Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Anatomy of a Writers Workshop


Adirondack chairs abound on campus

At the Kenyon Writers Workshop as a Fellow in Rebecca McClanahan's Literary Nonfiction Workshop, June 2013:

Arrival - The friendly reception makes me feel welcome; trying to find my housing on campus makes me feel stupid.

 
I stayed in this apartment building, albeit on the other side.

Day 1 – Why am I doing this to myself? The social awkwardness is so uncomfortable. Walk into the dining hall: Whom to sit with? What small talk do I come up with?

 
Early morning on campus - my first cat picture ever!

Day 2 – Feel myself relaxing. My reading is over, I know my way around, and I know enough people to say hello to, go for coffee with, chat with while in line at the deli. And the workshop already has inside jokes going, so bonding is happening. Plus I discover my two housemates are really cool. We sit up late, chatting into the night.

 
Ascension Hall where our workshop met

Day 3 - A general feeling of inadequacy takes over - I don't know half the books being mentioned in class, and I'm the fellow. At least I've got a routine going. I know when I have to leave the house to make it to the computer lab to print out feedback for manuscript discussions and my writing assignment to read in class, with enough time to spare to swing by the cafeteria to get coffee before sauntering over to Ascension Hall to arrive at workshop on time.

 
Samuel Mather Hall - I just loved that window front.

Day 4 - I thought listening to nine pieces of writing every day in workshop, plus twenty pieces every evening at the student reading would make my head explode, but it doesn't. Instead I am enjoying the creativity. Today was my last round of conferences with workshop participants to discuss the manuscripts they sent me ahead of time. I love talking to people about their work. This is good. Now I know why I'm doing this to myself. And I love my routine; I skip dining hall dinner for cheese and crackers on the couch and work straight through until it's time to go to the readings.

 
The Middle Path at Kenyon College where we walked to and from class.

Day 5 – I've been producing some new writing as I am supposed to since this is, after all, a "generative" workshop, focused on producing new work, on getting out of my comfort zone (aha! see Day 1), on stretching my writing muscles. Tonight we had an elegant dinner with the whole workshop at the Kenyon Inn, organized by the formidable Rebecca, who takes people under her wing.
 

Kenyon is in Amish Country

Day 6 – That sinking feeling that something great is coming to an end. Some tears and upset in workshop, but that's normal, people are, after all, reading about their own lives, and sometimes that touches a soft spot they didn't even know was there. Final pow wow with my housemates on what they thought of the readings.


The necklace was a gift from the
workshop to me
 
Day 7 – See A Gift for a Fellow and Art that Went Straight to my Heart.


Our wonderful workshop in our wood paneled seminar room in
Ascension Hall (photo courtesy of Andrew Sidle)

Here, then, is a photo of our wonderful workshop group.
 


19 comments:

  1. This makes me nervous and eager for my first time at my own MFA program at the end of July. Biting my nails already.

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    1. Julie - congrats! Shoot me an email and let me know where you are going!

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  2. I was one of the lucky ones whose work Annette thoroughly and lovingly reviewed. With care, she pointed out places to expand, to dive into, and to slow down. I will always treasure Annette’s thoughtful comments, her smile, her understated brilliance. She added so much to our workshop. I look forward to reading more of her blog posts and her published works, a body of work that I inevitably will continue to grow.

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    1. That last sentence was supposed to read....

      I look forward to reading more of her blog posts and her published work, a body or work that inevitably will continue to grow.

      Write On, Dear Annette....And thank you.

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    2. Thanks, Sheila! You were lots of fun to work with and I expect to see your byline often in the future.

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  3. What a wonderful post about the workshop, Annette! I love the photos too. It was so nice getting to know you. I will definitely check in to your blog often and see what you're up to.

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  4. This is such a wonderful visual and emotional snapshot of our time together at Kenyon Annette!!! My heart ached as I read this as you took me right back to our time all together. Was it really only just a week? My social anxiety almost kept me from applying but I guess the fact that I did only speaks to the fact that I wanted the writing more. Maybe because so many of us are so socially awkward, we made it easier on each other. There was LOVE in that workshop and everywhere I turned. The trees on the middle path felt like they were embracing us every time we walked back and forth to (could we have asked for a better name?) Ascension Hall. It was magical and you and Rebecca were a very big reason for the magic~~~

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    1. Antoinette - thanks, and yes, Ascension Hall is aptly named!

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  5. It was my sincerest pleasure to be with you at Kenyon this past week. You are a gifted writer and an inspiration. Thank you for capturing the experience with such beauty and vulnerability.
    Happy writing!
    Kelly

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    1. Kelly - thanks and happy writing, yes!

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  6. Your documentary perfectly captures the event, Annette, as I echo so many kind posts here. And as I mentioned in an email, the images are so vivid in my mind from your observations, that some of the infamous "wall" rose tall above me. Agh! (And is that the cat that bit Anna??) Seriously, though, thank you for your insights and warm heart, and yes, please keep writing!
    Andrew

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    1. Andrew, thanks, and I look forward to witnessing your journey as a blogger!

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  7. What a lovely time you seem to have had, Annette.

    Crackers and cheese (oddly that is my breakfast right now as I read this post) seem like a perfect way to settle one's mind for considering readings.... Thank you for sharing your experience.

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    1. Eden - thanks! Crackers and cheese are a perfect way to settle many things, I think!

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  8. This is such a wonderful piece, Annette! It's oddly comforting that we were going through much of the same things during the week. From the anxiety in the cafeteria to the books mentioned in workshop, I was right there with you. I wish I could rewind with that information in mind.

    Thanks so much for your insights and leadership throughout the week. I especially appreciated the advice you left us with the last morning. It was a fantastic week. I hope all is well!

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    1. Maureen - thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you liked my write up and that you had a good time at the workshop. It was great meeting you. Keep on writing!

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  9. Thank you for sharing this, Annette. It looks like it was a productive time for you.

    That campus looks very appealing!

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    1. William - It was a wonderful time and a productive one, too.

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