Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Master Writing Workshop Experience

Last night, in the middle of a snowstorm, I drove to my first organized writing experience in a long time: The Master Writing Workshop at the Lafayette Writers' Studio in Lafayette, Indiana. Actually, now that I think about it, outside of memberships to a few online forums (like Backspace) and professional associations (like the SCBWI), this was the first real developmental thing I'd done for myself and my writing since attending a conference in NYC about eight years ago. Talk about dusting off the cobwebs.

As I knew it would be, it was so refreshing and so validating to meet other writers and to just talk about writing in person. Sometimes it's so easy, being the introverts we are, to sit behind our computers, commenting on this or critiquing that, and feel like we're connecting with one another. Much of the time that's all we can do, but sometimes it's nice -- and perhaps essential-- to break the cycle and get out into the world and rub elbows with our fellow writers.

The workshop started off with introductions, at which time I had the chance to vent and lament about working on the same damn project for the last ten years. It wasn't all about that, of course, but when I talked about some of the struggles I've been having, managing work, fatherhood and my writing dream, pretty much everyone at the table understood and could relate. It felt good to know I wasn't crazy.

We then went into a writing exercise where we were pushed to write in detail about the places we've lived, our emotions at the time, the smells, etc. Being a fiction writer, I try to avoid writing anything based in reality, but I went along with it anyway (growth opportunity and all). It was really cool to sit around a table with eight other writers and bang out a few paragraphs. Not writing alone was a huge change-- something I wish all writers could experience.

We finished off the workshop by reading an emotional short story called the Trespasser, about a meth head who breaks into a family's summer home on Lake Michigan (part of a collection titled American Salvage), and talked about the author's word choice, POV, etc. Then we got our new writing swag (pictured below) and signed up to have our own work workshopped. I plan to submit one new piece and one old piece, then see where it goes from there. I'm super excited and a tad bit terrified.

The Master Writing Workshop runs all the way to June 1st, so this is like a half-a-year commitment I've made to become a better writer and hopefully a published one someday. If you're reading this, wishing you could do something similar, I highly suggest you look into local opportunities, take a chance and branch out. It is especially important for us newbies to keep improving ourselves and to do things that make us feel connected to the writing community. It's a solitary life, but it doesn't have to be that way all the time.    

Good luck, and wish me the same! 


Carrie Beckort said...

Sounds like a great opportunity! And good luck!!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I find opportunities like this make me feel much more a part of the writing community than publishing. I can't wait to do conferences and workshops, but with the kids being so little, it's not the right time. Soon though.

Brenda St John Brown said...

I need to find something like this in my area. Last summer I traveled to NYC for RWA and that was fab, but I'd rather not cross an ocean every time I want to meet up with writing friends. Besides the whole "flying across the ocean" thing, there's the cost! Much better to just drive down the street. How did you find this opportunity to start with?

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks, Carrie! Appreciate it.

Jonathan Schramm said...

Totally, Kimberly. It's not like getting an MFA or anything, but it puts you in the "I'm a serious writer" mindset and for me, coming back after a while off, is exactly what I need. Hope you get the opportunity to do a conference or a workshop soon. The only reason I was able to fit this in is because it meets twice a month from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. Baby goes to bed at 7:00pm, so I only leave my wife alone for a half hour or so, every other week!

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks, Brenda! After years of looking for any kind of writing group in my area, I actually contacted the MFA program at my local university. I figured if anyone would have an in with the local writing community it would be them. I got the name of the instructor, talked to her a little, and decided to sign up.

The workshop only cost $260 USD, but it felt like a really big commitment for me. Now I feel like I have to give my writing all the time I can to make it worthwhile. Really motivating. What I really love about it is that it's five months long. My next goal is going to try to find something that goes from June through the new year so that I have a writing thing all year long. Hope you find something soon. You're right, you shouldn't have to cross the pond every time you want to rub elbows with your fellow word hermits.

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