Afraid of the Writing Workshop. Did It Anyway. Glad That I Did.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMadeline Island Writing Workshop, “How to Plan, Write, and Develop a Book: Taking You Book to Publication” Mary Carroll Moore.

I had first met Mary Carroll Moore in November of 2012 for a 1 1/2 day writing workshop at the Loft Literary Center. A classroom full of writers of all genres explored their books and put together storyboards in pictures and writing. A storyboard is a graphic organizer displayed in sequence for the purpose of pre-visualizing your manuscript.

After attending the 2012 workshop, I signed up for Mary’s week-long writing retreat on Madeline Island, September 2013.

What sold me were the unexpected breakthroughs in how I viewed my book. I rearranged chapters, saw reoccurring images, and for the first time, realized what my manuscript wanted to say.

Madeline Island School of Arts

Madeline Island School of Arts

I’m not an easy student. I approach learning in the classroom tentatively and cynically. I’m reluctant to try different styles, and at the same time, I’m also open to new ideas and feedback. Yes, competing principles. Drives me crazy, too, and I have to sit there and make myself focus on what is being taught.

I was even opposed to attending Mary’s November 2012 workshop, but a writing friend said “No, it wouldn’t be right for you. You probably wouldn’t get anything out of the workshop. If she was me, she wouldn’t go.” So, I signed up. Don’t tell me that I can’t do something.

Taking the road less traveled on the Island

Taking the road less traveled on the Island

A hunch, a notion, a feeling.  That becomes my next step or goal. The Universe speaks to me through repeated musings and I pay attention. I sent in my deposit to Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA) for Mary’s September workshop without knowing how it was going to come about.

Winning The Next Step Grant generated the funds, and a new job spawned the vacation week.

When it came time to go Jody planned a family weekend for us at Edgewater Hotel in Duluth for my sendoff. Saturday the “What am I getting myself into?” thoughts started making an entrance. On Sunday, I admitted them to Jody.

I was scared. I didn’t know Mary that well. I didn’t know if my writing would be as good as others. And, it would be dark at night.

MISA

MISA

Even so, Jody and I drove in opposite directions on Sunday.

My classmates on Madeline Island consisted of six other writers. The first evening we introduced ourselves and our manuscripts. I hate this part. My book has to come out of the closet, and state what it’s about.

Classroom learning started the next day. I sat next to my nemesis. I learned that word in Tae Kwon Do because I have a few of them there, too. I always seem to find one no matter where I go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis guy had an answer for everything. Since I sat next to him, I could literally feel his restraint as he stopped himself from monopolizing the discussion. I didn’t think he would get anything out of Mary’s class but it only took him a day or two to come around to Mary’s way of thinking. That was impressive, I thought, and it added cred to Mary’s teaching. If he found her teaching meaningful …. Good thing for him because he flew in from New Hampshire to take her class. Maybe it was because he was from tiny New Hampshire that he didn’t like all the space I took.

Think of it, 9, 350 sq miles compared to 86, 943 sq miles. Move over Big Boy. Us Minnesotans need SPACE.

In-between sparring with my rival, I did a lot of learning. The aha moments came fast and often. I worked to make them stick so I’d be able to recall them after I returned home.

When Mary teaches, material makes sense, concepts fizz with possibility.

Her balance of classroom time to personal writing time is excellent. Having a solid week to work with a storyboard that constantly changes is refreshing.

Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts

It could have been the ferry ride, the remoteness, or the magic of Madeline Island School of the Arts (MISA), that allowed my manuscript to become my essence for one week.

And when darkness came, as it did every night, I picked up the phone and called home.

At weeks end, before I even drove my car on the ferry, I began to imagine my return in 2014 and taking my seat next to know-it-all guy, and fashioning a border with my writing prompts.

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One thought on “Afraid of the Writing Workshop. Did It Anyway. Glad That I Did.

  1. That was great Elizabeth! I had similar feelings on my first writing retreat. I loved the banter between you and your nemesis all week…very entertaining. And you’re so right that we Minnesotans need our space:) I spread out into Michele’s space but her Minnesota-nice didn’t say a word…lol
    Kim

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