Inspiration Abounds at a Writing Workshop: Getting out of our Zone and Into the Rooms with other Writers (Part 2).

We can build on our skilled craft and interests. It takes getting out of our zone, which can often be one of solitude, and into the rooms with others to join forces in a shared unity. Recently, I attended the annual Midwest Writers Workshop (July 22-24, 2019), held at the Ball State University Alumni Center in Muncie, Indiana. This is Part 2 of a five-part series as I share what it was like for me to go to this event.

Learning from professionals in our chosen craft, whether our craft is writing or another art, is an excellent way to continue our education and improve our knowledge and skills.   


I was reminded of the privilege of not only being a writer, but of being a very real part of a community who values writing and who also consider the art of writing to be as essential as living and breathing. Midwest Writers Workshop was a full three days with break-out sessions to choose from, led by an array of industry leaders and authors, all so giving in their time and expertise.

Chronicling Social History
Writing Creative Nonfiction with a Social Justice Lens
Michael McColly

I believe I’m not alone to say I was drawn into the sessions led by Michael McColly, author and journalist. He had a full house of about twenty people in his room for each session I attended. In conversational style, we discussed the seriousness in our role as creative nonfiction authors to educate our readers in the social construct of our communities, whether it is to bring awareness of current social injustices or whether it is to take people back in time to when things were different in order to explore how we got to where we are today in our societal norms.

By his own experience in writing, McColly explained in detail that our narrative reflections speak volumes to our readers, bringing issues out of our own cultural experiences to create a historical account. These issues are often ignored, overlooked, or are considered too controversial to bring to light. Yet, we have a story to tell and we must tell it, uncovering misinformation and unveiling immoral efforts.  

McColly succinctly states (quote) “….we can use our skills to inform, educate, inspire, and hold people in positions of power accountable for their failures to act.”

My own nonfiction writing often centers on what it’s like to be down on our luck and how we can help others and overall our communities. McColly has shown me that I am on the right path and that I mustn’t let go of my passion to encourage others to see a different way of living, whether through empathy or action or both. He and others have taught me skills in research, descriptive characterization when writing and so much more. I will go on to use these tools in my personal narrative essays.

Research:
The Truth That Makes Your Lies Believable
Matthew Clemens

This break-out session gave me insight for the development of the work I am doing to bring my second book alive. You see, Clemens is a fiction author with several mystery and crime books. He also works in collaboration with one other writer to bring the TV hit show, CSI to its success.

With animation to his energetic gait in facing the classroom, Clemens shared that for his fictional stories to ring true, even though they aren’t true, he first does research. He visits locations and cities in which places in his stories will resemble or accurately portray. He talks with people as he goes about his day-to-day activities. By experiencing people and places, he is then able to give credence to his narrative stories.

The book I plan to bring you next is a biography of my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). For those of you who read my memoir, Out of Chaos, you may recall she was an interwoven and integral person in my true story. Marie was a changemaker in a time when women were typically homemakers. Clemens has shown me I must dig deep into the events which shaped our society during the era in which she lived.

Additional Highlights

Switching gears from the depth found in McColly and Clemen’s sessions, Ashley Hope Perez presented the light-hearted Get Inspired: Find Time to Write and Be Happy. Under her guidance, our class explored how to overcome obstacles in our writing life. Obstacles fall into two categories, emotional and logistical, and can vary for each writer.

Aside from Michael McColly, Matthew Clemons, and Ashley Hope Perez, many other authors were among us to share their expertise. One was Dianne Drake, who gave a presentation which centered on her career with Harlequin Romance Books. Drake’s presentation closed out my second day of break-out sessions. Come evening hour, we all gathered in the assembly room for keynote speaker, John Gilstrap, award winning author of thriller novels.

On my schedule for the next day, my final day, was an intensive bootcamp with industry leader and author, Jane Friedman. In next week’s blog post, I will dig in and share about my time with her.

To get out of our zone and into the rooms with others is an invaluable way to build upon our strengths. Together, we can create a better community. Please share in the comments any suggestions or experience you have for joining others in a common goal and what this connection can or could mean to you. 

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-Elle-

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