Every year in April, I travel to Litchfield, Connecticut for a writing workshop/retreat. It’s held at Wisdom House which has great food, a wonderful labyrinth, and plenty of paths to walk. I find it comfortable and affordable. Generally, the participants are all women. The group is usually less than 20 and I find that I enjoy a group between 10-15 more than the larger group. That allows for more time to read our work and talk about craft issues.
Why do I return? Lots of reasons. I’ve been to enough of these annual events to know some of the regulars – and to be one. Catching up, and hearing about successes or changes in their lives are all topics at our shared meals. There are no agents or editors. Instead, there is a completely supportive atmosphere to read work and have it received. Also, I always learn new ways to handle characters or situations by listening to what others are working on.
In addition, there are sessions where each person can choose to work on their own project or use the prompts. Some of the prompts are old friends such as writing a story from a picture or picking a jumping off prompt provided by the moderator. Or finding a rock and writing a story from something you see in it. That may sound a bit out there but it’s amazing what you can see when you really look. I have two stories in process that came from looking closely at a rock.
When I read my writing from this exercise, the main character’s name struck a chord and showed up in the writings of another. We had at least one other character along the same lines. Those became running gags throughout the weekend producing lots of laughter.
Another session might include interviewing each other as our characters which is always fun and enlightening. The questions of others often provides clarity of a character or information I didn’t have before I arrived.
There’s never seems to be enough downtime to process it all but I’ve learned over the years to keep my writings. I also jot down notes of things that strike me – or lines that I want to pursue further. I have several ideas from this year’s workshop that I plan to develop further. I go back to my notebook or journal from time to time to re-read those and I always find something new. I try to remain open to those ideas and whatever comes out of the discussions and writings. I never quite know what I’ll learn or what story line or story idea I might miss if I am trying to achieve some particular goal or intention.
What about you – do you have a favorite workshop that you repeat? Or a conference that you find especially helpful. Was there a particular experience you had that has impacted your writing or a story?