Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Five-Day Writers Workshop by Betsy Ashton

I attended Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop at Hollins University.. I go to improve something I have in process; others go to begin writing. I'm beyond the beginning point but by no means beyond learning new techniques.

I took two short stories, which I hope will become part of a novel-in-stories. One story was nearly at its final version. The other was good in the first half but ran off the rails in the second half. I knew that but had no clue how to fix it.

I was one of eleven in the class, which ranged from very accomplished to "I haven't written anything at all." Not the best mix to get the most of a workshop if you are at a more advanced level. We ended spending a a lot of time helping them understand basics like, "what's a cozy?" or "what do you mean by voice?" Hard to keep your perspective.

We had a collection of nine extremely accomplished writers, all of whom took their work pages away and looked the typing under layers of ink. We all marked everything up and gave the manuscripts back to the writer. We had almost 200 pages to read, reread, and critique. Death march by any other name.

When the group read my first story, they liked the textures I wove in; the voice, which was a ten-year-old boy; the sense of setting, and the plot. The instructor liked the fact that I used sentiment but never lapsed into sentimentality. You guessed it, one of the newbies wanted to know the difference. She'll learn.

As I said, I loved the experience. It was my sixth time, and I will return next year. I always prepare my absolute best work, only to find out it needs a lot of help. Look for me to be working though the suggested changes this weekend.

And now to rest. I'm brain dead. I really can't think about anything beyond dinner in a couple of hours, a glass of wine, and a long summer's nap. See ya on the other side.


Margo Hoornstra said...

Ah yes, we've all been there. Hyped and anxious to learn only to end up teaching as well. Nature of this business. Glad you came away inspired...for a glass of wine if nothing else. ;-)

Jannine Gallant said...

Sounds like you enjoy the experience, Betsy. So no matter how much you take away, it's a plus. The last "workshop" I participated in would be creative writing classes in college. A bunch of beginners critiquing each other. LOL It would be interesting to attend one as someone who now has a clue how to write!

Leah St. James said...

I love writing workshops, especially small groups like that. I generally clam up in bigger groups. It's been a long time since I've attended one though. My RWA chapter started catering to the beginning writer, and although I know I still have a lot to learn, a 90-minute drive each way, plus traffic (not to mention losing a day of writing) didn't seem worth it. But I do miss the connections with other writers. Glad you got some positives out of it!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I haven't taken a workshop in years but know I'd benefit. The last one that might qualify was with Donald Maas about then years ago. There wasn't any real one on one but I did learn, once I settled down and stopped fighting his style.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I'm glad you had a good time. By now I'm sure you could tell the instructor a few things. Unless he or she is in the writing trenches, working with editors, and handling marketing, he or she really has no credibility. A degree does not outdo daily experience.

Andrea Downing said...

My question is, why didn't they think to separate those who had been published from those who had not? I Guess so that the latter could learn from the former? Still, you have more patience than I. But I do love writers' workshops.

Diane Burton said...

It sounds like you had a great time, Betsy. I love workshops and programs--even those aimed at the beginning writer, as was the program at our chapter's program yesterday. Query writing. Since I don't submit queries anymore, I only went because I hadn't been to a meeting all year and I needed the reconnection. I came away with a new insight into my WIP. Not for writing a query but for writing a blurb. And insight into my character. I didn't realize how little I knew about her. Sometimes a workshop will jog my memory about something simple that I'd forgotten. Usually, I learn something new or something I didn't remember. Win-win for me.