I recently had the good fortune to take a flash fiction workshop with an excellent author and writing-facilitator, Grace Palmer. I take a lot of writing workshops and I tend to be critical of the value of the presentation. Since I teach and give my own workshops and presentations, I’m hyper-sensitive to the possibility of wasting time that could be better spent writing, grading papers, or, I don’t know, playing solitaire or petting my cat.
And workshops can be hard to truly love. I like a workshop experience that’s a good mix of learning, analyzing stories that have already been published, free-writing, and workshopping our own materials. It’s a big ask. You never know if the other participants are going to jibe with your style. And I need to be engaged. Even if I’ve heard much of the material before, I need to learn something new. I need to feel inspired. I need to feel as if my work is understood. I don’t want critique partners who say, “I wish the ending wrapped things up more tidily” because I personally don’t want to create tidy endings.
In my quest for community, I’ve taken a ton of workshops and gone to a lot of presentations and to be honest, some of them were not worth the time or money I put into them.
This workshop, however, was everything I want in a workshop. I think that’s probably why most of the people from this workshop have signed up for Ms. Palmer’s next. First, she is a phenomenal teacher – she manages to corral a diverse group of personalities and bring us all together to give each other fantastic writing advice. She gives personal feedback on all the stories and it’s good. I have yet to disregard any of her comments on my stories. And she creates a safe space where we all feel we can share these deeply personal stories without being shamed or shunned.
My 2021 writing goal was to write more, submit more, and work on honing my writing from something great into something stunning. Occasionally, I manage to touch on something stunning, though I’d like to be more consistent at doing so. Still, in this five week workshop, I crafted and revised three excellent stories that are all ready for submission and I have several snippets of free-writing that could feasibly become something more with a little work. As far as I’m concerned, this workshop helped me hit all three points of my writing resolution.
In the meantime, as I start to submit the pieces from this workshop, I’ve had another story accepted to be performed on the upcoming Stories Less Spoken podcast, episode five.
And my SUPER MICRO little 50 word story was “Story of the Week” on 50 Word Stories.
I wrote both of the above pieces while having a planned writing date with my wife. I completed my most recent novel on video writing dates with my dear friend author Kimberly Cooper Griffin.
Community matters. It matters so much to me that I run an online Writing Academy to help connect other writers with each other.
It matters so much to me that I wrote another recent blog post about it on The GCLS Writing Academy blog.
It matters because creative energy shared is creative energy multiplied and because, when left to my own devices, I am far more likely to find ten million other things to do than to sit and face my blank screen and my fear that the quality of writing I desire is not the quality of writing I can produce.
That’s why, despite teaching for an MFA program, running a writing academy, and while in what I consider the middle of my writing career, I still keep taking workshops and attending writing classes. Community is important. And so is striving for excellence.
P.S. If you’re looking for workshops and presentations and you aren’t sure where to start – 2021 is a great year for this! So many things are online. I love EventBrite – I search for things such as “Creative writing” or “short story” and see if anything interesting comes up. I’ll also just Google “Online writing workshops” or “Writing conference.” This year, since so many of the writing conferences are staying online, there are a lot of opportunities to see some great presentations that many of us might not have been able to see otherwise.