If you’ve been following me for awhile, you might remember me going to a writing workshop/retreat last year that was LIFE CHANGING. If not, I direct you here. It’s a giant post of my brain-exploding feelings, if that’s what you enjoy reading.
This past weekend I attended another one, this time with the theme of Writing Cross Culturally. I’ve had a hard time thinking of what I wanted to say about it in a blog post, so I’ll try to not ramble too much.
Starting off, these are the authors that were there:
Daniel José Older
Natalie C Parker
with surprise guest E.K. Johnston (and conversations about surviving the apocalypse)
My best writing buddy also was going which pretty much made this whole trip, to be honest. (hi, Heather, I think you’re swell.) As well as two other people from last time. So we carpooled and everything was awesome and I just love friends.
A topic like writing cross culturally is fairly heavy, but the faculty and everyone made it easy to talk about; there was a lot of joking around and lively discussion. We had opportunities to talk through what we’d learned in smaller groups, and it was nice to be able to hear things talked about openly. You can only get so much from twitter.
We had sessions on cultural appropriation, body representation, power structures…basically we learned how to appropriately write characters and worlds that are not our own without causing harm to anyone.
It was eye opening in that I had no idea just how much there is out there that I don’t know about. There are some aspects about my own story that I was thinking about before this workshop, but I have learned so much that now I am diving into research on things (I think I wrote down 5 or 6 things I need to learn more about) before I can effectively write it. Which is good. My thoughts before were barely skimming the surface.
The most important thing I took away from this is that before you do something, to think about it. Think about why and how you are doing it. And practice. It was emphasized a few times that a lot of harmful mistakes can be avoided by practicing the craft. And I love that. It means to me that I can do this. It’s not something above my head. If I want to work on it, I can do it. And that we all make mistakes. And you apologize and move on and you get better. This applies to so many things other than writing, that I think this workshop has helped me open up my entire life, not just my writing.
One of the things that was different in this workshop from the previous one was the addition of possible critiques. I managed to get my name in early enough to have Tessa Gratton read my first five pages. I’ve written the beginning of this story approximately 6 times, so while I was kind of happy with what I had her read, I know I could have been able to provide better work. But anyway, besides teachers and friends and classmates who’ve only read short stories, it was the first professional critique I’ve ever had, on something that meant something to me. She pointed out things that I already know, because they were aspects of my writing that I will forever struggle with. But we also discussed how and when this story should start and I am very excited to start on my Beginning #7, which strangely resembles Beginning #1 (funny/annoying how that works, huh).
My other favorite moment was when I was sitting with some fabulous people and they gave me so many things to consider for my story. The majority of my research topics came from them and I could not be any more thankful. If this story turns out even remotely good, I owe most of it to them, for turning my brain to areas I would never have ever considered. So, Jess, Sarah, Sasha, and Sabrina, thanks. <3
(Also, Sabrina, thanks for brainstorming with me for that REALLY GREAT PLOT POINT I AM STILL EXCITED ABOUT. Please send me more of your writing.)
I didn’t come away from this workshop with the same feeling as last time. I didn’t come home hating my friends because they weren’t writers and didn’t understand (apparently I was very angsty last year, ha). But I came away with a renewed sense of “I can do this and it might be good.” Which I think is the best feeling. I’ve made new friends to share this journey with, who I can cheerlead and yell excitedly when they accomplish something.
And Natalie, thank you thank you thank you. These workshops have changed my life.
(I promise I will finish this book. Or else.)