Sunday, August 4, 2013

Who, me??

Recently I was invited to participate in a mini-retreat in San Francisco led by Christopher DeLorenzo of Laguna Writers. My first reaction was "but I'm not a writer!" Fortunately, I am getting wiser as I get older and I've been learning to not take that voice too seriously. So I screwed up my courage and signed up, telling myself not to worry. Chris reassured me that it would be fun. And it was!

Chris creates a very safe environment in which to share, or not share, one's writing. He plans these retreats thoughtfully and makes everyone feel very looked-after. He breaks the day-long workshops up into short bursts of writing-sessions that are introduced with prompts, some of which are very playful and intentionally thought-provoking. For instance, the workshop I attended had a theme of Writing from the Senses. We were encouraged to use descriptive language rich with sensory details.  To stimulate our senses Chris led us in some clever and creative exercises--using the sense of touch to explore items he had placed in bags for us to pass around the group. For engaging our sense of smell he had us pass around little film canisters in which he'd placed various items for us to sample with our noses. I smiled later to learn that one scent I couldn't identify (I noted "something to do with school") was actually crayons! We used our personal responses, a memory recalled or a place conjured up, to prompt our next piece of writing.

I was so in awe of the other writers. The imaginative worlds they were able to create in ten or twenty minutes was astounding. I was really able to see, or rather hear, the craft within the writing. For me it was amazing. But then I am not a writer. I have a new appreciation for the devotion and labor involved in the process. And the joy!

In spite of my initial hesitancy, and my aforementioned awe, I managed to read aloud almost all of my pieces. Chris uses the Amherst Writers and Artist method that insists on positive feedback only. Absolutely no criticism.This really helped me feel brave enough to share my work. I had forgotten how much I enjoy writing, not having approached it creatively since high school (the occasional limerick and haiku not withstanding).

I am very glad that I attended. I don't know if I'll become a regular in one of Chris's other groups but I can honestly say that Bay Area writers are fortunate to have such a wonderfully supportive resource available to them.

I will leave you with a poem by Natalie Goldberg that Chris read to us at the start of our retreat:

"We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy of being recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we were human beings, this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us. Our details are important." 

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