Word of the Week

Being at Collegeville Part 2: A Writing Workshop

The pace of life here at Collegeville has been divine. It has included all of my favorite things: quiet, tasty food in just the right portions, beyond the surface conversation, learning from a scholar, peace-filled sleep and a room with a view of water.

In the afternoon we've gathered together as a group-- all 12 of us for a writing workshop, each day several submissions of writing for group feedback and commentary.  Because I was not an English major in college, it all was a new thing for me. A fear producing exercise: to ask for feedback on a non-fiction piece about me from my well-read, well-spoken and theologically gifted new friends.  The only comfort I came thinking that others just  might be as terrified as I was!

In the process of the past four days, I've paid attention to many details that I normally would ignore as we have all carefully probed one another's prose for sense of tone, voice, style, flow and pace. (Who knew these things could be talked about for so long?)

As I've been living in the writing world and participating in these workshops,  I've been making a list in my head all week of, "You know you've spent a week in a writing workshop if . . ."  I thought it might be humorous to share a few.

  • You stop someone after she shares a thought over when going through the food line at dinner and say, "That was a lovely sentence you just put together."
  • You begin to recognize how many adjectives and adverbs are present in a paragraph of a book you are reading that never seemed there before.
  • You hear things coming out of your mouth like, "That sentence needs a stronger verb and more descriptive nouns."
  • You walk to lunch and greet a colleague by: "I really like the sense of narrative suspense you created in that piece you shared yesterday."
  • You ask your fellow writers to stitch in more details that cover the five senses. "What did that scene smell like?" you say about a particular piece.
  • You begin thinking of your new colleagues in terms of their narrative voice. You muse: "She's a character I really find likeable."

I told Kevin all about what I have been learning tonight over the phone. He was not impressed (as you might not be either), but among new peers I'm smitten with these new inisghts. The tools of my craft finally have names!

It's a world I'm just learning to be a part of in an official capacity and even though the writing workshop afternoons became sweaty palm inducing at first, I'm sort of sad they are over. I've learned it is Christmas morning pleasure for writers to be around other writers who care about making their work better as much as they do. And, I'm going to continue to open as many shiny presents as long as I am here.