both of you friendly, encouraging, and considerate of each other’s comfort. You like to shower at night. She prefers mornings. Her name is the same as your sister’s.
The other writers, some, like you, first-time workshop attendees and others, veterans of this mode of learning, congregate in the dining room and introduce themselves. They are from Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado, New York, and British Columbia. All of you are focused on the same goal: writing better. Slick as silk, thanks to an exercise orchestrated by Ellen, everyone knows everyone else’s name by evening's end.
You all understand the ground rules and structure. This is a generative workshop. You will create. You will be respectful of others’ right to write. If you see someone writing, you pass quietly, no need to engage them. If you see someone staring into space and holding a pen or a pencil or gazing at a blank screen, fingers poised above their keyboard, that’s writing. Keep going. When listening to others’ writings, you will “admire what is admirable.”
Your days in this beautiful natural setting glide by like a golden eagle. Your head and heart are filled with lectures, models, questions, personal stories, clever words and lines and twists. You are a witness to some of the finest, most honest writing from a host of gifted writers. Their example encourages, teaches, inspires.
During the week, you are schooled on intentional observation, using your surroundings as springboards, the power of writing for discovery, the importance of form, “nuts and bolts” like metaphor, tension, and tenses. You get a lesson on point of view – 1st person (I), 2nd person (you), and 3rd person (he/she/they/it). You learn it’s OK to write in the “you.”
You stretch and grow your writing muscles, your concentration, your commitment to writing, and your friend list. You will miss these people, these week-ago strangers.
You leave filled with ideas for more pieces, filled with the satisfaction of accomplishment, filled with wonder at how much you learned. You bask in the warmth and brilliant light of your fellow participants. Before you can reach home, you are eager for the next time.
~ xoA ~
~ xoA ~