A little over a year ago I stumbled into a writing workshop at Hubbard Hall, our local community theater and arts center. The Hubbard Hall Writer’s Project was led by celebrated author Jon Katz, and, as with almost every other class or event our family has experienced at Hubbard Hall, it was life-changing event for me – and for every member of the group.
There was an application process for the workshop, and getting that acceptance letter felt like winning the lottery. I hadn’t shown my work to anyone outside my family and had only been prepared for rejection. That letter was a thousand times more valuable than any lottery ticket.
Jon, our guru, later told us that he wanted to find a group that not only wanted to write but that would work well together. He chose wisely. Over the last year our group has become a family of sorts. We’ve become sounding boards and safe havens for each other, and everyone in the group has flourished. What began as an artistic exploration of rural life became a search for authenticity in our creative and personal lives. Jon encouraged us all, and, recognizing our strengths, we began to grow and to encourage others.
Last Friday night, we met to celebrate the impact of the last year. The unseasonably steamy evening started with a reception which allowed all of us to display our work and continued with readings by each of the writers. The evening was warm and encouraging – just as the year has been.
I like public speaking about as much as I like shopping for a new swimsuit. I wasn’t nervous when it was my turn to read, however. Working with the video portion of the presentation kept me busy much of the day and evening, and I didn’t have time to feel nervous – at least not about the reading.
The crowd dispersed quickly after the presentation, and the writers returned to the reception room to clean up their displays. We all milled around a bit, even after our families had left, and I think I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want it to end. Even though the group is going into its second year, when we started our goodbyes, I began to feel nervous.
I’ve been working on a collection of short stories that should have been done last month. Dealing with some mental health issues has slowed down progress, but there’s been a part of me that feels this project is part of my workshop experience. I know I’ve been a little afraid that when it’s done, so is the workshop. I felt a little of that on Friday night as I climbed into my car.
When I got home I made sure the kids were in bed and then turned on the computer and checked messages, intending to sign off quickly and visit with my visiting sister-in-law. Unconsciously, I clicked on the link to our group’s Facebook page. There, like a beacon in the soupy heat of the evening, were celebratory posts from one, then two and then a third writer. A post from our guru suggesting a get-together appeared. I didn’t know what to post that could add to the conversation, and I closed my computer.
The next few days I didn’t go near my computer much. We had a guest and baseball and garden to occupy us, and I like getting away from the screen. For the rest of the weekend, however I took with me the knowledge that while the year of writing un-dangerously may be ending, it’s okay because it’s really part of an era that’s just begun.
I’ve posted and reposted links to the blogs of most of our members below (one author is currently keeping her blog private). They are growing, breathing proof that some of the best work comes from an atmosphere of encouragement.