Monday, June 30, 2008

Awesome workshop

I spent three intense but wonderful days this past weekend at the "Awesome Austin Writers' Workshop" hosted by Cynthia Leitich Smith and Greg Leitich Smith, mostly at their home with the exception of a party at Helen Hemphill's fabulous downtown Austin loft. This involved 25 to 30 writers, in-depth critiques, and excellent food and conversation. I haven't managed to process the whole experience yet, but it definitely lived up to the "Awesome" in its name!

But it wasn't just awesome; for me, I think it even bordered on life-changing. If I look at myself at the protagonist of my own life and try to figure out what I want, what my underlying character goals and motivation are...I think I got some of those things this weekend. While I didn't achieve my external goal of getting a book published, I experienced payoff in some of the areas that make me want to be a writer in the first place. I felt that I was heard. I felt that I was validated. I felt that I was taken seriously. I learned a lot. And the creative charge was amazing!

In my teen years, I was very involved with theatre. I loved the process of acting, bringing new worlds and characters to life (similar to what I still do in writing), but much of what I loved about theatre--the thing that kept me hanging around even when I didn't get a part--was the energy and atmosphere of being surrounded by creative people, bouncing their creativity off of one another, expanding their horizons together, and challenging each other to do excellent work. I have felt a taste of that creative energy again at writing conferences and writing retreats, and even to an extent in my last job as a technical writer, surrounded by other writers, most of whom had their own creative aspirations outside the job. But in my job, we had interesting people focusing on largely boring work. We could spice it up with creative approaches, but I still couldn't get too excited about hardware driver code. At this weekend's workshop, we had interesting people focusing on interesting work, really delving into it and inspiring one another to grow and see things in new ways. This meeting of minds and ideas in the framework of a vibrant and supportive writing community was far more intoxicating than the wine served at the party portion.

At the end of the weekend, Jane Peddicord described Cynthia and Greg as being like fairy godparents for the Austin children's writing scene, and indeed the experience they helped create for us was magical! But I'm hoping that, unlike Cinderella's pumpkin/stagecoach magic, the magic from this won't wear off anytime soon. I feel that I ended the weekend in a different--and better--place than I started it in. It has motivated me to dive back into my own writing with new perspective, and I'm hoping the friendships I made there will continue.

Some of the other participants have also blogged about this: see entries by Greg Leitich Smith, PJ Hoover, and Jo Whittemore. I also found myself in the photos on Greg & PJ's blogs!

1 comment:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Yay, Alison! It was such an honor and pleasure to have you join us this weekend. *You're* awesome, and your mss rocked the house!