The Benefit of the Group

SKLessons from my first writing workshop

In a group, there is little room for doubt. The supportive atmosphere, the excitement of hearing something new, and the opportunity for growth are all contagious parts of the writers group dynamic. I experienced this on Saturday.

Kim Echlin (The Disappeared, nominated for the 2009 Giller Prize), the current Writer-in-Residence at McMaster University, hosted a writers workshop at the Hamiltion Public Library’s Central location. Local writers in association with Kim were asked to read scenes from their writing.  Many who attended were also aspiring writers curious about the craft itself.

For me, I have always been a “closeted writer.” I love to write, and I’ve worked at it for as long as I can remember. However, I’ve never shared my writing with a group of people. Only this year have I finally allowed someone in the writing community to read my work and offer commentary. From this authentic experience, I have gained confidence as a writer and improved my writing skills.

Kim has been an excellent shepherd in the writing community through her support in helping new writers emerge and take pride in their work. With a kind spirit and sweet disposition, Kim’s comments are always open-minded and thoughtful. She has reminded me that writing doesn’t always have to be a lonely or solitary struggle.

 

The following are some tips from Kim and the seven writers present at the event, in response to questions asked by audience members:

 

Some tips about “Writer’s Block”

  • Everyone experiences writer’s block at some point in their writing journey.
  • This usually stems from fear, the feeling of inadequacy or an unknown twist in the plot
  • Writing is the best medicine for writer’s block. Whatever you do, get your butt in the chair and WRITE
  • Try writing some “jibber jabber” or “free writing.” The process of allowing your mind to wander and allowing your characters to take you on a journey may help you reach the next part in your writing
  • JUST WRITE

 

Some tips on “Self-Doubt”

  • Your writing just is. It exists, it is there, it is open for judgement. No one person will think about your writing in the same way as another.
  • Surround yourself with a supportive group that will help you grow, not push you down
  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. You are entitled to write.
  • Criticism can help you grow as a writer, but negativity is not necessary
  • Keep an open mind
  • Oftentimes, we write because we can’t not write.
  • Write for yourself. Keep in mind the personal reason you have for writing and never let anyone change that.

An Excerpt From My Novel…

In March I will be reading an excerpt from my young adult novel to a crowd of academics. As terrifying as this is, I am quite excited to take on a new challenge! Here it is:

“What do you think this says” Charlie handed her a notebook, open to a page in the center.  Sofia took the book and stared at the page.  It looked like a poem, thoroughly torn apart and re-examined by the looks of the scribbles around it. She stared for a moment, Charlie watching her patiently.  His deep eyes were too intense on her and she got up, twisting and turning with the boxes to the window seat.  A slight cloud of dust puffed out of the velour red seat as she studied the writing.  To anyone else, the words would appear as intricate lines, but Sofia’s own writing, so much like her fathers, allowed her to recognize words.

It was as if a part of him was in the room with her, reading out his words from over her shoulder.  Out loud, for Charlie’s benefit, she recited:

When the winds will dies

And the waves all melt away

I will come to you through perfect peace

To guide your light

Home.

Curious.  “That’s it?” asked Charlie, his voice hopeful.  Sofia flipped the pages. It didn’t seem like the end. The diary continued, but the flow was off.

“Yeah, it looks like there was something else, but… I don’t know.  I think a page was ripped out.”

Charlie shimmied his way over to the window seat, sitting beside her.  “What’s next?”

Sofia hadn’t looked up.  It was a list of numbers.  Charlie gently took the book.  She watched as his brow furrowed.  “What do you think it means?”

“I don’t know.  Numbers can mean anything.  Maybe he was keeping track of something?  Money, maybe?”

Sofia shrugged.  She wasn’t interested in money.  She wanted to keep flipping the pages for a clue, an entry, anything to help her find him. Charlie, sensing her impatience, flipped quickly through the rest of the book. It wasn’t finished, but the numbers kept going, down the page, until the end. He shrugged to her.

“I want to figure out what it means,” he said. She nodded and returned to her box. There was so much more to look for… and if Charlie could figure out the numbers then maybe they could be one step closer to finding her father.

Sofia rummaged through what seemed like junk to her. Boxes full of odds and ends, knick-knacks, broken candles, scrap pieces of paper… her fingers landed on something cool and she pulled it out, an old clock falling out of the box and clanging onto the wooded floor. Her knees fell softly to the floor and she proper herself up on her heels. Beside the clock was something else, something familiar. A bottle. She held a bottle in her hand, smooth as butter and the cool to the touch. It looked like it could have held wine at one point, the thin neck and protruding body seemed worn out on the inside, as if tired from the remnants of a later substance. But Sofia was looking past all of that- her eyes were transfixed on the small scroll of paper inside, tightly bound with a black ribbon keeping it together. Her stomach dropped… what could it be? Her fingers traced tiny numbers etched in the glass neck.

Charlie looked up from staring at the numbers in the book and watched as she examined the bottle.

“Pull the cork out,” he didn’t understand what she was waiting for.

Sofia looked at him, a flash of annoyance in her eyes.

“Look at the neck… there are numbers here…”

“Which the letter inside will probably explain,” finished Charlie. Why was he so impatient to open it? He didn’t know- all he knew what that the bottle needed to be opened. What was inside? What was the point of waiting?

Sofia looked at the book in his hands, “maybe the number is in the book,” she sat unsure, “here, give me the book and you take the cork out.”

They passed both the book and the bottle between them, Sofia’s fingers brushing against the soft leather as Charlies fingers tingled on the cool bottle. Neither could let go of the bottle. Before they could say a word, both of them were jolted as if with lightening, their shock on their faces registering only a moment before they were taken out of their world and plunged into a new one entirely.

Property of Nichole Fanara.