Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~ E. L. Doctorow

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Levavi Oculos*


*Lifted up my eyes.


Last week, my days at Tinker Mountain Writing Workshop began on a large Southern porch. Bird songs, reminiscent of the “moment of nature” from CBS Sunday Morning, the only sound in the background while I swayed in a Kennedy rocker reading excerpts of Diane Ackerman, Twain and Robert Bly's writing. 
Main Building


Somehow, the six and a half hours I traveled on a Sunday to Roanoke, Virginia transported me back seven years to my undergraduate study at Penn State. An uncomfortable spring mattress, thin walls, an I.D. and keys on a lanyard around my neck, walking everywhere, cafeteria food and making new friends. 


The longing for a personal bathroom started back up the minute I needed to put on shower shoes, carry shampoo, conditioner and other accoutrements to fight over the one shower that didn’t suck, again.


Although living on Hollins University campus for a week may not be ideal for the been-there-done-that woman, it immersed me in the small, intimate community of writers and the Memoir and Personal Essay workshop instructed by poet and professor emeritus Jim McKean.

Memoir and Personal Essay Group
The six women I shared my writing, laughter and tears with will forever stay a part of my life. Every day I spent learning about these accomplished women through their stories of an idyllic childhood in Olympia, Washington, student teaching in North Philadelphia, the War on Doctors, a spunky grandmother, the speed bumps of motherhood and a long, painful journey to reconnect with a mother. 

Jim’s soft-spoken lectures on resonant detail, time and structure, discussions on reading material not easily found at home and my 30-minute one-on-one meeting fostered an environment of learning and growing within my craft I so desperately miss working from home.

I attended presentations by the other professors, Fred Leebron, Dan Mueller and Nick Lantz, throughout the week as well. The one-hour lectures provided a glimpse at the other workshops offered at Tinker and the opportunity to learn about narrative complexity, psychological trauma and structural form in fiction and the theory behind poetic titles.

Although memoir wasn’t my first choice, I’m glad everything worked out the way it did. Writing memoir allows me to remember. My story and my memories are important, especially if I travel the same path into the darkness of Alzheimer’s that my grandmother struggles with every day.

Why would anyone want to read my story?

Because I was brave enough to put it on paper.

I write for my family and myself. I write to understand the world. I write to share moments of happiness, pain and sadness with others in this fast-paced, disconnected society. Sometimes, it’s just nice to know you aren’t alone. And I never felt alone at Tinker with my Rowdy Girls around to laugh and gossip with and share moments of our lives not yet on the page. 

After the publishing panel on Friday, I merged onto I-81 towards the Mason-Dixon line with a radiant smile of accomplishment across my face and an eagerness for my own shower. The overwhelming amount of new information crammed in my head, new books on my reading list and wonderful memories kept me company on the way home. 

The path ahead of me is more visible, now. My skill and the way I think about writing moved a step up, giving me fuel to keep the fire of inspiration burning. I thank everyone behind the scenes, on the front line imparting wisdom and beside me sharing their stories for creating an amazing experience.  


What writing workshop experiences helped inspire your writing?

Memoir Group Blogs:
Margaret @Women of a Certain Age  

9 comments:

E.J. Wesley said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience!

Cherie Reich said...

It sounds like a great experience, and you met Donna! *grins* She's part of my Valley Writers group. I've heard a lot of good things about Tinker Mountain. Perhaps next year I'll be able to go.

Margaret said...

Laura, I loved reliving the week through your posting. We are lucky gals, aren't we? Please keep in touch.

Josh Hoyt said...

I really like the response to why would anyone want to read my story. Simple and direct with no excuses:) Great post!

Summer Ross said...

I don't have many chances to go to workshops. However I did take a class at the University last semester on Creative nonfiction which really pushed my creative images and descriptions further than I thought I was capable.

Not Just Another Mother Blogger! said...

Wow--it sounds wonderful! I would be terrified, at least at this point in my writing, to share, but one day I hope to be brave enough to attend one of those workshops.

Madeleine said...

Your title sounds like a magic spell from Harry Potter. Lovely that you had a group to share your writing with. Sounds fab :O)

Meagan Spooner said...

I love writing workshops.

Well--I love the RIGHT writing workshops, anyway. I know there are mediocre ones out there. But when you find a group of people you click with, and teachers with so much to offer, it can be truly amazing. So glad you enjoyed it!

Michael Offutt said...

Nice photos.

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